By Michelle Mady
In my parenting journey with my five children, I have changed a lot about how I parent and the why’s behind my parenting tactics. For some reason, when I first heard the term “gentle parenting” I thought of “Mary Poppins” or “The Sound Of Music.” I couldn’t imagine dancing and singing my kids’ worries away. It just isn’t me. And talking through EVERYTHING? Who has time for that?
My parenting style remained in line with everything I have learned from my experiences as a preschool teacher and my education. I have learned how the brain develops as well as the psychology behind validating feelings, offering choices, and introducing coping skills. In the area of behavior management, I have learned to allow behaviors with specific boundaries and substitute each “no” with a “yes.” “No, you can’t hit your friends, but here is a pillow you can hit.”
My parenting style remained in line with everything I have learned from my experiences as a preschool teacher and my education.
In my classroom of two year olds I have brought in so many ideas to support children’s emotional development and provide skills for them to work toward independence in handling emotions and appropriately expressing them. As I continued this journey, I found resources that were in line with my teaching and parenting philosophy.
And they also all aligned with Gentle Parenting.
Could it be that I was already practicing some gentle parenting techniques? It can’t be possible. I am loud, direct, and I’m not sure anyone who knows me would list “gentle” as one of my qualities. And, here I am, reading up on this parenting technique and seeing how closely it fits into what I have been doing for the past few years. So, what exactly goes into gentle parenting?
Having firm boundaries.
Gentle parenting doesn’t mean bending to your child’s will. It is strongly based on firm boundaries. Having firm boundaries can actually make children feel more secure in expectations. Gentle parenting holds boundaries as an important part of parenting. Laying down that groundwork, of what is acceptable and what is not, communicates that there are expectations.
Example, “No, you cannot throw your food on the floor.” That boundary is held firm, and reiterated, but we add in the next step.
Feelings are ok to feel. Helping a child to label feelings empowers them to practice coping skills. Allowing them to feel those feelings creates security and a solid mental health foundation. Feelings are ok, but that doesn’t change the boundaries. Let them know that you see they are experiencing big emotions, but the boundary stays the same.
Example, “You are mad about the dinner choice for tonight. It must be disappointing. It’s ok to be mad, but we do not throw food on the floor.” Next, we will finish with coping skills.
Offering an acceptable alternative.
Oftentimes a child’s behavior happens because it may be the only option in their mind. Our job is to teach them how to handle their emotions appropriately in gentle parenting. Offering them an outlet for whatever they are feeling will plant the seeds for coping skills later in life. Taking breaths, hitting a pillow, or offering some time can help instill these skills.
To finish the dinner example, we add on an alternative. “You are mad about the dinner choice for tonight. It must be disappointing. It’s ok to be mad, but we do not throw food on the floor. If you are all done, you can help me pick up the food. If you are still hungry, you can eat what is on your plate.”
Gentle parenting can seem overwhelming. There are a few great Instagram accounts that I follow that make it feel a lot more attainable.
Big Little Feelings is a great account run by two moms. They offer a course, but have a lot of good tips on their page.
Mr. Chazz is a montessori teacher and shares great information about the why’s behind gentle parenting.
Finally, my favorite account is Momma Cusses, which is a really realistic way of parenting in a gentle way. She is how I figured out that why I was already doing, how I was teaching and parenting, was through this style.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.
Photo credit: iStock.com/undefined