Thoughts on Gentle Parenting

Parenting today is, in my opinion, more difficult than when our parents cared for us. The digital age has complicated our lives and with access to more knowledge, we also wonder if we’re doing enough, or doing too much when it comes to parenting. A concept that has gained alot of traction in media and the world of parenting today is gentle parenting. As a pediatrician and mom, I wanted to weigh in on my thoughts in this post.

Gentle parenting is built on four basic pillars: empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries. Through these ideals, you build a relationship with your child based on their choices instead of your expectations. This style of parenting asks that you are cognizant of your child’s feelings and support him/her as he/she works through them. As adults, we expect our children to behave in a certain way and when those expectations are not met, we often end up frustrated. With gentle parenting, we are asked to take a step back and make sure our expectations are age-appropriate and adjust accordingly. However, this shouldn’t prevent us from setting a few boundaries for our kids. Gentle parenting only asks that whatever boundaries you do set are reasonable.

While I do believe some aspects of gentle parenting are beneficial, as a pediatrician and mom of two, I find that it often asks us to talk to our children like they are small adults, and they’re not. After all, children are not mini-adults and do not have the same reasoning skills as adults do. They do need structure, and they need boundaries. They absolutely need our support as they work through emotions. Personally, I prefer an approach termed “positive parenting” where you bring attention to when the child is doing something you asked, behaving well, etc and provide unconditional positive support to reinforce those actions and behaviors. When the child inevitably misbehaves, rather than trying to only have a mature discussion, you may look at something like a break time or rest period (used in the 1-2-3 Magic method) to incorporate discipline. That way, the child receives positive reinforcement when good behavior is there and less positive reinforcement when bad behavior is present, rather than negative reinforcement being felt in the relationship. I not only prefer this method as it prevents you from arguing with your child(ren) or getting frustrated, but it also enforces the importance of listening to their parents and caregivers.

Again, sometimes having lengthy discussions with our kids can prove futile as they don’t have the same reasoning skills we adults possess. One final note on parenting is to make sure all adults in your children’s day-to-day lives are on the same page about your preferred parenting style. It is much easier to enforce discipline when everyone is on the same page and multiple different methods are not being used.

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