Gentle parenting has gained huge popularity amongst parents in recent years, but the big question is: Does gentle parenting work? Well, it takes a lot of patience, self-control and discipline from the parents themselves. I have poured myself over hours of videos, articles and more to try to learn the best ways to parent my children—and here’s what I found.
Parents, especially mothers, put so much pressure on themselves to be perfect for their children—but that’s an impossible standard. Unfortunately, with the popularity of gentle parenting comes additional pressure to act or react a certain way in very difficult, volatile situations. Many of us have seen videos or articles demonstrating how to be proactive in a variety of circumstances with our children. These suggestions are absolutely wonderful in theory, but they are not always realistic day to day.
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Yes, sometimes I am able to stay calm and quietly talk my child through a meltdown. But there are also days that I end up screaming, feel completely touched out and end the day feeling like I have failed. If you can relate to this, you have not failed. You are human. You are still a good mom. In these moments, I have learned that there are still aspects of gentle parenting that can work.
Does gentle parenting work? Here’s what I learned:
1. Losing your temper does not end the conversation
Just because I lose my temper sometimes does not mean that the conversation is over. It also does not mean that I have caused irreparable damage to my child. These moments actually give me the opportunity to install empathy and understanding by speaking openly with my children about the fact that everyone makes mistakes and everyone loses their temper sometimes.
I am honest that I have made a mistake, and I own up to how I have reacted. At the same time, I make sure my child and I talk about how they were acting or what they did in order to make sure they know we are both responsible in these situations. Gentle parenting is not one-size-fits-all. There are many different ways to incorporate it.
2. Take a deep breath and get on their level
Getting on a child’s level can be a game-changer. This sounds simple, but it can make a huge difference in how they react to you—and how you both feel about the situation. When my oldest son is having a huge melt down—kicking and screaming—and I cannot seem to calm him down, practicing this makes all the difference.
I kneel down, get on his level, try to use a quieter voice (even if I have just lost my temper for a moment) and try to regroup. I tell him that I understand he’s frustrated, but I cannot help him until he’s ready—and then I wait. Is this difficult? Absolutely. But being on his level and waiting for him to calm down a bit really helps us work through hard moments.
3. Gentle parenting does not mean a lack of discipline
This is a big one for me. Yes, I want to make sure my children learn empathy and understanding. And of course I want them to know that they can express their emotions and that they are safe with me. But that does not mean they can walk all over me. And that does not mean they never have discipline or consequences. I think it can be easy to mistake gentle parenting for no rules—and this is not the intention at all. Children still need boundaries, guidelines and consistency.
So, does gentle parenting work? It absolutely can for many families as long as you remember a few things along the way. Give yourself grace, remember that each family is different and forgive yourself when you inevitably lose your temper or have a harder day. Parenting will never be perfect—but you are the best parent for your child.
And when these hard moments happen, try not to pretend like they didn’t happen. Have open and honest conversations with your children about different emotions that people have. I don’t believe there are “good” and “bad” emotions—and when you have open conversations and show your children that you’re human too, that also teaches them understanding and allows them to be more confident in expressing their own feelings and thoughts.
Do I wish I never lost my temper and constantly remained calm? Of course. But that’s just not realistic. Give yourself grace. Gentle parenting can work in different ways for different people, and it does not have to come with the added pressure to be “perfect”. After all, you are exactly who your child needs.
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