HOW TO PRACTICE GENTLE PARENTING WITH YOUR TODDLER
Disclaimer: Every parent knows what is best for their children!! In no way is the following article suggesting that gentle parenting is best for every family. I hope this post helps you learn more about gentle parenting so you can make an informed decision!
Just like most parents, my life revolves around working my job, staying healthy, and raising my toddler. It has always been most important to me that Aimery is raised in a positive environment and that he’s surrounded by healthy, loving relationships. Aimery and I spend a lot of time doing breathing exercises and yoga to help deal better with stress and your average two year old temper 😉. Although I was raised with traditional discipline, I have decided to try gentle parenting with Aimery. So far, it has worked really well for our little family! Keep reading to learn more about gentle parenting your toddler!
WHAT IS GENTLE PARENTING
To start with a definition, gentle parenting is a parenting style that encourages family partnership instead of the traditional authoritative power dynamic between parents and their children. The goal of gentle parenting is to raise children to be more calm and in control of their own emotions. Gentle parenting empowers children to make the right decisions without reward, just because they know it is the right thing to do. The gentle parenting approach incorporates the following:
Choices over commands - parents give children more choices so they feel involved in decision making and more in control of their environment.
Being playful and reducing tension - parents create a calm environment and encourage chores and tasks to be fun while everyone participates together to get the job done.
No forcing of affections - if a child doesn’t want to hug an extended family member or friend, it’s okay.
Children are partners in the family - children help with family tasks/chores and participate in decision making as they get older.
Parents create a safe environment - parents try to not yell at children, but instead get on their level and communicate calmly to show children how to gently work through their emotions.
WHY CHOOSE GENTLE PARENTING
You may be asking yourself, why choose gentle parenting over traditional parenting that has been working for generations? There have been recent studies that have shown that traditional parenting doesn’t even work for the right reasons, and it mentally hurts our children. For the first time in 2 decades, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new spanking recommendation in early November 2018. The updated policy statement that spanking as a form of discipline harms children not only physically, but more importantly mentally in how they perform in school and interact with their peers. Not only does new research show that spanking affects a child’s brain development and increases aggression as they get older, but it doesn’t help children learn responsibility and how to handle their emotions. Another study in 2010 found that children who were spanked more than twice a month at age 3 were more aggressive at age 5 then children who were not spanked by their parents. Even by the age of 9, children who are spanked still had behavior problems and had lower vocabulary scores then their peers. This is why gentle parenting is so important - it sets children up for a better future.
GENTLE PARENTING STARTS WITH YOU
Gentle parenting starts with the parent. Are you in control of your emotions? Do you have a healthy relationship and communication with your partner? Are you really ready to raise a child using gentle parenting methods? Make sure to reevaluate your own behavior before you correct your child’s! Try these phrases to bring more positivity into your home:
Please walk. vs no running!
Please be quiet. vs stop yelling!
Can you please clean up the floor? vs stop leaving your toys on the floor!
Can you take a deep breath to calm down? vs stop getting angry!
UNDERSTANDING YOUR TODDLER
Gentle parenting focuses on teaching children three things - understanding, respect, and empathy. Although all toddlers are different in terms of their behavior, all toddlers need a parent willing to understand why they act the way that they do. Are there certain things that trigger anger? Does your toddler get easily overwhelmed in group settings? Does he get extremely “hangry” the hour before dinnertime? Gentle parenting attempts to find out what leads to a specific action and finds ways to help the child. However, it does not support any bad habits among the young ones. Parents are to understand what makes their children emotional and help however they can, but also help the children cope with their emotions when they occur.
SHOWING RESPECT THROUGH YOUR OWN ACTIONS
Adults aren’t the only ones who deserve respect - our children do too! Kids always imitate what adults do, so be sure to teach your children how to respect others through your own actions. You shouldn’t force your child to do what he or she doesn’t want to do, but you can treat them and others as you would like someone to treat you. Some ways you can respect your child are by asking for their opinion and not deciding all the little things for him or her, supporting the child with things they love to do every day, and spending extra time with your child teaching him how to respect others.
Did you know that you have to teach a child empathy? We are not born feeling empathy for others, it has to be learned. Some ways we can teach empathy through gentle parenting is by simply being nearby our children, listening to their frustrations without getting upset, limit isolated time-outs as much as possible, and reassure your children that they are smart and kind to others. When you or someone around you is feeling sad, recognize the emotion with your toddler and say that we should feel sad for them too. Teach them the difference between being sad and angry.
USE “TIME IN” INSTEAD OF “TIME OUT”
Time out has always been used as a way to try to help children (and let’s face it, parents) have a time away so they can move on from the problem at hand. Time out normally occurs when parents isolate children on a chair or corner away from people in hopes they will work out their anger on their own. This leaves children feeling frustrated, rejected, or unwanted when they need to feel like their emotions are being understood the most. A good way to remove a child from a situation while practicing gentle parenting is by using time in. With time in, children having a difficult moment can be asked to sit down to work through their emotions with their parent nearby. During this time, parents can empathize with their children and do breathing exercises to control their anger. The parent’s empathy and quiet connection for the child is a requirement in the process. Here are some reasons why time in is successful:
The feeling of frustration, fear, and rejection is not an issue.
Meeting the emotional needs of children is a priority.
Parent and child get to talk about their problems.
Parent and child get to connect and grow closer together.
DON’T BE HARD ON YOURSELF
All parents are currently balancing aspects of life which range from work stress, maintenance of relationships, financial stability, and constantly worrying about parenting. Parenting requires both physical and emotional support. Proper care for yourself as a parent is equally crucial for your wellbeing. Nurturing yourself nourishes the body and mind making you more understanding, patient, empathetic and sensitive to your children’s needs. This benefits both you and your children! Don’t be hard on yourself if you have a hard day parenting - we’ve all been there. You’re doing great!