Little Kids With Big Feelings: My Intro to Gentle Parenting

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Gentle parenting: Great for all ages

For the last three years, we have been a homeschool family and I have considered our journey of discipline and behavior to be relatively smooth. While I am no parenting expert, I am well-versed in most topics pertaining to babies and toddlers. At this point, I feel pretty confident taking a grumpy two-year-old in public on very little sleep, with a nursing infant strapped to my chest. I am well-acquainted with having all girls, which means a lot of sister sweetness and a whole lot of sass.

Maybe it’s the transition out of our slow-paced homeschooling routines, or the stressful return to school after almost two years of COVID isolation, but I can say with absolute certainty that I was not prepared for the big feelings my little kids would bring this year at ages 9, 6, and almost 4. Hence, my introduction to the gentle parenting movement. 

TikTok made me do it

Confession: I spend way too much time on social media. This is something I am working on and I believe there are good and bad sides to being so easily connected to the worldwide web. A few months ago, (yes I realize I am way late to this trend), I stumbled upon TikTok. Initially a source of pure entertainment and much needed comedic relief, I have come to appreciate this social media platform for the passion of its influencers. From beauty trends, to mental health tips, to moms sharing their mothering methods, there is much wisdom to be acquired. 

The term “gentle parenting” first piqued my curiosity when I started seeing the hashtag show up on my TikTok homepage. After reading more about it, I realized I had been adopting many of its principles without realizing it. Here is a summary on the movement from yours truly, a gentle parenting novice.

What gentle parenting is:

Gentle parenting is a method of parenting and discipline that is child-centered and empathy focused. It emphasizes validation of the child’s emotions and responding with kindness and respect, the way we would with any adult (hopefully). It is flexible, adaptable, and accessible for all, regardless of age or life stage.

A few phrases you might hear when someone is parenting this way are:

  • “Wow that looks like it really hurt!”
  • “I know you’re frustrated. That would frustrate me too!”
  • “Its okay to be angry. It is not okay to hit me when you’re angry. I’m going to sit over here until you calm down a bit.”

What gentle parenting is NOT:

Gentle parenting is not passive parenting. It is also not authoritative in nature. That being said, gentle parenting does not mean the child is in charge. Nor is is it void of consequences for misbehavior or disobedience. It provides tangible tools for parents to connect with their children during hard moments, as well as respectful solutions to emotionally charged situations.

Can I get a heck yes from any other moms who have a hard time with their own tempers?

Here are a few phrases that aren’t typical of gentle parenting:

  • “Ouch! That hurt mommy’s feelings. Why are you hitting me?” (Parent-focused)
  • “Oh you’re fine. Stop whining.”
  • “You will do this because I am your mom and I said so” (with no explanation). 
  • Anything related to physical violence, yelling, or harsh insults 

gentle parenting

Gentle parenting, not perfect parenting

When I told my husband I was writing this article, he chuckled. I can admit that I would definitely not win the gentleness award with my kids at times. I am not the poster mom for patient parenting. Sometimes I get angry, particularly when my kids fight or are defiant. Sometimes I raise my voice. (I had to pause writing this article to break up a fight between my youngest two and I had to take some deep breaths before speaking with them.) My kids trigger emotional places I am still working on in myself. We all get tired, hangry, and sometimes just want to be left alone. Gentle parenting works because it emphasizes human decency, challenging us to treat our children with the same respect that we want them to demonstrate to the world. 

Adaptable and versatile

The most important thing to remember about Gentle Parenting is that it is less of a one-size-fits all method with specific strategies than a mindset shift from authority to empathy. It is a change in approach from parenting above to parenting alongside. This means that you don’t necessarily need to throw out parenting methods that have worked for your child and help foster a relationship of trust and safety. For example, I have read a few things about gentle parenting and timeout, (there are many opinions on it), but it works for my three-year-old so I am keeping it. I do, however, need more empathy and understanding when my highly sensitive six-year-old throws a big-kid-sized tantrum on the sidewalk while we are walking to school. 

The great part about gentle parenting is that it is flexible, versatile, and seeks to help parents raise a more empathetic, emotionally intelligent generation of children. 

Resources to get you started

There are countless resources to read on the topic, written by parents like you and me who are trying to navigate this parenting journey and love our kids well. Feel free to share more of yours in the comments!

Gentle Parenting vs. Mainstream Parenting

What is Gentle Parenting?

No rewards no punishment parenting

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