Finding Gentle Parenting shone a light on my hardest moments of motherhood, the ones that no mom is proud of, and it made me understand how I could be the kind of parent I wish I had. And now I will share with you the 7 lessons I learned in one year of gentle parenting.
I’m no specialist in the subject, I’m only sharing my experiences hoping that they can be helpful to at least one person’s parenting journey.
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1. Why did I choose Gentle Parenting?
I came from an authoritarian and full of punishments home. I was conditioned to believe that every time I was punished it happened because I deserved it.
It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I realized how wrong it is to discipline a child with verbal or physical punishments.
When I first held my son I knew I wanted to do things differently. I knew I wanted to raise a child that grows up knowing his parents are his safe place.
The only way I could imagine that becoming possible was by breaking the cycle of abuse dressed up as discipline.
Gentle parenting entered my life when I was looking for answers on how to break that cycle.
2. The basic pillars of Gentle Parenting
Gentle Parenting is evidence-based and is rooted in:
- and boundaries.
If you ask me, it is the best parenting style, it respects and sees the child as a whole person. It’s focused on the child’s emotional regulation, development of self-control, and empathy.
Gentle parenting understands that behind a “bad behavior” is a need being expressed, even if this need is a boundary.
However, it does not mean that lack of discipline, but discipline is enforced in a positive and respectful way, without using physical or verbal punishment.
3. The easy way to start with Gentle Parenting
I won’t lie if you came from an authoritarian home, there’s no easy way to be a gentle parent.
You will need to do some inner work because chances are that your triggers will be the same things that you were punished as a child.
That is why many gentle parenting advocates often use the term “cycle breakers” when talking about it.
This cycle is the repetition of our parent’s behavior, their parent’s behavior, and so on… Until you, the one person that is willing to end this cycle.
As I said before, it is not easy, but it is completely achievable. You must be willing to learn new ways and be consistent.
Books, blogs, Facebook groups, and content creators will be your friends and will help you.
But only you will be capable to take a deep breath and act differently when your toddler is throwing a fit because the blue cup is too bluey, or because they want more screen time than what you are allowing them to.
4. Know thyself
I mean, know your triggers. Once I decided to be a gentle parent, I was gentle until I wasn’t. I didn’t know what were the behaviors triggered me, and in one crisis I would be empathetic and gentle but in another, I would snap.
It took me some learning and some observation to point out which of my son’s behaviors triggered me the most, and to understand their roots.
Taking mental notes of when it was the hardest to keep my cool has helped me a lot. Now I know when are the moments that I need to take a deep breath, calm down and then focus my attention on modeling the behavior I want my child to have when he gets upset.
5. Adults also have big emotions
Once, the breakfast was late, I was in a rush because a hungry toddler is a bomb ready to go off.
I was making pancakes, scrambling eggs, cutting apples, pressing oranges… multitasking at its finest.
When I finished pressing the oranges on my son’s cup, before I could put the lid on, he took the cup from the counter and OJ spilled it everywhere. A disaster!
He sat on the floor and started to cry and wouldn’t stop, so I snapped! Not my proudest moment.
I yelled at him and took him by the arms to the living room. When I came back to the kitchen I realized that I did overreact over an accident.
I lacked the self-control that I was expecting from my son. I felt like crap too.
6. What does gentle parenting look like in real life?
Gentle parenting is also modeling the behavior you expect your child to have in a moment of crisis. Because we know that our little ones copy us all the time.
We can’t expect a child to calm down by himself if he keeps seeing us getting angry, yelling, and breaking things around the house.
Getting back to the OJ disaster, soon after my realization I got back to my son, who was still crying by the way, and sat very close to him and invited him to a hug.
He hugged me, my heart broke in mil pieces, of course.
Then I reconnected with him at that moment. I explained “mommy had big feelings and had a hard time controlling them”, then I apologize and once he had calmed down I offered him pancakes.
When the OJ disaster happened, what I should have done instead was calm down and be empathetic. I should have told him that accidents happen because they do, helped him clean up, and get him to the table to eat.
That would show him that is okay to make mistakes and that mistakes can be fixed more easily if we keep calm.
7. Setting expectations in the right place
Gentle parenting is not something that will change family dynamics overnight.
It will take a while to adapt to the new parenting approach, it takes practice and self-consciousness to know where you can do better, and also understanding that takes a while for the child to start responding to it.
I remember that it took us about 6 months to start seeing my son responding to it, and even today, a year after, there are still moments things don’t go as planned.
So don’t be hard on yourself if it takes time to start seeing changes, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can. Also, don’t forget that kids are different and have their own time.
Gentle Parenting Resources
There’s a long path ahead and to help your start with your gentle parenting journey here is a list of my favorite books:
- No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury – this one has easy language and gives relatable examples on how to practice gentle parenting.
- The Whole Brain Child – to understand how a child’s brain works and how to help them develop the logical and emotional sides.
And my favorite content creators on the subject:
I’m no specialist in the subject, I still have lots to learn, but I hope that my experiences can be helpful to you in your journey.
There will be days that gentle parenting doesn’t even look like it works, on those days you will feel frustrated and even think about quitting, but remember parenting is about the long game.
If you made it until here, I believe you are already breaking cycles and ready to start nurturing a relationship of respect and empathy while setting boundaries with your kids.
May you find your own way to be a gentle parent, and may the patience be with you!