There are as many different parenting methods as there are parents, each with their own beliefs on what is important in raising a healthy, well-functioning child. To proponents of gentle parenting, raising a child is a very relational and intentional act. Although the method has a reputation of being only for "crunchy moms" or parents who don't believe in rules, there are lots of things you didn't know about gentle parenting that may make you want to try it out for yourself and your child.
According to Dr. Laura Markham, founder of Aha Parenting and one of the leading voices on the gentle parenting movement, empathy, connection, and respect is at the heart of the parenting strategy. Gentle parents see their children as worthy of understanding and respect — people whose feelings are just as valid as an adults, they just may not know the best ways to express them yet. A parent's job, gentle parenting says, is to calmly set boundaries, allowing your child to explore and learn within them.
The method focuses on building a strong parent-child relationship – one where the parent is definitely in charge, but doesn't hold their authority over their child as a threat or punishment. It can work for strong-willed children, cooperative children, strict parents, and relaxed parents. If you're still curious about the method before giving it a try the next time your toddler has a tantrum, read on to learn a few things you might not have known about gentle parenting.
1. It Focuses On Limiting Choices Over Giving Commands
Instead of always telling their kids what to do, gentle parenting suggests parents offer choices that allow their child to still follow directions but gives them a sense of control as well. For example, asking your child "would you like to brush your teeth or take a bath first?" will help them feel in control within the boundaries you've set. Aha Parenting noted that parents should "coach instead of control" their children.
2. It Encourages "Positive Discipline"
Although specific methods of discipline will look different for each family, gentle parenting teaches that discipline is a form of teaching your child between right and wrong. Aha Parenting noted that " children learn best when they feel heard and valued, not when they feel on the defensive." Positive discipline doesn't use spanking or even time outs as a form of discipline. Rather, they set boundaries with their children, instead of using fear as a form of discipline.
3. It's Not Permissive Parenting
In comparison with the standards of mainstream parenting, it's a common misconception that gentle parenting doesn't include rules or boundaries and that parents simply let their children "rule the roost." On the contrary though, according to the UK's gentle parenting website, gentle parents are oftentimes more strict, having specific boundaries set in place that their children know to follow.
Parents must consistently reinforce these boundaries, to give their children a sense of vital security and safety.
4. It Focuses On Empathy
One of the key principles of gentle parenting is empathizing with the way your child feels. Aha Parenting gives parents great advice for how to parent effectively while still empathizing with your child's feelings.
5. It Stays Clear Of "Forced Affection"
Forced affection is a big no no in the gentle parenting world. Parents believe that teaching their child that they have control over their bodies from a very young age is important, according to The Conversation.
6. It Requires A Lot Of Self Control
Gentle parenting isn't the easy route. In fact, it's downright difficult at times. Everyone gets angry at their children, but gentle parenting pushes parents to take "time outs" themselves until they're calm enough to parent effectively. Aha Parenting noted that no decision or punishment should be carried out in the heat of the moment and taking time to pause helps your child understand that their behavior was wrong not just because they made you upset.
7. Anyone Can Do It
Gentle parenting isn't only for "crunchy moms" or parents of calm children. In fact, proponents of the method claim that it's perfect for strong willed children and even parents who have a hard time staying calm.