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Feeling Seen, Heard, and Understood: The Advantages of Gentle Parenting

May 10, 2022

Feeling Seen, Heard, and Understood: The Advantages of Gentle Parenting

Experts and gentle parenting advocates agree that gentle parenting is well worth the effort, revealing that children who experienced empathy and calm from their parents usually grow up to be happy, well-adjusted, and confident adults. Knowing this, most parents would be eager to try it out for themselves—after all, what parent wouldn’t want a calm and happy household, with both parents and children getting along? 

But what makes most parents give up gentle parenting is finding out for themselves how much work it takes to be patient! Gentle parenting is definitely not easy as pie! It takes much mindfulness, empathy, and consistency. If you’re a parent who is eager to try it out, or a parent who has tried gentle parenting before but was disheartened by several failed attempts, this article is for you! Knowing the advantages of gentle parenting on both the child and the parent might just be the encouragement you need to give it another go. After all, gentle parenting is all about empathy, understanding, and respect—and you deserve to have all of those, too.

In this article, we’ll talk about: 

Gentle Parenting: What is it, and is there more to the hype around it? 

The term “gentle parenting” may be quite new, but the parenting style has been around for decades by its original name. Known in academic circles as “Authoritative Parenting”, clinical and developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind coined the term and described it as viewing the child as a partner who is worthy of respect and empathy. Authoritative parenting was seen as the opposite of what you may be familiar with as “authoritarian parenting”, wherein whatever the parent says must be followed by the child, with no regard for the child’s feelings or opinions on the matter, and if the child chooses to do otherwise, they are usually punished. 

Gentle parenting, as coined by author, mother, and parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith, removes the dictatorial stance of parents and replaces it with a partnership. Also known as balanced parenting, gentle parenting is when you treat your child as a partner, and naturally the communication lines between you and your child become more open and flowing. When you communicate, you get to know them, you understand where they are coming from, and you try to figure out if there’s an unmet need that needs to be addressed that’s behind their tantrum, pain, or stressful situation. The guiding force of gentle parenting is empathy—knowing what causes your child to feel reluctant, uncomfortable, or averse, understanding what they need at that moment, and giving them the tools to better handle those kinds of situations the next time they arise. 

It's no wonder that gentle parenting sounds so appealing to parents, considering that experts and gentle parenting advocates say that children who grew up with “gentle parents” became confident, happy, and independent individuals. This is because with gentle parenting, children aren’t treated as “less than” people who cannot make their own choices, or who are punished for situations because they “should have known better.” Instead, gentle parenting uses situations to connect with their child, figure out if there’s an unmet need behind the situation, and turn the situation into a teaching moment, imparting lessons and tools rather than punishments or even rewards. These “lessons and tools” are a form of gentle discipline; rather than relying on rewards or punishments to make your children obey, they are instead taught and given the equipment to handle whatever life throws at them.

A father and his son enjoying quality time together, smiling.

Spare even just a few minutes of your time each day to sit with your child and get to know them. They will feel valued and loved.

The Pros and Cons of Gentle Parenting

With all parenting styles, each has their advantages and disadvantages. What matters is that you discern if this style of parenting may be beneficial to you and your child, and if it’s something that you can do without sacrificing your sanity! Kidding aside, no parenting style is absolutely perfect, and gentle parenting is no exception. 

Gentle parenting is great because… 

You continuously work on a strong, loving bond between you and your child. 

All parents want to have a great relationship with their child, and all children want to be loved and taken care of. Gentle parenting creates a two-way street where both the child and the parent are heard, seen, and respected. When you empathize with what your child is going through, it not only makes them feel that they’re not alone, but their feelings are validated, and they are accepted no matter what they say or do. You make space for their big feelings and faults, and you love them nonetheless.  

You equip your children with the lessons and tools they need in life. 

Everything that happens to you is an opportunity to learn something, and this goes for children and adults alike. You never stop learning from life! 

Oftentimes, parents get mad at their children for things that kids don’t know how to deal with yet—it’s like getting angry at a kindergarten student for failing a geometry test! It’s simply unreasonable for parents to get mad at their kids when they don’t have the right tools or life experiences to deal with different situations yet. For example, maybe you get mad at your child when they suddenly throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the store. Everyone is staring and you’re desperate for them to stop, so you say, “Stop doing that or else!” It’s fear that will stop them from doing it the next time around, and not the reason behind it. They learned nothing from the experience except that if they do it again, they will get punished. This kind of parenting will either make your child grow scared of you or make them become better at keeping things from you, so that they can  avoid getting punished. 

Let's look at how gentle parenting comes from a place of understanding what is behind the situation. What is the pain that caused the tantrum? Was there something that they wanted that they didn’t get? Were they attempting to get your attention? Finding that unmet need and fulfilling it is the key to gentle parenting. It doesn’t mean giving in to what they want, but it means acknowledging their needs and making space for their feelings rather than silencing them. You can sit with them until they calm down, or teach them to take deep breaths whenever they have big feelings. This shows that you’re there for them when the going gets tough, and you’re teaching them how to handle it the next time the same situation pops up. 

Your child is likely to turn out to be confident, well-adjusted, and happy. 

Ask any parent what they want for their child and they would usually say that all they want is for them to be happy. While practicing gentle parenting is not a one way ticket to your child’s happiness, it does boost your child’s ability to choose well and to believe that they’ve got what it takes to handle life, even when the going gets tough. When someone trusts in their own capabilities and knows who they are, they tend to be happier and more self-confident. 

It doesn’t mean that children raised by “gentle parents” will never experience setbacks or problems. It just means that these children have been equipped with the tools they need to navigate through the hard times, and they’ve built up solid trust in themselves to get through them.

A mother and her daughter sitting on the couch, having a pleasant chat for quality time.

Look your little one in the eye when they talk to you, instead of checking your phone or being distracted. Show warmth and attentiveness.

Gentle parenting is hard because… 

It’s usually the opposite way of how you were raised. 

Going against what you’ve known all your life or against habits that you didn’t know you had is hard! Doing what might feel like the opposite of what you’re used to will take being mindful and intentional, along with a ton of practice—but trust me, it’s worth the effort! 

Sometimes, there’s no real reason why kids do what they do! 

Contrary to popular belief, sometimes there’s really no reason behind why kids do what they do beyond being curious or doing it just because they can do it. How else would you explain kids eating glue, throwing rocks at the house, or being sweet as pie one second then turning into a tantrum thrower the next? 

When this happens, there’s no other way but to simply be there for them and give them space for their feelings. 

It can be misunderstood as “permissive” parenting. 

Most old school or authoritarian parents would cringe at the thought of giving children so much freedom to choose or to feel. However, what we have to understand is that how your parents raised you is perhaps the same way they were raised, where they had no say in the family, and they had to do what they were told, no questions asked. 

It's easy to see why gentle parenting can be perceived by others as permissive, since the style of parenting gives the child the “permission” to feel what they feel, say what they want to say. A big difference is that they are also given the tools to appropriately handle the situation, along with the space to solve the situation themselves. Instead of the parent scooping them up and solving the problem for their child, or allowing them to do whatever they want in the situation, the child is guided through how to handle the situation themselves. 

A family of three spending quality time with each other in their house, smiling with their daughter.

It's a common practice to have Sunday be a family day. Spend quality time with the whole family together and bond.

What to remember when you go through difficult times 

Unlike the sound of the term, the journey of gentle parenting is not always a smooth sailing one. There will be setbacks, and there will be times when you will be so tired or stressed out that all your energy can muster is just telling your child what to do and hope they do it, stat. 

When parenting gets tough—and there will be times when it will—go back to your why. Why did you begin with gentle parenting in the first place? Why did you feel that it was a good idea? 

Whatever reason it may be, at the core of the “Why” for most parents, it would be wanting the best for their child. Holding on to that during the not-so-pleasant times will help you ride through the ups and downs of gentle parenting. When you get back on track, you’ll see for yourself that all that effort you put in to be a gentle parent was worth it. 

Gentle parents know how important it is to properly equip their kids with the tools they need to succeed, and that includes establishing the habits that will set them up for a good life! Give your kids the choice of Piico, the kids’ dental floss that they’ll be excited to use!

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