Gentle parenting isn’t meant to be easy
I don’t know where this idea came from that gentle parenting was supposed to be ‘easy’. That we’ve got it all figured out over here. That because we’ve chosen a different way it means our children should behave perfectly, and we should always know how to parent them in any situation. That if your children aren’t perfect, then you’re doing it wrong.
I hear all the time ‘the problem with kids these days is that their parents aren’t tough enough/don’t smack them/want to be their friend/don’t punish them enough’. Apparently if a kid isn’t behaving the way we want them to the answer is the be tougher on them. And if you don’t agree with that, well you brought it on yourself!
I completely disagree! I don’t think the answer to any difficulties you may have with your children is a bit more ‘tough love’. No, I can’t see how putting more distance in your relationship and disconnecting from your children is helpful. The answer, in my opinion, is the opposite. To connect more.
“A child needs your love most when he deserves it least” -Erma Bombeck
The thing is, gentle parenting isn’t supposed to be easy. It doesn’t mean we always have all the answers. It doesn’t mean our children never do the wrong thing. It doesn’t mean they are perfectly behaved. It doesn’t mean they never test our patience.
Not at all. Our children still test us. That’s what they’re supposed to do. And when this happens it doesn’t mean that what we’re doing isn’t working. We don’t need to be told ‘that kid needs a good smack’. Sorry that’s not what we’re about.
What we are about, is the bigger picture. Connectedness over obedience. Relationships over perfect behaviour. Mindfulness and understanding over punishment. A commitment to helping our kids deal with their emotions, making them feel safe, respecting them as people, guiding them through life, protecting boundaries lovingly, and not relying on fear and power to get our message across. Because what we’re aiming for is not momentary compliance, but nurturing a human being.
And that is not easy. Staying calm in the face of big feelings? I don’t know about you but it’s not easy for me! Listening to crying? Nope, not easy either. We didn’t choose to parent this way because we thought it would be easier and we’d bypass all the normal things you have to deal with when you’re raising tiny people. We chose it for the bigger picture.
No, it’s not easy. Parenting isn’t easy a lot of the time, however you choose to do it. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. The fact that you keep trying means you’re doing it right. We keep learning and trying and thinking of the bigger picture. And it is so worth it.
That’s my view exactly, you’ve just put it into words for me.
Oh I felt like I was rambling on! Glad people got what I was saying, lol.
I’ve never understood how people can believe that hitting their children will lead to them growing up to be the sort of adults they want them to be. Unless, of course, they want them to be violent, confused, poorly attached adults who don’t know how to resolve issues in any way other than by shouting and hitting.
The term “Gentle Parenting” seems to be misunderstood as “letting the kids do whatever they want” parenting! This is further from the truth. I have raised 5 children and have dramatically changed the way I parent as I have matured and have more experience in how children learn and interact with each other and adults. I have come to see that gentle parenting as you describe in your post is far more effective in aiding children to grow up sensitive, caring and with a sense of responsibility for their actions. It makes me cringe when I see another parent yelling back at their child or hitting them back because the child hit them. Do as you want your kids to do!
Exactly! Gentle parenting does not mean permissive parenting! 🙂
I was hit and screamed at as a child and I am a peaceful/gentle parent. We do not all turn out to be violent and confused adults and some of us actually do know how to resolve issues respectfully.
I grew up with spankings and I’m fine. I’m not violent or evil. I am a respectable young women and I had a wonderful childhood. I think to each their own on discipline.
Cece, I grew up with chronic eczema and I turned out fine. But I wish I hadn’t.
But that’s not my point: I wonder what it would have been like had your parents been fans of gentle, no-hit parenting.
Thanks so much for this I needed to read this today. We are visiting my family and my grandfather is in very poor health. There’s a lot of stress, sadness and uncertainty in the air and my son has picked up on it and is acting out. I’ve tried so hard to be patient but I ended up yelling at him this morning. Hoping I’ll be better and more connected with him in the days to come.
Oh I’m sorry to hear that Sarah. What a tough time xx
Different strokes for different folks everyone. My sister and I were smacked as children, but we haven’t turned out to be “violent, confused, poorly attached adults who don’t know how to resolve issues in any way other than by shouting and hitting.” Neither of us smacked our children or showed any violence to them and yet each of us have a child who has turned out to be very problematic – how can that be when the others are perfectly delightful young adults? Everyone does what they think is best, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. I do however think that it is wrong for anyone to criticise anyone else’s parenting or make huge assumptions about the possible outcomes of that parenting.
So true. All we can do is to try our best as a person and as a parent. To learn, to distinguish, and not to judge.
Thank you for your response – so interesting. I wonder if when we are raised with “harsh” discipline and we want to do something different, in order to kind of over correct for the way we grew up, if we are a bit too permissive. I think its really difficult to find a balance. (Not saying that is the case for you but it occurred to me from your post). I DO feel that many people who practice what they think of as respectful parenting are really trying to avoid conflict with their kids – and it is problematic.
I also agree it is helpful not to judge. It is hard to balance that when we see stuff we totally feel is basically community sanctioned violence. (IMO)
Thanks for your encouragement! When I read, “The fact that you keep trying means you’re doing it right,” puts a smile on my face, take a deep breath and say okay!
When you say “set boundaries and limits lovingly” –how do you do it? How do you handle it when your children overstep a boundary? Do you maybe have any other posts where you have written about how you correct and guide your children?
Tanya, in our house a key thing is that we constantly explain with the eventual goal of our children working things out for themselves. For example: If you do X, what will happen? How will Y feel? What will happen to you? Then following that up with reminders and consistent messaging from both parents. Oh and keep it succinct and to the point. 🙂 It takes practice but well worth it.
Hi Tanya! I think Janet Lansbury is always so great at explaining how to do this so I’m going to link you to some of her posts, I hope it helps! 🙂
I totally agree, but I’m also conscious that many people don’t get the distinction between being “tough” and being “firm”. I think firm boundaries are really important for my children, but I think it’s best to apply them gently and respectfully. Being a “gentle” parent doesn’t mean being all-permissive and allowing unruly and disrespectful behaviour.
Lovely and so true. Thanks for sharing.
This is a beautiful post. The” bigger picture” is a strong driving force and helps me keep perspective on those days that seem tougher than usual.
Yes! So true – it is rather amazing that ‘perfect’ children are expected if we are going to parent differently – love your response to this.
Thank you for this. I really needed to read/hear this right now.
No, it’s not easy at all is it. Especially in public situations, where I feel I have to stand up for my parenting style, whilst at the same time parenting my child through a difficult situation. Thanks for this. It feels like you’re standing with me through this. 🙂
Such a timely reminder, thank you 🙂
Beautiful post for all parents regardless of parenting philosophies.
I think to each their own when it comes to parenting. You have to remeber that differnt things work for differnt children. When I was little my dad spanked me when I did something bad. But he was also firm and gentle when needed. It’s not all about one type of parenting. There were some things that I just didn’t get unless he spanked me and thays that. I am not violent myself, I actually have a very loving nature. My father raised me well. Like I said before there are many types of parenting and your gonna choose what works best for you.
Its what Family Links, Nurtuting Parenting Training has been teaching all over UK for years.
Somehow I’ve never read this post before, and I love it! I think it’s something that needs said much more often, even in peaceful /respectful parenting circles. Thank you for sharing!