Last Updated on 4 November 2023 by Rebecca
When it comes to the different parenting styles, there are many to choose from. Whether it’s tiger parenting – a more strict approach – permissive parenting, helicopter parenting or attachment parenting, among others, the various methods are widely debated.
According to a European Online Journal of Natural and Social Sciences study, researchers found that children raised by authoritative parents (those who incorporate gentle parenting) had a “better quality of life than children raised by authoritarian and permissive parenting styles.”
In this post, I look at gentle parenting, what it is, and how you can practice gentle parenting in your life.
What is Gentle Parenting?
Gentle parenting is exactly what it says on the tin. Compared to other forms of parenting, it’s a gentler and kinder way of raising children and is built on the gentle parenting techniques of:
- Communicating with your child;
- Emphasise with them;
- Showing respect;
- Setting boundaries;
- Viewing them as individuals, and;
- Understanding them.
With this gentle parenting approach, the concept is that you, as the parent, are building a healthy relationship with your child that’s based on their choices and willingness rather than what you think they should do. This is compared to authoritarian parenting, which is considered more controlling of a child’s behaviour that punishes them when they don’t act the way society expects of them.
Reasons You Need to Know Gentle Parenting
Parents who follow this respectful parenting method raise children in a way that shows they are considerate of their feelings and emotions. Here are a few reasons why it’s important:
- It teaches children to emphasise and boosts positive social skills;
- It encourages children to be independent on an emotional level;
- It helps children to assert themselves clearly and respectfully;
- It reduces anxiety; and
- It improves the parent-child bond.
This is one of many parenting styles that takes a positive and peaceful approach. While it differs from the traditional authoritarian parenting style, which focuses on demands and rules, it shouldn’t be confused with permissive parenting, which rarely gives rules and often overindulges a child to avoid conflict. Neither of these is ideal for a child’s development.
Sarah Ockwell-Smith, the author of The Gentle Parenting Book and a parenting expert, says:
“Gentle parenting isn’t really about using specific methods. It’s about an ethos and completely changing the way you think. It’s more a way of being than a way of doing. Approaching any and all parenting situations with empathy for the child and trying to understand the reasonings behind their behaviour, working together to change it positively and accepting what cannot be changed.”
Step-by-Step Instructions for Gentle Parenting
- Emphasis with Your Children
- Set Age-Appropriate Boundaries
- Be Flexible with Them
- Help Your Children Learn from Their Mistakes
- Connect with Your Children and Communicate
- Respect and Understand Your Children
- Don’t Raise Your Voice
1. Emphasis with Your Children
Be a parent who is aware of your child’s feelings and emotions. Rather than thinking a child is being naughty, try to understand the cause of your child’s emotions. Even though they’re growing up, children still have a lot of figuring out to do, so put yourself in their shoes to uncover the root cause of the issue. By doing so, you can remove the problem from occurring in the future.
2. Set Age-Appropriate Boundaries
Instead of issuing endless rules for your children, set healthy boundaries to keep your children safe and secure. These set boundaries are a blueprint for you to follow that enables them to grow up to be respectful and kind individuals. Boundaries include the obvious ones such as no running in the street or no talking to strangers. Others may be wearing no shoes in the house or no climbing on tables. By setting age-appropriate boundaries and explaining the reasoning behind them, you’re setting them up in an environment that will help them succeed in daily life.
At the same time, with gentle parenting respect any boundaries your children set for you. This could be something such as letting them know when you’re going to hoover if they don’t like the noise. By respecting their boundaries, children will understand that their emotions and feelings are being taken into consideration.
3. Be Flexible with Them
This brings us to flexibility. The amazing thing about boundaries is that you can be flexible with them. According to Sarah Ockwell-Smith, you simply choose the boundaries that are important to you and non-safety boundaries need to be mindfully set and that they’re kept to a realistic minimum.
Sarah says: “A home with way too many boundaries (aka Authoritarian parenting) is in many ways worse than a home with barely any boundaries (aka Permissive parenting). Gentle parenting tries to strike a balance with boundaries – not too many, not too few. It also aims to keep them realistic based on the age of the children and their physical and psychological capabilities.”
4. Help Your Children Learn from Their Mistakes
We all want our children to grow up knowing there are right and wrong ways to do things in life. That’s why when they make a mistake in their early years, it’s up to you as the parent to help them learn from their mistakes. Whether they’ve hit another child or broken something, you should give them consequences that they can understand, allowing them to learn the lessons from their mistakes.
5. Connect with Your Children and Communicate
Connecting with your children is so important as you watch them grow. Make time for them and get to know what they like and what interests them. Spend time as a family and eat together as often as you can. As parents, we often get caught up in the business of life, but they’re only young once, so it’s vital to focus on what matters now. By doing so, you be raising your children to be kind, considerate, and happy. Seeing you take an interest in what they like to do will promote positive traits for them to do the same for others.
6. Respect and Understand Your Children
No one said parenting was easy, but respect works both ways. If you want your children to grow up as considerate and kind humans then you need to respect their feelings and personalities rather than setting rules and demands. Gentle parenting requires respect to be earned and in time, you’ll see your children respecting you as the parent.
7. Don’t Raise Your Voice
Yelling at your children rarely gets you anywhere. Imagine if someone was yelling at you. Would you feel like doing what they’re saying? Chances are you wouldn’t. So why do you expect your child to listen to you? Instead, talk in a calm tone being mindful of the words you use. Parents will rise their voices every now and then; it’s expected. Parenting is a tough job, but we need to try harder at keeping the level of our voices and using a tone that we’d expect from them when talking to us.
Does Gentle Parenting Work?
As with any type of parenting, it takes hard work. There are no quick fixes when it comes to parenting as you’re raising little humans into kind and considerate individuals. And as with most things in life that are worth it, you can’t expect results in a day.
Many people think that gentle parenting is similar to permissive parenting, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike permissive parenting, gentle parenting sets age-appropriate boundaries while being flexible and understanding of their child’s feelings and emotions.
The benefits of gentle parenting include:
- Regulated responses;
- Clear guidelines;
- Positive behaviour;
- Empathy, and;
- Kind and considerate children.
It takes a lot of effort, but it’s worth it in the end.
As a mother myself, I’m taking the gentle parenting approach for my children. For me, it makes sense rather than the other types of parenting styles. While it’s easy to forget the feelings and emotions of younger children and to go with what you think is right, I don’t think it helps them as they continue to grow. They deserve to have a voice and why not when they are young?
By incorporating positive parenting, you’re giving them the foundation in life to have their voices heard as they grow up, knowing that their feelings and emotions should be considered. Our children are amazing and the future leaders of our world, so let’s give them the right start in life through gentle parenting that will set them up for later.