A Guide To Gentle Parenting And Its Four Main Elements acts as a helpful guide as you raise your child during their early years. This article will showcase the benefits of Gentle Parenting. It utilizes the latest research on Gentle Parenting as well as some of the problems with Gentle Parenting. The technique of Gentle Parenting is a style of parenting that focuses on an internal willingness to work together instead of relying on external pressures from the outside world. The idea is to be aware of your own actions so you can set a positive example for your child. Children literally do learn what they live, as pointed out in Dorothy Law’s infamous 1955 poem. In reality, the fundamental rules of parenting should always include the elements of empathy, patience, respect, and understanding. This not only applies to the relationship between a parent and their child. This applies to how we interact with each other as human beings. Simply put, if every member of the human race exercised empathy, patience, respect, and the understanding of boundaries in everything we do, society as a whole would be in a better place than it is now. It would be a better world for your children as they’d be living in an environment that truly loves thy neighbor enough to not let petty differences get in the way of coexisting with each other. In this article, we cover the four elements of gentle parenting, which are empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries.
There is an assumption gentle parenting means leading a boundary-free example for your child to learn from. This isn’t entirely true. Many parents tend to worry this approach to parenting would cause them to lose control when it comes to their child’s upbringing. Again, this isn’t true. Speaking from experience and observation, the more someone tries to behave like control freaks over anything, including children, the less control they actually have. People are rebellious by nature, including children. Gentle persuasion is always a far better tool to win cooperation with someone than using force. However, when the time comes for discipline, the need to become more assertive does become necessary in order to educate your child that not every form of attitude or behavior is acceptable.
One of the biggest problems plaguing society right now is assumptions. Nowadays, people assume way too easily and way too quickly. Not nearly enough people take a breather before reacting to something that took them by surprise. Parents experience this as well, especially when a child’s behavior takes them off guard. Although the first instinct is to become angry and lash out, parents practicing gentle parenting make a point to avoid common mistakes such as shouting “because I told you so” as a reason to justify themselves in their disciplining process. Statements like these mean nothing to a child. In fact, such a statement will have your own child look at you with disdain and they would be justified to do so. Assuming an angry response is a ticket to steer your child to obey you merely sets both of you up for disappointment. Anger triggers fear and anger as a response, which leads to resentment. Resentment behaves like cancer, destroying the person filled with it from the inside out when left to fester.
Empathy: Leading By Example
The idea behind gentle parenting is to guide your child towards independence by dealing with their own emotions for what they are. This method invites children to understand their emotions each time they come across a feeling as a reaction to something. For instance, when a child becomes frustrated and starts crying, don’t try to forcefully stop it. Instead, empathize by letting your child know you understand their frustration right now. Simply sitting with your child and perhaps suggesting the two of you take some deep breaths together sends a signal that may calm them down much sooner than barking a command for them to stop. Again, an angry, impatient tone from you tells the child you don’t “get it” and you’re just being a bully. The gentle approach, which is simply sitting with your child and patiently coaxing them out of a negative emotion maintains a peaceful and nurturing environment that will cause the child to remember they’re living in a safe place with a parent they can trust. This opens up the lines of communication, which is essential.
By nature, children and adults respond more favorably to helpful guides instead to authority figures that tend to behave like military commanders. The key to exercising this as a parent is to observe first. This allows you to assess the situation before proceeding any further. Ideally, you want to be objective whenever dealing with your child. Objectivity comes with empathy, which is one of the four main elements when parenting your child. When mindful of your child’s feelings during their hour of need, help you better understand how to approach the matter. Compassion is key to working with your child to solve the problem with a gentle approach. Doing so encourages your child to look up to you as a positive role model, which is the whole point behind parenting, to begin with. You want your child to look up to you, knowing they can trust you with anything, no matter what. As you express empathy with your own child, you’ll find over time your child will do the same with you.
Respect: How It Works
If you expect your child to respect you as a parent then you need to show some respect yourself. They’re not as developed as you are so they will rely on raw emotion to express themselves. As a parent, you need to avoid expressing those raw emotions in return. You can’t afford to lose patience as you are supposed to be the adult here. Don’t expect them to act like one because they’re simply not mature enough yet to go there. Respect the situation for what it is and use that to your advantage as you exercise your gentle parenting skills. Remember, start by expressing empathy that you “get it” that your child is experiencing an intense moment. Maybe that came from you telling them they can’t do something.
Until you empathize with them, you can’t reason with them. This requires patience, a practice you and your child can work on together. Start with empathy, then patiently work together to ease the tension that’s no doubt filling the air. Don’t offer solutions or suggestions to resolve whatever is going on. Give your child the option to do it by putting them in the driver’s seat as a problem solver. This is the gentlest approach you can make as it’s suggesting you respect your child enough to exercise their brand of logic. If it’s over a lost toy or an argument about bedtime, find out why is it such a big issue for your child. When given the chance, they will explain themselves to the best of their ability. When they’re doing this, you’re showing them that you’re willing to listen. In the end, that’s what all children of all ages want. By being listened to they feel respected. This will always soften the severity of whatever blow they received that sparked a negative emotion to take place.
Again, it’s about taking a breather and leaving the lines of communication open so your child can express what they’re feeling. At first, they’ll be all excited as they’re on an emotional high that will feel overwhelming. By allowing them to breathe and express themselves freely, they come down from that high much faster than trying to stop them by force. As you gently and patiently persuade your child to calm down and open up, they become more willing to move forward. That includes allowing them to solve their own problems as you stay by their side as a guide. Remember, a person tends to respond more favorably to guides than authority figures. By acting as a guide for your child to figure out a problem, the two of you work as a team to come up with a mutually acceptable solution. Believe it or not, your child will remember this, even as future situations spring up down the road. This method will give your child cause to trust you, which is what you want as a parent. Your child also becomes a better human being for it as they’ll exercise this as teenagers, then as adults.
Understanding: Free Your Mind
By exercising empathy and respect, you’re also exercising a better path to understanding what’s going on. Remember, a child’s world is a very different place than an adult’s. They haven’t been exposed to nearly as many life experiences as you have. This means they don’t have enough frames of reference to rely on while you do. Your child’s path will not be the same as the one you followed so don’t expect anything more from them than they can handle. Doing so leads to assumptions and misunderstandings. These always lead to distrust and resentment, which takes away the gentle parenting approach in a devastating way. Understanding is a core element to building a relationship with your child so the two of you can grow together. The lines of communication are at their best when you make a point to understand what makes your child tick. As you attempt this with your own child, they will return the favor in their own way. Whenever a situation comes about where you need to steer a child away from bad behavior, help them understand why. “I told you so” won’t be enough as that’s not a valid reason.
So if a child becomes upset for whatever reason, try to understand their emotional maturity is still undergoing development. Instead of losing patience with the child and forcing the behavior to stop, try to understand where it’s coming from. Going with the empathic route, coax the child to calm down and allow them to express themselves. Let them talk, even if their frame of reasoning may sound absurd to you. The idea is to let them communicate, which is all they’re striving to do. They want you to understand why they’re upset. As soon as you make the effort to do this, the more you allow your child to open up and express themselves, the better the two of you will understand what’s really going on. From there, the two of you can work together to iron out a solution. Don’t try to force it. Again, gentle persuasion works much better.
Boundaries: Setting Limits
Probably the most difficult challenge when it comes to parenting a child is setting boundaries. As black and white as it sounds, what sort of boundaries you enforce depends entirely on the situation. Again, not every child is the same, nor is every parent. When setting boundaries, the idea is to help kids understand the reason behind it is for their own well-being. Telling them “just because” won’t be enough. That kind of answer suggests you don’t respect your child at all and will have a negative impact on their psyche. They’d rather see you as a guiding light rather than a dictator.
If you don’t want to see your child jumping on furniture or engaging in an art project that can damage the valuables in your home, then you need to lay down some ground rules with an explanation of why you’re doing it. Boundaries behave like a blueprint as you focus on protecting your child and your home. Over time, as your child grows and develops, some of those boundaries can change. It all depends on the situation and what kind of relationship you have with your child.
As early as three years old, you can set and discuss boundaries with your child. The key here is to use an empathic approach as you respect your child enough to reach a mutual understanding of why a certain boundary has been put in place. One good way to go about this is by reading a book to them that would match the occasion. For instance, if you don’t want your child to hit people, read them stories that would tap into their level of understanding of why hitting other people is bad. There are several storybooks that excel at helping you send the message home. Bear in mind, you need something that suits the level of understanding of your child. If they’re three years old, find stories suitable for children at that age. If your child is ten, there are books that have been written with their age group in mind.
While boundaries are helpful when it comes to shaping your child’s behavior, too many of them can do more harm than good. Be reasonable and keep things simple. It’ll be easier for you and your child to be on the same page when there aren’t so many rules bogging down their right to act their own age. When those boundaries are set, be consistent about it. Furthermore, if you’re worried about making your child cry when it comes to discipline and setting boundaries, think again. In fact, by establishing consistent and a reasonable set of boundaries, you’re shaping your child to develop at an advanced level compared to children who don’t have these at all. This is also the case when parents set too many boundaries as this will make their children feel like they’re growing up in a prison.
No boundaries and too many boundaries are not good examples of gentle parenting. Consistency and a small set of boundaries, even if it means your child may cry about it at first, is the gentlest approach you can possibly make as a parent wanting the best for their child. As harsh as “No!” may sound when attempting to stop your child from stepping out of bounds, so to speak, you’re actually doing that child a favor in the long run. It’s gentler to enforce those boundaries with consistency than it is to let a child get away with whatever action you know in your heart is wrong. Ideally, after telling your child “no” about something, respect your child enough to empathically explain why. Help them understand why no means no.
The ideal approach to gentle parenting is to exercise daily doses of behavior that will become second nature to you and your child. Such techniques include commenting on actions committed by a person. Don’t criticize the child for bad behavior based on who they are as a person. Doing so does more harm than good for both of you. If there is a sibling rivalry involved, instead of suggesting to children that they’re mean, point out that their behavior is hurting someone that loves them. Again, go the empathic route and help the child see and understand for themselves what they’re doing wrong.
Don’t tell them like a police officer tells a criminal. Work with your child and let them figure it out. Once they do, remember to forgive them as it is human nature to make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they deserve to avoid punishment but it does mean this gentle approach works into their psyche over time where a better effort is usually made by them to be better people. This is what you want for your child after all, right?
Always remember to be kind. This not only applies to your child but to everyone you encounter, even if it seems like they don’t deserve it. Kindness, even when it doesn’t seem to be appreciated at the time, goes a long way to knock the edge off when it comes to dealing with tense situations that trigger raw emotions. That kindness shouldn’t just come from you unto others. You need to do this for yourself. As your child watches, they learn by example.
The more you practice this as part of your gentle parenting regime, the easier life will become for you and your child. The world suddenly doesn’t feel so dark, making it a less scary place as your child grows up in it. Along the way, your child will learn courage as it is more courageous to be empathic, patient, respectable, and understanding than to run amok like an unrestrained spoiled brat without boundaries. That child will grow up to become a decent human being that will do your legacy as a parent proud.
A Guide To Gentle Parenting And Its Four Main Elements article published on BabyCareGuru.com© 2023
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