Why I parent more gently.
Before we should start I should state that I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect parent, nor do I set out to preach my own parenting methods. This blog is designed to inspire and support parents, to share with you the knowledge and experience I have gained through personal research and parenting and to provide an insight into what happens behind my closed doors.
After giving birth to my second baby I had the expectation that adjustments were going to be required in my day-to-day; how much time was available for play, housework and other activities. I expected a stretch in my resources both financially and emotionally and, I guess, assumed a new natural ability to parent two children would be brought about automatically.
The novelty of a new baby eased my family into being four. My eldest adored his new baby sister and relished the responsibility that came with being a big brother. I was almost lulled into a false sense of security. I’d accepted that this was it, this is how my future would be and it was relatively easy.
After around four months the novelty wore off for big brother and he realised that our newest addition was here to stay and would require parts of the attention that had always been set aside for him and him alone. Things he wanted or needed were no longer provided at his first request consistently and there was most often a baby barrier between himself and the woman who’d belonged to him for the last three and a half years.
Behaviour spiralled and life became difficult – none of us were sleeping very well, patience was short, tempers were high and something had to be done.
In a moment of epiphany I came across a support group for “gentle parenting”. I’ll admit I had never known the term and assumed it was for those who simply wanted to parent more gently – maybe there would be less shouting? More patience? It turns out that gentle parents are a group of parents in society who adopt “attachment parenting” methodology. Gentle parenting resolves ultimately to respect your children as you would respect adults; their emotions, choices and opinions. It resets the expectations that we have of our children and focuses attention mostly toward family life with children at the centre. In my opinion, it’s incredible.
It’s given me some immediate fixes. I gave myself the opportunity to start a fresh each day and reset my approach in parenting. I put my phone away, made sure to spend as much time as possible with my son and changed my approach in making requests of his behaviour. I learned by always reaching down to his level when talking to him it allowed him to listen better and pay more attention, rather than shouting my requests from across the room or next door. I modelled my behaviour on what I expected from him – if something was making me upset I’d explain how I felt and why, the same for sad, cross, happy, proud. I came to understand that undesirable behaviours most often have an unmet need behind them; tiredness, hunger, not enough attention. I adapted my approach to meet the need rather than the behaviour and guess what? It worked.
In a few short weeks we saw a turn around in behaviour. We all felt lifted and renewed.
I made the mistake of expect that changing my behaviour would immediately change my son’s behaviour. Parenting more gently doesn’t change things over night. It’s a lifestyle change – a personality improvement for me as a mother and sees slow growth for a calmer future as a family. It also requires extra effort and energy. As people we assume the parenting style of our parents most often. We see those around us and assume that’s the only way. For some it may be the right way, but for me something wasn’t working for my family and I wanted to help fix that.
There are some things that as a Mum I no longer do. I don’t use “The Naughty Step” any more. Think about it – sitting a toddler or preschooler in a place to reflect on their behaviour and make immediate improvement, how would that be possible for a person whose brain is not yet capable of rationalising, understanding feelings or working through big emotions? We as parents and carers are responsible for helping our children to learn to rationalise, we should model and speak through our ability to understand and identify emotions and make suggestions to reset the spiralling mood whilst supporting and guiding. I like to help my little one take deep breaths. If he’s not ready to calm down I allow him the space I would expect if I needed it and then offer support to the emotions I help him to identify.
I try not to shout. I know how I want my children to react to situations which cause an increase in rage or anger – we all feel it and as adults have learned how to deal with it. In shouting I was teaching my son that this is how I deal with my feelings when they match yours. Of course I still occasionally lose my shit.
I don’t let my baby cry. It’s the only way she has to communicate and her needs are minimal – why should they not be met? I’m ashamed to say in the past I’d taken heed of advice to put the baby down awake, to allow a certain amount of crying and to not spoil them with too much attention. There is no such thing in my house. My baby sleeps in my room next to me because that’s what she needs, and I refuse to be judged for meeting her needs.
I’m now more conscious of how much my little people observe and adopt my behaviours. This evening my youngest woke with the noise of bedtime for Number One. He joined us as I was calming her to say “oh my sweet girl, don’t worry darling”. He took the words from my mouth and I burst with pride.
These are the children who will shape our future. They deserve our respect in order to learn to respect each other, ourselves and the world that we live in.
I am so happy that I stopped to understand what was happening through the eyes of my four year old, he inspired me to be better. I feel he now mostly has the attention he deserves, the approach I’d like him to take and the understanding he needs.
It goes without saying that a more gentle approach doesn’t make my children behave appropriately 100% of the time.
Parenting more gently works for me, if you think it would work for you and have any questions feel free to get in touch. I’m no expert, and I’m not a completely “Gentle Parent” but there are some fantastic improvements in my family since adopting the principles and making them fit.
You can also learn more about Gentle Parenting at