Gentle parenting, also referred to as peaceful parenting or respectful parenting, is a type of parenting style that is all about relationship. It is about having a strong connection with your child and through that connection you work together in life. Instead of demanding, you choose to encourage them in ways that match their individual personality and with the long term goals in mind.
Author of Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn says, “In short, with each of the thousand-and-one problems that present themselves in family life, our choice is between controlling and teaching, between creating an atmosphere of distrust and one of trust, between setting an example of power and helping children to learn responsibility, between quick-fix parenting and the kind that's focused on long-term goals.”
This all stems from the relationship you have with them. This starts at birth. Teaching trust at every opportunity. Babywearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding, responding to your child's cries day or night, and the like, are fantastic ways to establish trust and begin your relationship strong.
Gentle parenting is about treating your children with love and respect while embracing their individual make up and helping them to harness it to their full potential. These same characteristics that are challenging today are going to help them be a leader in the future. Children need to be loved for who they are, not broken and made into something else. God made your child the way he or she is for a reason. Trust in God's plan for your child.
Having the long view in mind is vital to gentle parenting. What do you want for your children when they are grown? Do you want them to mindlessly follow and obey, or do you want them to challenge the status quo and do what is right no matter what? When we are focused on the the immediate goals, things like instant obedience and a compliant child sounds great, but in the long run that is not what we want as parents. God does not even expect instant obedience from us. "Obedience is a pathway", as author and speaker Sally Clarkson says. God does call us to obedience, and we want to help our children learn obedience as well, but remember delayed obedience is still obedience.
It is also on us to control ourselves so we can teach them self-control. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. We cannot very well expect our children to keep calm if we yell and do not keep calm ourselves. They need help navigating the big emotions that they feel and yet do not have the ability to express yet. Remember that all behavior is communication.
Gentle parenting is not about rewards or punishments but rather about helping your child choose to do the right thing because intrinsically they want to. They do not do the right thing just so they stay out of trouble or because they will get a reward. This is so important because one day you will not be there to help them know what is right or wrong and they will need to know how to figure it out on their own. It is the same thing in our relationship with God. We obey Him out of relationship and not due to rewards or punishments. It starts with love and relationship.
This type of parenting is not easy. Some would mistake gentle parenting for permissive parenting. It does not focus on authority and power struggle, but is is definitely not permissive parenting. As parents, choosing gentle parenting calls us to be intentional, connected, creative, and engaged at all times. When you are in tune to your child's personality and their needs, it is more effective to guide them and give them boundaries.
Knost says, "In a gently parented home, boundaries are focused on guiding rather than controlling children and are maintained through empathetic and creative resolutions rather than harsh punitive consequences."
Speaking of consequences, yes there are consequences in gentle parenting. But instead of punitive punishments like spanking and time out, we choose to use natural or logical consequences.
Gentle parenting respects the amazing gift that each child is and the person God created them to be all while directing, guiding and encouraging them to be the best they can be. It is a fantastic way of helping your children utilize and embrace the amazing gifts God gave them.
Resources to get you started on your gentle parenting journey:
- Aha! Parenting : This website is fantastic and a wonderful free resource. There are many articles for many different age groups.
- Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources : This website is L. R. Knost's website. It has many great resources and articles.
- Join our community and ask any questions you may have in regards to gentle parenting.
- Book: No Drama Discipline
- Book: Peaceful Parent Happy Kids
- Book: Unconditional Parenting
- Book: Siblings Without Rivalry
- Book: Heartfelt Discipline
- Book: Parenting Without Power Struggles
- Book: Playful Parenting
- Book: Jesus, the Gentle Parent, here.