There are hundreds, if not thousands of books, blogs, and podcasts out there claiming they know the right way to raise a child into a high-functioning, well-rounded adult. But there’s a not-so-new style of parenting that’s making its way back into the spotlight thanks to mothers showcasing their parenting techniques online for new moms to learn from. This disciplining style is called “gentle parenting.’
It involves observing a child’s misbehaving as an unmet need, but some parents believe it is too lenient and enables bad behaviour. Parents who disagree with the style also believe that punishment is the natural consequence of disobedience, but does gentle parenting not have a backup plan if being nice doesn’t do the job?
What is Gentle Parenting?
First, let’s dive into what gentle parenting even is. This parenting style follows a set of guidelines that help parents navigate the trials and tribulations of raising a child. Still, the hallmark of gentle parenting is that it’s meant to encourage children to feel confident in expressing themselves freely and create a nurturing environment that perpetuates feelings of safety and comfort.
Gentle parenting follows four basic tenets. They include:
Instead of minimizing or brushing off your child’s feelings, hear them out and embolden them to be open about them.
Eliminate the idea that children should be seen, not heard. Respect in gentle parenting involves listening to a child, particularly when you suspect they’ve done something wrong before reacting harshly or enacting punishment. In other words, if your child is usually good about cleaning their room, but today they chose not to, ideally, you’d ask them if everything’s okay before becoming angry. Which is the same patience you’d probably extend to an adult.
If you’ve afraid of having your child lie to you and avoid expressing coming to you in their time of need, you have to make an effort to understand the root of your child’s problems. This will make them much more likely to approach you in their time of crisis before going out on their own and engaging in risky behaviour.
Boundaries are essential in any relationship dynamic, especially in the home. Your child deserves to have their limitations, as do you as a parent. Setting boundaries promote a more stable home environment for children. They will differ from family to family, but it will set the tone for healthy expectations of behaviour and communication among the entire family.
Extensive research is not available on gentle parenting, considering it’s only recently emerged under this name. However, research shows us that the styles focus on creating positive bonds between caregivers and their children lead to children becoming happy and resilient adults who lead fulfilling lives.
It also talks about the mirroring nature of babies and toddlers, so when children see these empathetic, respectful behaviours in their parents, they’re likely to mimic them later and throughout their lives. This will also significantly impact their social skills for the better.
Gentle parenting involves a lot of patience and self-discipline, and it is very ingrained in many of us to be reactive to behaviour we do not desire. Still, gentle parenting is very much about caretakers switching off that instinct and making an effort to be proactive by making conscious decisions that adhere to the four tenets.
Healthline writer Rhona Lewis explains, “Gentle parenting relies on your child having the inner motivation to the right thing at times when the wrong choices could have dire consequences, according to some.”
Is Punishment A Part Of It?
So when a child doesn’t do the right thing, should punishment be brought into the equation? Not exactly, at least not in the traditional sense. Experts suggest using a natural form of consequence to encourage positive behaviours. This can look like your child repeatedly ignoring your requests for them to do their chores, but instead of grounding them, you’d tell them that now they can’t go to the park because it’s getting dark out.
The main thing to remember is to understand the level at where your child is in their development to understand better what they can comprehend. This will give you a clearer picture of responding to their behaviours.
Written by: Marie Miguel
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.