What is gentle parenting and how can you raise your children in this way? – message chain | Wonder Mind Kids

If you were raised to be hit and yelled at, you might think there must be a better way to raise your own children.

But if the other extreme — “permissive parenting,” where there are very few boundaries and little or no discipline — goes a step too far, might “gentle parenting” be a good middle ground?

Gentle parenting focuses on four key elements: respect, empathy, boundaries, and understanding. And while it’s all the rage on social media right now, this school of thought has been around for a long time under a variety of names.

As consultant clinical psychologist Emma Citron (citronpsychology.co.uk) explains: “Soft parenting has probably become another fad, but it’s just another name for old rope.

“All parenting should be encouraged to be gentle parenting – in psychology we call it positive parenting. It’s based on the idea that we notice the positive things kids do and make a fuss about them, but ignore the stupid things because the model encourages good behavior rather than bad.”

She says there is no need for punishment or negativity when you have a good relationship with your child based on listening and gentle communication. For example, instead of saying, ‘Get your feet off the couch,’ it’s more helpful to say, ‘I would prefer you didn’t put your feet on the couch because the mud will stick and I have to wash the covers’.

“You can face consequences,” Citron explains, “but there’s no need to speak up or be negative or punitive—all of this undermines the relationship, trust, and communication between you two.”

Mom-of-one Kelly Medina Enos “stumbled upon” gentle parenting when her son George, now three, was 18 months old, and she posted a video on TikTok of him slapping her and asking for advice on what to do be.

“At the time, I simply gave up the way my parents raised me in an authoritarian way, with a strict voice and the words: ‘No, you don’t hit me!’ Someone mentioned gentle parenting and I started looking at different books,” she says.

The York mom has since embraced it so wholeheartedly that she’s now posting videos of her gentle parenting journey to 389,000 followers on TikTok.

“Research has found that children raised with soft parenting have more regulated emotions and are less likely to develop depression,” says Enos. “They are more emotionally intelligent and able to share those feelings with others. But I’m not reading too much into the stats, I just know it’s working for me and my family.”

Here Enos shares her take on gentle parenting…

Positive language is powerful, says Enos: “Just change a few things you tell them. Instead of “No, down here” it says “Feet on the ground please”. Instead of “stop running” it says “walking feet, please”. There is no such thing as a “one set miracle” for every child, you need to find what works for both of you.

“If you say, ‘No! Don’t you dare draw on that wall!” Children don’t usually hear the words ‘no’ and ‘don’t’, they only hear the part after that and think, ‘Oh, I get to draw on the wall,'” adds Enos . “So you say something like ‘pens are for paper.’ You need to change the way you talk to them.”

Enos admits this will still happen, and gentle parenting isn’t “an overnight magic wand,” says Enos. She explained that her son loved to climb on the table: “I would say, ‘Feet on the floor, please.’ If that was ignored, I’d say, ‘Do you feel safe up there?’ If they say they feel safe, ask them how they’re going to come down. And as a last resort, you could say, ‘You can either pull yourself down or Mom can help you’.”

Rather than telling a child to stop hitting and punishing them, Enos explains that a meek parent might say, “I won’t let you hit me.” If you keep hitting me, I’ll go away to protect myself.”

If the child gets upset when the parent moves away, you could say, “I understand your upset, but I won’t let you hit me.”

Enos says parents need to “be the calm in their child’s storm” when tantrums occur. “When George threw a tantrum, I just sat on the floor and gave him space and allowed him to feel his emotions,” she says. “When the crying stopped, I would offer him a hug and if he said no, I would say I was there when he needed me.

“I would remain seated, modeling deep breaths, and when he gets a little more verbal I would talk about how deep breaths might help him when he’s really frustrated. Expecting them to self-regulate their emotions at that age is impossible.”

If you’re in a power struggle with your child, give them options, Enos suggests. For example: Bath time is coming up – should I set the alarm for five or ten minutes? Or: how long do you want to play, two minutes or five minutes?

“You’ll feel like you’re really in control of your routine,” says Enos. “And you still respect them, but you make them do what you want them to do.”

Introduce them to Happy The Hoglet

New ITV children’s series Happy The Hoglet – about a little hedgehog who learns how to build inner strength by dealing with his big feelings – could be a helpful way to introduce young children to this approach. Enos says: “We started to observe [and] This was absolutely amazing – you can see the animals have emotions and everyone comes together to help them release those emotions.

Teach them breathing exercises

Enos says her son uses a “breathing board,” which has an endless loop-shaped groove in it that the child slides a finger down one side of when inhaling and down the other side when exhaling. “And you can do a clever thing by putting five fingers in front of them and pretending they’re candles and asking if they want to blow them out,” she says. “They blow all your fingers off, and it really helps regulate their emotions — not in the midst of a tantrum, I’ll admit.”

Create a “quiet corner”

Enos suggests putting pillows, books, a breathing board, non-stimulant “fidget” toys, etc. in a room – she used a cupboard under the stairs where the door was open and offered them to her son when he got frustrated was. “Many people think that it replaces the naughty step, but the difference is that a child goes to the naughty step to reflect on what they did, while the quiet corner is for when your child’s emotions start to rise, She explains. “It’s not a place of discipline.”

Don’t expect to be a “perfect” gentle parent

“I’m not saying I never yell at George,” Enos admits. “I have moments where I scream and I think I need to stop. It’s not easy and takes a lot of practice. But don’t think when you yell at them that you’re the worst parent in the world and that you’re not even a gentle parent, because you are.

“I’ve found that if I feel like what’s going to come out of my mouth isn’t the upbringing I want, it’s a good idea to take a deep breath and step away from George for a moment.

“Gentle parenting – especially when you were raised very differently – is even more difficult,” she adds. “But if parents change even one or two things that their parents did growing up — for example, if they were hit and chose not to hit their own child — they’re still breaking the cycle.” “

Happy The Hoglet airs weekdays at 10.40am on ITV’s LittleBe in the UK and RTÉjr in the Republic of Ireland.

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