Why gentle parenting?

Why have I chosen gentle parenting? I didn’t know what kind of a mother I was going to be but from day one I instinctively followed her cues day and night instead of forcing my own ways or strict schedules. I enforced gentle sleep routines and respected her way of doing things however stressful I found them. I didn’t follow any rules and how to guides, I followed my heart. It’s parenting with empathy, understanding and setting boundaries.

It’s easy to succumb to mainstream parental advice that doesn’t always feel the most natural. Why isn’t bed sharing really recommended or why is feeding to sleep not good in the long run?! A lot of the advice that is out there felt wrong to me and I followed my heart instead but those who follow gentle sleep and parenting practices with warnings and guidelines against them can feel neglected. A good friend of mine recommended I read anything by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, the author of Gentle parenting book  and many others and she sums up gentle parenting better than I ever could:

It is all about finding a balance of control, giving children just enough, at a time when they can handle it, with enforcing appropriate boundaries and limits. Gentle parenting is about being mindful of the long term effects of a parent’s actions as well as the immediate needs of safety and expectations of society.

Before anyone says that gentle parenting spoils the kids, this is what it isn’t – gentle parenting is not permissive or lazy parenting but respecting and understanding your child’s biological and psychological limitations. In a nutshell it’s about having empathy for your child when their behaviour doesn’t meet your expectations. You can blame the (slow) development of prefrontal cortex 😉 . This part of the brain manages processes such as: reasoning, logic, problem-solving, planning, memory, focus and attention and developing your personality. The prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until around the age of 25!

So, really, my two-year old definitely isn’t making any sense to me sometimes and I’m trying my darn hardest to understand her. I remember from a podcast I listened to a little while back that managing your own behaviour with your kids should be treated in the same way you would behave at work, i.e. you would (hopefully) never yell at your colleagues, threaten them or do anything else inappropriate for getting them to do something for you. Well… I don’t fully agree. I’m sure none of my colleagues have ever:

  • insisted on going to the park via the same route or scream their heads off if the route alters
  • brushed teeth with soap
  • wore boots in wrong feet
  • insisted on not wearing gloves when it’s snowing
  • poured water over a pasta dish and then thrown it off the table

While some of the above are laugh out loud hilarious it’s understandable to flip and yell if you’ve experienced it all within a first few hours of the day. Empathy? Gentle parenting? Out of the window goes all the calm you can muster. Which is why I find gentle parenting sometimes so difficult because it really puts your patience to the test. It would be very easy to introduce the naughty step and time out and punishing bad behaviour but then I need to remind myself that it doesn’t really teach them anything because their brains aren’t developed enough for analytical thought so they can’t understand what they did was “wrong”

This table explains why gentle parenting really makes sense.

There’s nothing like having a small human around you all the time for improving your own ability to be patient and kind – it’s a huge learning process for me and I’ve never worked so hard on myself since having her. I’ve accepted that I cannot change anyone’s attitude or behaviour but my own and I’ve accepted that she’s her own work in progress and she cannot be moulded or modelled and made “perfect”. But if I model respect and understanding then I can only hope that being considerate and kind will become her second nature and a choice of behaviour.

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