Our Gentle Parenting

It was probably a few months before he was born that I really started to read up on the various aspects of what being a parent would mean. We bought books, read them in-depth, made notes and held study sessions so ensure we absorbed every morsel of information we could.

Except we didn’t do that. We did attend a couple of courses – hypnobirthing (which wasn’t what it sounds like), and an NCT ante-natal course – all online of course as we were still in the end days of COVID. I did read a fair few articles as I tried to get a grasp on what being a Dad would be like though, with the aim of mentally preparing myself, particularly because I’m an older Dad and I wanted to get some shared experiences if at all possible.

One thing that we both, naturally, gravitated towards was the idea of gentle parenting.

As a child I was spanked once, I think. I don’t remember it, but it was talked about in semi-hushed tones with my parents for years as it was such an outlier. That said, I was brought up in the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ world so a lot of my behaviours were to be still and quiet, rather than act out and be wild. It likely explains why my ‘go to’ as an adult is still to be quiet and alone.

For our son we were both keen to make sure he was brought to up to understand his own emotions, to be able to process them and have some tools to deal with that himself. That is what we think of when we discuss ‘gentle parenting’. It doesn’t mean we aren’t strict, we hold boundaries where needed, and it doesn’t mean he gets to do whatever he wants, we have worked hard to get a good routine in place around eating and sleeping, and we are proud that he’s growing well, eating healthily, and sleeping consistently well. It has not been easy to get here but this was part of what we were aiming for.

For me, a feminist bringing up a boy, gentle parenting was especially important as I want my son to understand his privilege and help him learn how to conduct himself appropriately. I’ve written about this before and taking the approach that gentle parenting embodies was key in helping me understand HOW to raise my son to be a good man.

There are many definitions of gentle parenting but one of the early exponents of the phrase itself, said this:

“Gentle Parenting is a way of being, it is a mindset. It’s not about how you wean your baby, or what type of education you chose. It’s not new, it’s not trendy. Gentle parents come from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities and most don’t even realise that their style of parenting has been given a new name, it’s just the way they have always been.”

Sara Hockwell-Smith

Becca and I, when we were discussing the types of things we’d have to handle as parents, quickly realised that we were both of a similar mind and, without even having heard the term, were destined to be ‘gentle parents’. That’s likely as much to do with our upbringing and world view as anything, but it means we are able to be consistent with Jack as he grows, that we have empathy for everything he is going through (all the new things he is learning, so much going on every single day!), we respect his feelings and moods (some days he just doesn’t want to go out, so we don’t), we do our best to understand what is going on for a boy his age and factor that in to our thinking, and we hold boundaries through the routines we’ve worked hard to implement (he always brushes his teeth before he has his bath before he goes to bed each night).

It’s not always been easy, but we are determined to give him the best start to life that we can and we believe giving him the emotional capacity he will need as he grows, will give him confidence in himself, and he too will be able to show empathy, understanding, respect and hold boundaries with others when needed.

Throughout this amazing past 2 and a half years, I’ve learned so much about what it takes to be a good Dad, and more importantly I’ve learned so much about myself and all of that is down to gentle parenting. I know I have always been empathetic to others and saught to understand and respect other people but the depth of those emotions have grown since Jack came along and, I think, the more I can understand those feelings within myself, the better an example and father I can be.

And THAT’S why I believe in our gentle parenting approach and, so far, the proof is in the pudding and we have a thoughtful, kind, silly, curious little boy who likes hanging out with his Mummy and Daddy. We have tantrums that we deal with, we have behaviours (hitting) that we calmly assert aren’t acceptable and then ask why he’s hitting, and we talk about all of our feelings, sadness, happiness, love, and don’t shy away from any of our emotions as a family.

When I read about people saying gentle parenting is ‘soft’ and ‘taking it easy’ on the child, I’d suggest they think about how hard it is to remain calm, and consistent, every single day. How much effort it takes to figure out and understand what my toddler is going through, and how it translates to a boy who loves snuggling and cuddling, rather than a terror who is kicking and fighting when he gets tired.

Gentle parenting is hard, it is tough, but I firmly believe it’s the best way to raise a child, to give them a grounding that they can take with them as they grow and mature, into adulthood where the hope is that they’ll be able to handle themselves and their emotions in what is becoming an increasingly negative and hated filled world.

We give our son love, we make sure he knows he is safe and cared for, in the hope that he will expouse those simple virtues to everyone he comes into contact with as he makes his way in the world.

That’s our gentle parenting. What’s yours?

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