I always envisaged parenting as an easy task that comes naturally to women in comparison to men. I considered parenting as being comprised of simplistic tasks like how to manage children’s needs, teach them manners, put them in schools and enforce bedtime routines. Furthermore, an occasional recreational trip, pocket money and celebrating
birthdays to add more value to parenting. Isn’t that simplistic or at least that’s how our parents made it seem like.
Fast forward to the 35th year of my life when I became a parent and the bubble of perfection burst for me. Where were all these philosophies and schools of thought when we were growing up? Parenting appears to be a complicated science where we as parents have to try to achieve a perfect balance. We have to meet all of our children’s needs – mental, physical, emotional, etc., yet also make them independent. While exercising discipline upon children, a parent should be gentle and understanding. That stick and carrot strategy isn’t going to work on our children who question everything and seek reasons/answers. There is so much going on in life for parents that sometimes they end up losing their tempers and harshly discipline their children. To my understanding, the science of parenting is an art in itself that comprises of calculated series of experiments, actions and reactions, and love that makes it colorful, dramatic and way beyond logic.
I got introduced to the concept of gentle parenting by chance as I like to read about human relationships. I had no intention of following any particular parenting style and always thought that parenting should be along the line to deal with it as it comes. Most of the days, I still struggle with parenting my two toddlers, however, reading literature on gentle parenting also made me aware about my shortcomings.
Gentle parenting is a strategy where you base your relationship with your child on connection, respect and boundaries set with an explanation. Initially, when you start reading about it or even practicing it you might feel like you are losing control. It also brings a lot of external pressure where you are judged by the society for giving too much attention to your child. A big misconception about gentle parenting is that it is against disciplining a child, but that is not the case.
This style of parenting is based on a parent-child relationship where the parent is the guide or model rather than the authority. A parent who is following this style of parenting has to be gentle, available and empathetic towards a child’s emotions. Honestly, I am still struggling with this concept as I was brought up differently by my parents. Recently, I noticed that my children would often come after me in the kitchen while I am cooking. They need something or the other and they have become attention seekers. At first it was irritating as I felt the kitchen is unsafe for children and with their presence I would mess up recipes and ingredients. To remedy that, I started locking the kitchen door while cooking, leaving them with my husband. On other days, I tried to cook at night once they were asleep. One day, there was a knock on the kitchen door by my daughter, I angrily opened the door to be welcomed by a little grinning face sweetly asking me if she could stay with me in the kitchen. My first reaction out of love was guilt over the locked door, however, later, I tried to decipher this whole situation. As a parent, I have to ensure her safety and to cook also yet I can’t push my children away. Now, I have started announcing “cooking time, no kids in kitchen time” and believe me they understand the concept. I have made a small sitting place for them in the kitchen where they sit while I cook for the times when their presence in the kitchen cannot be avoided. We still have difficult days and incidents but I am working on controlling my own emotions when my children are unable to manage theirs. I don’t know if it is true for other moms or not but if I am hungry or had a sleepless night, my parenting skills become very poor. So my advice is to rest up if you want to parent your children right. I am just a mother who is going through trial and error every single day and my personal finding are here for anyone who is going through a similar situation.
Remember, You are the Adult!
If your child is throwing a tantrum or crossing a boundary just remind yourself that you are the adult instead of losing your cool. I have noticed that when I shout or yell, my children get hyper and start shouting in earnest. Children model and mimic our behavior. A simple example is to keep on telling children to stay away from gas heaters while we ourselves stand very close to them in winters.
Ensure Physical Connection and Communication
I have two toddlers who love and crave physical connection. They like to hug, share my food, and sip my tea. I have experienced that during a tantrum, if I hug them or hold them close, they calm down better. I am sure this will work for any age group. Very often, we forget to engage our children physically or communicate with them properly. For example, once I started communicating about cooking time, my children stopped bothering me in kitchen. Also, when they are welcomed to sit in kitchen with their toys and can see me around, they feel more included in my routine.
I want my children to be kind and empathetic towards others and I am working on it. For example, I am gradually introducing the concept of not being loud when others are taking rest to my children. Now, when I tell them I am resting, they actually shush each other and try to keep their voices low. Similarly, children pick your tone and words quickly when they talk to house help or guests. Recently, I had a bad throat and whenever I coughed my four-year-old would ask me if I was alright. We as parents modeled that behavior without planning, I guess.
Set Boundaries and Routines
As parents we need to understand that children like routines once the purpose of the routines is properly explained to them. Boundaries help a child do their tasks in a better way. For example, tell your child that we brush teeth before sleeping so there are no germs in our mouths.
However, boundaries need consistency and modelling from an adult. From my personal experience, it is easier to enforce a routine or boundary once a child understands it and gets his say in it. Let the child choose his toothbrush and toothpaste but discipline them consistently about brushing before bedtime. Gentle parents, in no way need to compromise on their child’s health or safety.
Give Yourself a Pat on the Back!
Unfortunately, not many people will tell you that you are doing a great job. So be your own gentle parent as well. Give yourself a pat on back and thumbs up. Know your team and ask for help when you feel exhausted or confused. Read, research and make informed choices about parenting on most of the days. Above all, focus on letting your child know you that are on their team, enjoy their company and love them generously.
Parenting is an ongoing process and we all experience good and bad days. When my child throws a tantrum in a mall, where every passing individual seems to judge my motherhood, I tend to give in and use rewards or punishments. Some days are tough. On such days, hug your child more, eat well and sleep early. About those judgmental stares, forget those and move on! As Brooke Hampton rightly said, “Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.” HH
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