What Is Gentle Parenting? | Everything Parents Should Know
At its core, gentle parenting aims to foster a solid parent-child bond to help raise confident, independent, and empathetic kids. This parenting style typically involves less discipline and more communication.
But it’s not the only parenting style out there. So, before we dive into the basics of gentle parenting, let’s briefly review some other popular parenting styles. This will give you a well-rounded perspective as you decide if gentle parenting is the right fit for your family.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Parenting Styles?
- What Is Gentle Parenting?
- Gentle Parenting Basics
- How To Implement Gentle Parenting Strategies
What Are Parenting Styles?
Parenting styles are how parents interact with and respond to their children. While there are several different parenting styles, each typically falls into one of four major categories. Let’s take a look.
High expectations and strict rules characterize this style. There’s little room for negotiation, and the parent’s word is often final.
Authoritative parents set high expectations but are more responsive to their children’s needs and emotions. There's room for negotiation and trying to understand each other’s perspective.
Also known as indulgent parenting, this style is marked by low expectations and few rules. Permissive parents are generally more responsive to their children’s needs but may be less likely to provide guidance or structure.
Uninvolved parents are neither demanding nor responsive. They provide little guidance or interaction, and their expectations are often low.
What Is Gentle Parenting?
Gentle parenting is a type of authoritative parenting. As we mentioned, it’s characterized by high expectations and a responsive, emotional approach.
But what sets gentle parenting apart from similar styles is the focus on creating a strong parent-child bond. This bond is built on mutual trust, respect, and communication and becomes the foundation for children to feel secure enough to grow into confident, independent adults.
As a general rule, gentle parenting typically avoids using punishment as a discipline tactic. Instead, these parents opt for natural or logical consequences whenever possible.
Pros And Cons Of This Parenting Style
Every parenting style has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few key pros and cons of gentle parenting to consider.
- Parents view children as independent people who will someday be capable, confident adults
- Emotions are validated, and parents teach how to manage them in a healthy way
- Emphasis on parent-child communication
- Children learn to take responsibility for their actions
- Can be time-consuming, especially with multiple children
- Often requires a lot of patience
- Can be challenging to remain consistent
- May reveal your own emotional issues and require you to work through them
- More traditional parents may disagree with how you’re raising your children
When considering gentle parenting, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons carefully. These parenting practices may not be the right fit for every family, but they could be the perfect fit for yours.
Gentle Parenting Basics
Gentle parenting is based on three key ingredients: communication, empathy, and connection. Let's look a bit more closely at each of these elements.
Gentle parenting relies heavily on communication. This involves both verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as active listening.
When communicating with your child if you choose this parenting style, it’s important to:
- Use clear, concise language
- Avoid sarcasm, shaming, or other forms of verbal abuse
- Be patient and avoid interrupting
- Try to see things from your child’s perspective
It can also be helpful to use “I” statements, such as “I feel _____ when you do _____.” This allows you to express your emotions without attacking or judging your child.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. When gentle parenting with empathy, you:
- Acknowledge your child’s emotions
- Try to see things from their perspective
- Refrain from making quick judgments
- Express understanding and compassion
Parents using this style recognize that even if they disagree with their child’s behavior, they can still empathize with their feelings and maintain the boundaries they’ve set.
For example, if your child doesn’t want to go to bed but you know they’re tired, you can say, “I know you’re not ready for bed yet, and you’re feeling frustrated. I’m sorry, but it’s time to sleep now.”
Then, proceed with your bedtime routine before you accompany them to their cozy bed with a 100% Washable Kids' Mattress and tuck them in.
A strong parent-child bond is the foundation of gentle parenting. You intentionally work on building connections with your child and getting to know them.
To foster this with your child, try to:
- Spend quality time together without distractions
- Build routines your child enjoys, such as snuggling with a book on the Newton X Figgy Play Couch or giving them a massage before bed
- Be fully present when you’re together
Building a solid connection takes time and effort, but parents who choose this parenting style believe it’s worth it.
How To Implement Gentle Parenting Strategies
If you want to try gentle parenting, use these strategies to help you get started.
1) Be Mindful Of Your Own Emotions And Language
To parent with empathy, you must first be aware of your own emotions. For example, if you’re feeling stressed, angry, or overwhelmed, step back and take some time to calm down. Focusing on self-care can help.
Then, once you’ve regained your composure, you can approach the situation with a clear head and open heart.
2) Listen More Than You Talk
Active listening is a crucial ingredient in gentle parenting. When your child is speaking, give them your undivided attention. Try to resist the urge to offer advice or criticism immediately. Instead, focus on understanding their point of view.
If you’re not sure what they’re trying to say, repeat it back. For example, you might say, “It sounds like you’re feeling sad because it’s time to leave the park. Is that right?” This allows them to clarify and helps ensure you’re on the same page.
3) Embrace Natural Consequences
Gentle parents don't want to rule with an iron fist. Nor do they want to raise kids who are dependent on them for everything. So, they often embrace natural consequences to teach kids about responsibility and self-reliance.
Natural consequences are the results that naturally occur when a child makes a poor choice. For example, if your child refuses to put on a coat before going outside, they may get a cold. Or, if they forget their homework at home, they’ll likely get a low grade.
While natural consequences can be tough to watch, they usually teach kids a valuable lesson in a way that doesn’t involve force or punishment.
4) Avoid Power Struggles
Gentle parenting is all about cooperation, not control. So, it’s important to avoid power struggles with your child.
There are a few key ways to do this:
- Set clear expectations and boundaries ahead of time. This will help avoid arguments later on.
- Give your child choices whenever possible. For example, you could say, “It’s time to get ready for bed. Would you like to take a bath first or brush your teeth first?”
- Focus on solving the problem, not on who’s right or wrong.
5) Use Positive Reinforcement
When your child exhibits the desired behavior, take a moment to praise them. This positive reinforcement will encourage them to continue behaving in this way.
Tips For Dealing With Difficult Situations
No matter what parenting style you utilize, your kids are still kids. They will throw tantrums, disobey, and test your limits. When these difficult situations arise, losing your cool and responding in a way you later regret can be easy.
To stay calm and avoid feeling frustrated, try the tips below.
Take A Step Back
When things start to get heated, it’s often helpful to hit pause for a moment. This gives you time to calm down and think about how you want to handle the situation.
Avoid Raising Your Voice
Often, yelling at your child makes the situation worse. It can increase their anxiety and make them less likely to cooperate in the future.
If necessary, walk away for a moment as long as your child is somewhere safe. Then, come back when you can speak calmly.
Remember They’re Little
Sometimes when your two-year-old is acting like a toddler, you want them to respond like an eight-year-old. But it’s important to remember that they’re still little.
They don’t yet have the same understanding or reasoning skills as an older child. So, try to be patient when dealing with difficult situations.
Meet Your Child Where They Are
Gentle parenting is all about understanding and meeting your child where they are. Taking the time to get to know them, understand their needs, and respond to them patiently can make difficult situations much easier to handle.
But no matter your parenting style, know that you can raise a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted child. Trust your instincts, and do what feels right for you and your family.
And remember that childhood is short, so try to enjoy it. Spend lots of time together, whether you're turning the Newton X Figgy Play Couch into a secret fort or enjoying a story on their comfy 100% Washable Kids' Mattress.
Then, when your child is grown, you'll both have beautiful memories to look back on.