Growing up in an African household, I know firsthand the impact that punishment-focused parenting can have on a child's development. When it comes to raising children, many parents believe that strict discipline and harsh punishments are necessary for child rearing. However, there is a growing movement advocating for a different approach, you probably might have heard of it but still don´t know what it is; Gentle Parenting.
What is Gentle Parenting?
Gentle parenting is an approach to parenting that focuses on building a strong emotional connection with your children, nurturing their emotional intelligence, and guiding them in a positive and respectful manner. It is a non-punitive parenting style that encourages parents to understand and respond to their child's needs and emotions. It is a parenting approach that promotes empathy, communication, and mutual respect between parents and children.
Gentle parenting is based on these core principles:
Respect for the child:
This principle implies that children deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness, regardless of their age and behavior. Parents should listen to their children, validate their feelings, and apologize when they make a mistake. While writing these statements, I could feel a lot of African parents screaming at me for asking them to respect their child. Take a deep breath, while I explain further. I am not asking you to kneel down and greet your child, that´s not the respect I am writing about but, I am talking about respecting an individual, because just because the child is still little doesn´t stop him/her from being human and deserve to be treated with respect.
I have worked with parents who say they can never apologies to their children, because they think the children will loose respect for them or something (I can never understand it).
For example, let´s assume you thought your child left the fridge door open, and you scold them or punish them, and you later remembered that you were the last person to go to the fridge to get a chilled water. What will you do as soon as you got that realization?
Option a: Apologies immediately for accusing them wrongly.
Option b: Apologies immediately and give them a treat as peace offering
Option c: Forget about it because no one saw you leaving the fridge open and you were
teaching them future lesson so they never leave the fridge open.
If your answer is option c or you feel your answer supposed to be option c although you picked the other two options, write me immediately to book a section with me, believe me, you need my help :D
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person is one of the foundational pillars of gentle parenting. By showing empathy towards their children, parents can build a stronger emotional connection, and their children will feel heard and understood. Now, this is a tricky one for most parents because they claim to show empathy but unfortunately not towards their children. Empathy involves putting oneself in their shoes, being sensitive to their needs and emotions, responding with kindness, compassion, supportive and nurturing aspect. I work with parents who complain about how their child is so stubborn or how rough the child likes to play, and after talking to these parents, I see they literally gave birth to their carbon-copy, and apparently they don´t like the image they are seeing now.
Parents can be able to show empathy towards their children by following some of these tips;
Listen to Their Feelings: Parents should listen carefully and attentively to their children. If they are sad, listen to why they are feeling that way. Sit down with them and give them a chance to express themselves in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Help Them to Identify Their Emotions: Parents should teach their children to identify their emotions and label them. Sometimes children may not have the vocabulary to express their emotions, so parents can help them with this.
Mirror Their Emotions: One way to show empathy to your child is by mirroring their emotions. It means, if your child is upset, you can say, “I can see that you are feeling upset right now.” This lets your child know that you are paying attention and that their feelings matter.
Be Patient: It is important to remember that children have their own timetable for processing thoughts and emotions, so don’t rush them to feel better, be patient with them.
Promote Empathy: Parents should teach their children to be empathetic towards others. When children learn to understand other’s feelings, it can make them better at dealing with their own emotions.
Be a Good Role Model: Children learn empathy by watching their parents. So, it is important for parents to model empathy themselves. When children see their parents being empathetic towards them and others, they learn that this is an important part of life.
Celebrate Their Emotions: Celebrate and acknowledge your child’s emotions, both the good and the bad ones. Parents should create a safe space where their children can express themselves without fear of being judged.
Gentle parenting promotes positive discipline, which involves guiding a child to understand the consequences of their actions, without shaming or punishing them. This approach ensures that the child feels heard, understood, and supported. I am not saying never give your child any form of punishment, but their are different forms and ways of punishing a child, and I will write more on that in my coming post (so subscribe to get new updates :D). Just to give a few touch on this topic about punishment, I am so tired of hearing this scripture "Spare the rod, spoil the child", and most people don´t even know where it is in the bible but they keep quoting it just to defend their point for beating a child. By the way, it´s in Proverbs 13:24 (you are welcome :D). That scripture had nothing to do with beating or punishment, but about guiding and protecting your child just like a good shepherd guide and protect his sheep using his rod. The best way to do that as a parent is through positive discipline.
Parenting is one of the most challenging roles in life, but it can also be the most rewarding experience. Raising children requires patience, love, and understanding, and every parent wants to raise their children to be the best versions of themselves.
I know you might be saying, it all easier said than done, and my way of raising the children is better but truly think of it, is your way really working for you? If not, why not try another way. Remember, insanity is doing something again and again, expecting a different result.
As always, I wish you all the best, You Got This!
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