Best Practices For Gentle Parenting

As parents, we are always looking for better ways to parent our children. The guiding principle of any parenting technique has to be that it must enable both parent and child to flourish. There are many answers to this question and many parents try, consciously or not, to blend various approaches to try and create the best parenting style for them. One such practice is known as gentle parenting and is built upon four key principles: the child must be understood; parents must empathize with their child; parents must respect their child; and parents must set boundaries. Gentle parenting attempts to see a child’s individuality and nurture it and respond to each child’s unique needs. 

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a British child care author and parenting expert, is the founder of the gentle parenting movement. Her book, “The Gentle Parenting Book”. Ockwell-Smith believes that parenting must nourish the relationship between parent and child and that this is best achieved through their choices and willingness, rather than subjecting them to your rules and expectations. 

Her work is a break from the authoritarian style of parenting that emphasises control and punishment and where children are reared to conform to society’s expectations of them. When children step outside of society;s expectation, that child is punished or coerced into conformity. 

Gentle parenting emphasises the tools of communication, connection and consistency in rearing a child. You should probably add patience to that list because it can be very hard to parent a child this way when our instinct may be to use punishment and control to get our way.

Relating to your child should be done through the prism of unconditional positive regard. What this means is that regardless of what your child says or does, they must never doubt your love for them or your high opinion of them. You must be able to separate any bad they do from their inherent value as human beings. To achieve this state of mind, you have to empathize with your child, learn to see things from their perspective. Often, when we are frustrated by our children, it’s because we assume that they mean to be bad, rather than that they are earnestly trying their best. Empathy is an improvable skill. Research from University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds has shown that with practice, you can indeed learn to be more empathetic, more compassionate.

Respect for children seems a bit silly because children don’t know a whole lot do they? We often forget that despite their obvious ignorance and lack of life experience, they have their own desires and feelings and their own unique value. Follow the Golden Rule and treat them as you would want them to treat you.

You have to realize that children are at the mercy of their fast-developing minds. They do not have the degree of self-control that you as an adult have. Holding them to the standards of an adult is absurd. Adjust your expectations to their age.

Don’t create an environment filled with rules because rules encourage children to test their boundaries. What you want is to balance a few rules with values that guide behaviour. These values should have within them a healthy respect for everyone’s boundaries. For instance, your child should know that they should not play music or movies loudly after a certain time because that could disturb the neighbours. 
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