What is Gentle Parenting?

Home is the first school for a child. For its physical, social, and intellectual growth, parents play a vital role. Therefore, there are various parenting styles. These styles significantly impact toddlers’ actions and interactions with others. These styles include attachment parenting, tiger parenting, gentle parenting, and others. In most scenarios, parents adopt a style that is common in a family. However, in the list of parenting styles, gentle parenting is often considered favorable for the growth of a child. The Gentle approach focuses on emphatic and soft methods of parenting. It allows parents to foster children with qualities that they like.

What is Gentle Parenting?

Gentle parenting is also known as collaborative parenting. As its name shows, it is a gentle and kind way to raise a child. Here, parents do not compel a child to do any work by punishment. But they make a child understand how that activity is beneficial to him. It is a modern concept of parenting that emerged after the publication of Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s book, ‘The Gentle Parenting Book’. Sarah being a child expert emphasizes traits and techniques that parents must use for a toddler’s preferable growth. She summarizes this style in three words: empathy, understanding, and respect.

This approach to parenting encompasses parents’ communication, response, and practices toward a child. As she mentions: “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.”

It includes evidence-based techniques. It raises a happy and confident child focusing on discipline considering the age factor. It is based on positive approaches encouraging collective work. In this style, mistakes are considered learning opportunities. Rather than punishment, parents adopt a kind way of treating children, including consistent boundaries. The parents push children to share their feelings in a way that is accepted by society. 

Gentle parents give significant importance to communication and democratic methods between children and parents. It encourages compassion, accepts emotions, and welcomes the child as a whole. Parents are quite supportive and responsive, hence, nurturing the kid at its best. In simple words, it is all about understanding the child. Broadly, gentle parenting is accepting a child’s feeling and motivation, as psychologist Mona Delahooke mention in her book, Brain-Body Parenting.

Basic Facts of Gentle Parenting

The gentle approach to parenting centers on some basic and essential tenets. These are empathy, understanding, respect, and boundaries.

Empathy

Empathy is the first and the foremost pillar of gentle parenting. The feelings of a child should be given importance. Missing or ignoring its feelings will hurt the child’s sharing habit. With empathy, parents will be able to know the actual situation that children experience. Parents’ communication and response are also based on empathy towards a child. This tenet help child to learn the way to treat others.

Understanding

A child’s age and its current situation carry importance in its growth. Gentle parenting emphasizes viewing a child as a child. He/she must not be compared with adults in terms of practices. For example, you can expect a two-year child to keep clothes clean always. The world of an adult is far more different than that of a child.

Respect

Mutual respect is another significant facet of gentle parenting. Parents are required to show due respect to their children. Feeling, values, and ideas should be heard with attention. Expecting a positive role from a child depends on the respect it is given. Not only parents but a child should also respect caretakers. This is a way that strengthens the child-parent relationship.

Boundaries

The gentle approach to parenting is often considered boundary-less. However, it is a misunderstanding regarding the approach. Boundaries, in gentle parenting, also carry vital importance. Here, boundaries are set to teach children the better and more appropriate way of doing things. There is not a particular list of dos and don’ts but parents expect a child to do what is socially and humanly accepted. Boundaries vary from family to family.

Ways to Practice Gentle Parenting

Sarah Ockwell-Smith considers gentle parenting a mere mindset. Therefore, it has not any particular rules and regulations. It depends on how parents assist a child to adopt the core values. As already mentioned, these are practices of parents to make a happy and confident child. Parents’ thoughts and intentions for a child’s social and intellectual development set practices of gentle parenting. Some most common ways to practice gentle parenting are listed below:

  • Assisting children in scheduling their day
  • Prioritizing the interests of the child
  • Giving importance to a child’s feelings, values
  • Maintaining yourself in an orderly and appropriate manner
  • Responding to child’s queries with empathy
  • Not comparing a child with adult
  • Taking an interest in child’s games and activities
  • Correcting a child’s mistakes in a positive manner
  • Avoid labeling children with negative names

Advantages of Gentle Parenting

Either in childhood or the long term, gentle parenting is beneficial for both child and caretakers. In the following manner, this style of parenting is profitable.

1.      Boosting Children’s Confidence: 

In this parenting, parents give importance to each activity and thought of a child and respond politely. A child learns traits of communication and method of sharing feelings. It also encourages a child to give justifications for their viewpoint.

2.      Fostering a positive approach in children

Gentle parenting fosters a positive approach by maximum attention to the child. When a child is responded properly, it will deem itself valuable. Due to boundaries, the child will limit to only positive and acceptable traits. 

3.      Reducing risks of anxiety

Children feel anxiety when they are ignored or when they are left alone. Here, parents are supportive and maintain communication with the child frequently. Also, they encourage a child to share their feelings. The factor of mutual respect also reduces anxiety.

4.      Improving the parent-child bond

This is partnership parenting between child and caretakers. Continuous communication and proper response create a strong bond between them. Understanding, compassion, and empathy make them closer to each other.

5.      Creating social skills

As home is the first school for a child, it also builds social skills in a child. A positive approach to parenting makes a child kind and gentle as well. A child learns the appropriate choice of words and tone in this parenting.

Tips for Transition to Gentle Parenting: For Beginners

The style of parenting varies from family to family. Most often, families face difficulty in shifting from traditional parenting to gentle parenting. Implementing a completely new approach will be hard for some families. Therefore, below are some easy ways to incorporate gentle parenting in your homes and everyday life.

  1. Be Less Demanding and Commanding: 

For a gentle approach, you have to be less demanding and commanding. Arbitrary control and harsh techniques should be avoided. Parents should give priority to child’s interests rather than their demands.

2.  Set Rational and Age-appropriate Guidelines and Boundaries: 

At the start, you must decide what is appropriate and what is not. While structuring boundaries or reacting to their behavior, keep the child’s age in mind. Additionally, the guidelines should be reasonable and applicable to all.

3.  Target the Action, Not the Person: 

When a child breaks a glass, for instance, tell him/her what is wrong with the action. Rather than commenting on a child, you must separate the child from his action. Moreover, you must make him remember the guidelines.

4.  Model Kindness, Compassion, and Empathy. 

Showing kindness, compassion, and empathy to a child is essential for gentle parenting. Therefore, treat your child with such traits. For example, if your child does not good grades, you can say, “It happens commonly. We will try to overcome our mistakes and get good grades.”  

5.  Collective Work Invitation

Rather than commands, there must be invitations to work together. For example, there is a common phrase: “Wash your hands!” But a gentle parent will say, “We should wash our hands after meals to keep them clean.”

6.  Encourage positive action. 

You should appreciate a child’s positive actions openly. If a child acts under guidelines, he/she should be encouraged and rewarded sometimes.

7.  Help them learn from their mistakes

Parents must acknowledge that mistakes happen to all of us. They do not define a person but a particular action. There should not be naming and shaming for any mistake. However, it must be taken as a learning opportunity.

Some Challenges to Gentle Parenting

Incorporating gentle parenting is not an easy task. There are some undeniable challenges in the path of this approach. 

A): a family with a traditional approach struggles to instill compassion and empathy. Previous techniques of commanding and control make it difficult to adopt gentle parenting. 

B):  a lack of consistency in practicing this approach is another challenge. As its results are not as quick as those of the traditional approach, families move away from it. 

C):  this parenting requires discipline and particular structure. Both parents and children face problems in maintaining discipline in the long term. 

D):  the impact of surroundings such as schooling and other families may create barriers to tenets of a gentler approach.

End Note

Gentle parenting has no quick fixes but it needs complete structure. The proper implementation of a gentle approach requires all its tenets to be practiced. Among all parenting styles, this style flourishes children at home and outside in the long term.