What is Gentle Parenting?
As the times change, so do the ways we choose to parent our children. A new parenting style has emerged that is commonly known as “gentle parenting.” Gentle parenting is said to support parent-child relationships built on trust and mutual respect. Here are a few characteristics of this parenting style:
Gentle parents validate their child’s feelings
People who use this approach to parenting understand the importance of validating their child’s feelings. Children must be taught how to regulate their emotions; emotional intelligence is a learned behavior. When their child throws a tantrum, a gentle parent will allow their child to express their emotions. In an effort to calmly deescalate the situation, the parent will validate their child for how they’re feeling, using phrases like:
“I can see this is hard for you.”
“I would be upset if that happened to me too.”
“It’s okay to be upset.”
“Let’s take a few deep breaths, and then we can talk about what happened.”
“Please be gentle and use a softer voice.”
“How can I help you?”
As stressful as it can be to try and manage an inconsolable child, a gentle parent will remain calm in their approach; if a child senses their parent is distressed as well, it will only escalate the situation. This composure is not only an effective de-escalation technique, but is a great example of emotional intelligence.
Gentle parents value respect and bodily autonomy
As children develop, they require guidance from their parents to learn and make decisions. Because children are underdeveloped and rely on their parents for survival, their parents serve as caretakers, disciplinaries, mentors, etc. Gentle parents believe that — despite an obvious power imbalance — children should be granted the same respect and bodily autonomy that adults are. For gentle parents, consent is a core value.
Instead of entering the child’s room without permission, a gentle parent will knock and ask for permission to enter. Instead of forcing the child to hug or kiss a relative, the parent asks their child if they are comfortable giving and receiving physical affection. This teaches the child that their “yes” and “no” should always be respected.
Gentle parents utilize positive language
“No” or “stop” are commands commonly used to discourage poor behavior. Gentle parents believe that using positive language is more encouraging and empowering. Utilizing positive language is also another wonderful de-escalation technique.
Instead of discouraging a behavior by saying “no” or “stop”, a gentle parent may say, “Please put that back, and find something else to play with.” Gentle parents believe that a simple “no” does not indicate to the child what they are doing wrong and where they can redirect their attention. This leads to confusion, and potentially, another tantrum. Gentle parents believe that using very specific, positive language, teaches your child right from wrong, and empowers them to make a better decision.
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