For those who may not know, gentle parenting is the choice to parent with empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries. While gentle parenting and attachment parenting tend to get confused or lumped together, gentle parenting doesn't adhere to a specific set of rules, decisions, or instructions, like attachment parenting does. Instead, gentle parenting allows for the parent to take into account their child's specific needs, and make parenting decisions in the moment that make sense for them, even if not necessarily everyone else. More simply put, gentle parenting doesn't strictly stick to one specific methodology, and can cover any number of seemingly juxtaposing parenting decisions. It doesn’t matter if you breastfeed, bottle feed, gave birth at home or had an elective c-secion, use a stroller or baby wear, co-sleep or have your kid in their own room... The thinking with gentle parenting is that none of those decisions, on their own, define the conscious actions and thoughts behind your parenting. And that is what gentle parenting focuses on.
Make no mistake about it: You will learn just as much from your kid as your kid will learn from you. Parenting is a university of sorts, except no one graduates and seemingly never-ending lessons just pile on top of one another, like pancakes you don't have time to eat for breakfast because you're too busy trying to convince your toddler to eat something. And regardless of how you choose to parent, your choices and parenting tactics can end up teaching you just as much (if not more) than they teach your kid. Choosing to use the gentle parenting method, of course, is no different.
And that focus — that conscious decision making that takes your kid's thoughts, feelings, emotions, and communication skills into account — can teach you some valuable lessons that can be used in other areas of your life. In fact, here are nine things you learn from gentle parenting that not only make you a better parent, but arguably a better person.
Since it's a cornerstone of gentle parenting, you're bound to learn how to be empathetic towards, well, anyone. Parents who choose gentle parenting take their child's feelings into consideration as much as possible. This, in turn, can bleed into every other relationship or casual encounter those parents may have. You find yourself more empathetic to the frustrated father in the cereal aisle, the elderly woman who can't seem to find her turn signal and anyone else who is trying to make their way through the world, just like you are. You don't have to know someone, be related to someone, or have a relationship with someone, in order to feel empathetic toward them. Trust me: If you can understand where a tantrum-throwing toddler is coming from, you can understand just about anyone.
Because parents who choose gentle parenting also choose to respect their children as if they were adults, it's easy to learn how to respect, well, everyone. Even if you feel like you know more than someone else, or know what is better for someone else, or think your way of thinking is superior to someone else's, you'll be respectful of their wishes and decisions. Gentle parenting doesn't just teach parents how to respect their own children's choices and identities, it also teaches adults how to respect the different opinions, beliefs, and thoughts of other adults. (Guys, this really comes in handy during an election year.)
Choosing to parent gently does not, contrary to popular belief, mean that you're choosing to be a passive parent that allows your kid(s) to run the show. On the contrary, many gentle parents are strict and set multiple rules for their children, which requires a certain amount of patience (because, you know, kids don't always appreciate rules). What separates gentle parents from other parents is their choice to use empathy, respect, and guidance to create healthy boundaries for their children. Again, this requires some (read: a lot of) patience. But when you can learn to take your time -—whether it's allowing your child to figure some things out for themselves or allowing yourself to step back and assess your kid's valid point of view — you'll find yourself being more and more patient in every other aspect of your life. (For example, if you can use gentle parenting methods to help your son successfully use the toilet, waiting for someone to answer an email just doesn't seem like a big deal.)
Trying to understand your kid when they can't verbally communicate can be difficult, to say the least. However, if you're trying your hand at gentle parenting, you're well aware that your kid has multiple ways of communicating other than using their toddler-speak, and learning to be understanding and accepting of those forms of communication is vital. Once you can do that, and learn that everyone communicates differently, sees the world differently, etc., understanding the adults in your life will be substantially easier.
As previously mentioned, gentle parenting doesn't mean a lack of boundaries. On the contrary, a cornerstone of gentle parenting is providing your kid with boundaries so that they gain a sense of security. While you're setting boundaries for your kid, you're also (intentionally or not) setting boundaries for yourself. You're deciding what your kid will be responsible for, and what you will be responsible for. Learning not to do everything for your kid — to let go and let someone else be in charge — is all part of setting boundaries, and learning when to say "no," when to back off, and when to be responsible for just yourself, can aid you in just about every other aspect of your life.
Because those who choose gentle parenting choose to always be empathetic, understanding, and respectful of their child, parents often have to find alternative ways of teaching their children, disciplining their children, and even thinking about the entire parent-child dynamic. What might have worked for the parent when they were a kid, may not work for their child now. Thinking outside of the box, coming up with alternative parenting methods that fit your kid's specific personality, and constantly evolving your parenting tactics is vital. This type of creative thinking can do wonders for a parent's professional life as well. For example: That boss of yours wants you to fill out 17 spreadsheets in a 2-hour period? Hm, well why not just combine them in some super awesome, never-before-seen presentation that's exponentially easier to create? Yeah, you can go ahead and thank gentle parenting for that.
There's no room for lashing out irrationally when you're gentle parenting. I mean, it happens. We're all human. But the more you try your hand at gentle parenting, the more you learn to curb your anger and stay calm, cool, and collected. Practicing regular empathy might mean you end up having a milder reaction when your kid throws a tantrum (you know they're just trying to communicate their frustration). You won't blink an eye when your kid has an accident on the carpet, because you know potty training is confusing for toddlers. Talk about a life lesson worth learning.
Different Love Languages
Gentle parenting helps you understand the five love languages: affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Becuase you're not going to force your kid to ahdere to how you show love, you'll become acutely aware of all the other ways someone can show their affection. Maybe your kid doesn't want to give grandma a kiss, but he or she is OK making them a picture. It doesn't mean they're being disrespectful, it means that, for your child, they feel more comfortable giving gifts than engaging in physical touch.
Identifying and respecting someone's love language can help strengthen the lines of communication, as well as assist in someone better understanding their partner. They say that having a kid can strengthen your relationship, and I think one of the reasons why is because having a child forces you to realize that not everyone loves the same way.
If I could sum up gentle parenting in one word, it would have to be "inclusion." Gentle parenting really just means you're willing to take your kid's thoughts, feelings, changing emotions, and expanding views of the world into consideration and include them in your parenting choices. This is a great attribute that, honestly, more people could afford to have. Gentle parenting isn't about forcing your kid to be someone they're not; It's about learning to be inclusive and to celebrate the differences in others; whether they're your kid or a relative stranger.