Gentle parenting is a parenting style based on mutual respect and understanding between the children and the parents. It is active and engaged parenting. Parents are involved and interactive with their children. Gentle parenting is an empathetic style where the parents are in tune with their children’s feelings and emotions.
Instead of harsh and punitive discipline, more empathetic and creative resolutions are adopted. Boundaries are meant to guide children, not control them. No behavior is seen as bad, but rather, misbehavior is considered a sign of distress, anxiety, fear, or uneasiness. Mistakes are part of a learning process.
Gentle Parenting is about guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It’s about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating. —L. R. Knost
In gentle parenting, parents strive to fully understand the cause of the children’s misbehavior, provide wisdom and guidance, and work out the problem together with their children. Children need constant reassurance that no matter how badly they fail, their parents will always be there to help them heal and grow.
Gentle parenting requires the parents to understand how their behavior affects their children’s behavior. Research suggests that aggressive parents raise aggressive children. Likewise, violence breeds violence. If parents react by yelling, hitting, or spanking, that’s the example their children will likely follow. On the other hand, if the parents are warm and sociable, their children also develop these characteristics.
How to Adopt the Gentle Parenting Style
Here are some things parents must do in order to adopt the gentle parenting style.
- Work on self-development. Parents must first work on developing themselves and realize where they need to change. Parents who have a habit of yelling, hitting, or smacking their children; who let their children cry for hours at a time; or who ignore their children when they need them must reevaluate their behavior. Such habits contradict the gentle parenting style. Of course, it will require a lot of patience, but with practice, parents can learn to be more gentle.
- Understand and empathize. Try to understand and connect with children at an emotional level. Instead of dealing with children superficially, dig deeper and analyze why a child is behaving in a certain way. Is it because of fear, anxiety, or even jealousy? Does the child simply want attention? Understanding the cause of behavior always makes it easier to deal with a situation.
- Set aside punishments. Punishments always do more harm than good. Punishments may discipline a child temporarily, but they do not steer the child in the right direction. Research findings prove that children of parents who use physical punishments have high levels of anxiety. The harsher the punishments are, the higher the anxiety levels are in the children. To raise healthy and compassionate children, parents need to build trusting relationships by encouraging, guiding, teaching, leading, and communicating with their children.
- Spend time with your children. Parents who spend time with their children show that they value their children’s companionship, that they love their children, and that their children are important to them. Spending time with children also provides opportunities for parents to teach their children important values, such as the difference between right and wrong, what is safe and unsafe, honesty, hard work, mutual respect, and kindness.
L. R. Knost rightly said, “It’s not our job to toughen our children to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” Gentle parenting is no easy task, and for some parents, this may prove to be very difficult, but the positive results of gentle parenting make it well worth the effort.
- Blanch, Angel, and Anton Aluja. “Personality and Job Stress: A Comparison of Direct Effects on Parenting.” The Spanish Journal of Psychology 14, no. 2 (2011): 667–674. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22059313
- Rodriguez, Christina M. “Parental Discipline and Abuse Potential Affects on Child Depression, Anxiety, and Attributions.” Journal of Marriage and Family 65, no. 4 (2003): 809–817. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00809.x
- Ockwell-Smith, Sarah. “What Is Gentle Parenting and Why Should You Try It?” SarahOckwell-Smith.com. August 20, 2015. https://sarahockwell-smith.com/2015/08/20/what-is-gentle-parenting-and-why-should-you-try-it/
- Knost, L. R. L. R. Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources. Accessed May 31, 2018. http://www.littleheartsbooks.com
- Knost, L. R. “The Problem with Punishment.” L. R. Knost – Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources. Accessed May 31, 2018. http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/2013/02/10/the-problem-with-punishment/ [/ppmtoggle][/ppmaccordion]