The 6 Basics Parts of Gentle Parenting
When you first start to read about Gentle Parenting you might find there is a lot of information out there about it but all the information usually isn’t all in one place. Through my own personal research and my academic studies, I have narrowed Gentle Parenting into 6 main pillars.
It may be arguable that there are more than 6 but I believe most of the practices of Gentle Parenting can fit in here.
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Definition of Gentle Parenting:
Gentle Parenting is a long term approach to discipline that respects the child as a whole person and values the feelings of the child.
It seeks to teach children to do what’s right out of a heartfelt willingness to do what’s good by using love, patience and positive words over fear or punishment.
And it sets firm boundaries to establish consistent and realistic expectations while allowing natural consequences to take place.
It equips the child with age appropriate skills to nurture independence.
And if you’re wondering if Gentle Parenting is right for Christian families be sure to check out this article.
These are the 6 Pillars of Gentle Parenting
#1. Gentle Parenting respects the child
#2. Gentle Parenting validates feelings
#3. Gentle Parenting speaks to the child using positive words
#4. Gentle Parenting values a strong, trusting relationship with the child
#5. Gentle Parenting allows natural consequences
#6. Gentle Parenting equips the child with appropriate skillsAllow me to dig a little bit deeper into each of these pillars, but if you want an even more thorough teaching on Gentle then please sign up for my Gentle Foundations for Parenting Course. It will cover all these areas and more to help you on your Gentle Parenting journey – and it’s free!
The 6 pillars of Gentle Parenting all fit into my basic “Know-Yoke-Grow System to Create a Child’s Heartfelt Willingness to do What’s Good”
The Know-Yoke-Grow System
Each of our 6 pillars of Gentle Parenting fits into either KNOW, YOKE or GROW. By mastering your understanding of each of these 3 areas, you’ll be able to master Gentle Parenting.
#1. Gentle Parenting respects the child
Respect is probably the most important thing for you to remember about Gentle Parenting, in fact, the next 4 pillars are all basically just extensions of this one, very important concept.
Respect your child.
For some, this make seem obvious, for others this may seem challenging, and it all probably has a lot to do with how you were raised.
I have many friends who were spanked as a child if they did not say “Sir” or “Ma’am” when speaking to their parents. If you were treated the same then you might likely believe it’s more important for the child to respect the parent than for the parent to respect the child.
And I totally understand where you are coming from, that’s how you were raised since a very young age so that’s what you believe. If you have a high respect for your parents and other elders it may be hard to understand this concept, but please allow me to challenge your thinking a little bit.
How is true respect created?
I don’t mean outward signs of respect, like addressing people by their proper titles and what not, but a true heartfelt respect.
If you were to start a new job you would probably respect your new boss outwardly no matter what (because that’s how you were raised) but you would respect them inwardly based on how they treated you.
With our children, it is the same.
A child respects (in their heart) a parent treats them with respect. And with respect comes kindness, sympathy, patience and love. A child will feel safe and free with a parent who respects them as a whole person.
What this would look like is a child’s feelings, opinions, privacy and mistakes are all respected. A parent would not purposefully embarrass a child when they make a mistake to “teach them a lesson” and a parent would truly consider that their child prefers the red cup, and even honour that preference when it is do able.
Respecting a child does not mean they will always get what they want.
Some requests will not be reasonable. If you are out on a picnic and you simply don’t have the red cup with you you probably won’t drive home and get it, but you would respect the fact that your child really wanted it and would not dismiss them but would create a environment of comfort and safety and the child would feel heard and more willing to drink from the unfortunate green cup.
That’s what respecting a child can look like, and as we get into the next 4 pillars you will see how important respect is for a healthy journey in Gentle Parenting.
If you feel a little overwhelmed with the idea of respecting your child and not sure where to start, then please sign up for the free Gentle Foundations for Parenting Course where we will go very deep into what this looks like.
#2. Gentle Parenting validates the child’s feelings
We have already lightly touched on this, but Gentle Parenting validates the child’s feelings, out of respect for the child.
Being able to validate your child’s feelings takes some serious listening skills, which is why I highly recommend the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
When children know that their feelings matter it actually helps them to overcome those big emotions. Many parents try to brush over these emotions quickly in an attempt to help their child overcome it but it quickly backfires. Instead, it’s better to take those big emotions head on!
You can try mirroring back to your child what they are have expressed, and put a name on the feeling to help them process their emotions.
For example, if your child says, “Jill threw dirt at me! I want to hit her!”
You could say something like, “Wow, you sound really angry!”
Instead of reacting to your child’s desire to hit someone, respond to their feelings.
Put a name to their anger.
Once they know that anger is what they’re feeling inside it’s easier for them to deal with, the conversation may continue with them working out the problem on their own.
“Ya, I am really angry. But Jill shouldn’t have thrown dirt on me. I’m going to go tell her I didn’t like that.”
By listening to your child and responding to their emotional side you can help them process and tackle that feeling. When a child is very emotional it will probably seem impossible to connect to the rational part of their brain. Explaining to them why they shouldn’t hit Jill would be fruitless because your usually reasonable child is being overpowered by this very big emotion.
Validate their feelings out of respect for them. Like I said, this will take some serious listening skills but it will pay off.
#3. Gentle Parenting speaks to the child using positive words
Positive language has an amazing effect on children and also adults. By using positive language, you can encourage your child, give them more confidence and help them to know exactly what they should do.
Rather than always say, “No,” or “Stop,” you can redirect your child by telling them exactly what you want them to do, for instance by saying, “Take your hands out of the dog bowl and find something else to play with,” rather than saying, “No, don’t touch that!”
When children are constantly spoken to with negative language it can greatly discourage them and actually confuse them because they don’t know what the right thing is.
Positive words will empower your child.
Here are some helpful positive phrases you could try using…
You should also use positive language in the way you encourage your child.
This means even when they make a mistake you don’t want to use your words to lecture them, but you can encourage them that they tried their hardest and next time they will do better because now they see what doesn’t work.
When you praise your child it is great to focus on what they have done to offer sincere compliments. You can say something like, “Wow, I really like how you washed your hands before dinner without being asked,” or you can say, “You finished this entire puzzle by yourself, that must have been difficult but you put all the pieces together!”
These words are more powerful than just saying, “You are so good” or “You are so smart,” and will encourage them in the efforts they are already making.
If your child’s love language is words of affirmation they will really appreciate these kinds of compliments and it will be great motivation for them.
Gentle Parenting considers the words that are spoken to children in all circumstances, not only when the child is being “good” but even when they are intentionally doing the wrong thing.
The way you respond to their behaviour can say a lot about what you think and feel about them. If you react by saying something like, “Why are you always disobeying me? You never do what I tell you to!” Then those words would really discourage your child and they may feel doomed to this fate and stop trying to improve.
There is power in words.
Especially words that come from someone a child loves, which is why in Gentle Parenting our words to our children are taken so seriously.
Related: 5 Steps to Be A Parent Overflowing With Positive Language
#4. Gentle Parenting values a strong, trusting relationship with the child
One term you might hear quite often in the Gentle Parenting world is “connection before correction,” and the idea here is basically that you need to give your child comfort and support before disciplining them.
Often times children can act out because they crave a sincere connection with their parent, whom they love so much. I’m sure you’ve heard before that some children act out as a cry for attention, and when we respect a child we will understand how important that desire for attention is.
A warm, trusting relationship is actually one of the most important factors in determining a child’s academic and overall life success.
A warm, trusting relationship will develop confidence in a child.
When a parent makes a child feel safe to make mistakes then the child will learn to become a problem solver, but if they are afraid of angering their parent by making a mistake they might rather retreat from the situation out of fear.
When we take regular time to intentionally nurture our relationship with our children we will establish a foundation of trust and security which will be very important in times of correcting our child. When we must correct them they will know that we love them and they will feel safe and not afraid.
In times of correcting our children it’s important that this relationship continues to be prioritized. You should offer them comfort and support for their big emotions as we have already discussed, but when it is time to remind them of a boundary or to explain the natural consequences of their actions it goes a long way to meet your child at eye level and to give them a comforting arm around the shoulder.
If you approach your child with anger it will create a very emotional experience for both of you. Screaming, threatening, and spanking will not truly get through to your child. It may create a fear based obedience but it will not help them to learn to truly do what’s right. Try to refrain from these tactics and instead rely on a consistently loving relationship.
#5. Gentle Parenting Relies on Natural Consequences
As I have mentioned before, Gentle Parenting does not use traditional methods of punishment like spanking or time outs. If you’re using Gentle Parenting you also wouldn’t use strategies like “I’m taking your toy away because you bit your brother,” or anything similar in nature.
However, gentle parents allow natural consequences to take their place. This allows children to learn that their actions have consequences in a way that makes sense.
If you want to use natural consequencese with your kids you simply have to allow the natural order of things to take place for them to learn. Natural consequences doesn’t mean the “punishment fits the crime.”
This might be bad news to some, but often times natural consequences actually means it’s more work for the parent (sorry).
What I mean by that, is if your child for instance keeps unbuckling their seat belt the natural consequence is that mom has to keep pulling over the car and it takes longer to get places. The parent has to intervene for the child’s safety. This can also mean if siblings are always hurting each other that they always have to be supervised. This does sound like more work than just a spanking right?
Using natural consequences are much, much more effective than traditional punishments, but they may take longer.
One thing to remember, is that with natural consequences it’s not an intentional act of unkindness.
You should still treat your child with respect instead of trying to “teach them a lesson” or anything like that.
Example: If your child leaves their stuffed animal outside after telling them 100 times to bring it inside and it starts to rain a natural consequence wouldn’t be to ignore the stuffed animal and to “teach them a lesson” by letting it get wet. You love your child and you know how hurt they would be if their stuffed animal got ruined, and so out of love you bring it inside.
You can talk to them about it the next day though, let them know you brought it inside but if you hadn’t seen it it might have gotten ruined. Gentle Parenting does not endorse “time outs” but it definitely endorses what we call “time ins.” This is also a natural consequence. If your child for instance is starting to hit other kids you can say something like, “Your behaviour is showing me that you need to take a break,” and the two of you can go to a seperate space so you can help your child to calm down.
Natural consequences shouldn’t have to repeat themselves over and over again.
If you are looking for more strategies to overcome the problem. For one, make sure you have realistic expectations for your child. If it’s not realistic for you to expect them to do something then you might just have to accept that this is still your responsibility for the next couple of years. If they are old enough for this expectation though, then you may need to talk to them about why it’s so hard for them, or work together to make a plan to fix it.
For example, you might have a child who refuses to do their chores. The natural consequence might be that then you have to do them which gives you less free time to play with them, but after some time you might want to sit down with your child and figure out what the real problem is. Maybe there chore is too difficult? Maybe they’re just bored with their chores? Maybe they wish chores could be done right away in the morning so it doesn’t interupt their playtime? Work together as a team to figure out the problem.
Use natural consequences to take place so your child can learn the right thing to do. If they make mistakes don’t shame or embarass them, don’t purposefully allow bad things to happen to them. Life will certainly dish out it’s fair share of injustices, it will only hurt your child more if their mother is intentionally going out of her way to allow them to be hurt.
#6. Gentle Parenting equips the child with appropriate skills
Gentle Parenting is very big on setting firm boundaries, to the point of removing things from the child’s environment to prevent a situation (for example removing breakable decorations from the coffee table in a home with a curious toddler).
With these firm boundaries though comes the importance of appropriate skills. A child needs new skills to help them to become more independent. Often times young ones want more independence and this can be the source of most power struggles.
When you use Gentle Parenting it is better to teach your child how to dress and undress their self rather than trying to wrestle a screaming toddler who doesn’t like it when you pull their shirt over their head.
Teaching your child new skills will help them to thrive in their environment as well as build their self-esteem.
When you are teaching your child a new skill though, you must remember that the younger they are the more time it will take to teach them that skill, but if you are patient they will learn.
Sometimes a task may feel overwhelming for your child (such as picking up the toys). They may be completely capable of doing that task but when it feels to them that there are SO MANY TOYS it can feel like an impossible job. You can help them with the task while also encouraging them to do it. For instance, you can say, “I will pick up 5 toys, and then it’s your turn to pick up 5 toys.” With some tasks you could offer to start the task for them or to end the task, either way you do want them to have a sense of accomplishment.
When it comes to skill development for your child, it is very important to stay patient and remember mistakes do happen. As they get older and you start showing them things like how to clean the bathroom it might happen that they wash the mirror with the toilet bowl cleaner, and this might upset you, but if you want them to continue to develop this skill then you need to correct them in a loving and positive way and show them what they should have done instead.
The sooner you teach your child practical life skills the sooner they will be able to learn the joy of helping around the home.
You want them to feel a real satisfaction in a job well done to nurture a strong work ethic. It’s for this reason that many Gentle parents choose not to give a regular allowance for regular chores, or even to use sticker charts for chores. They want their child to learn to be satisfied in the work alone, but may be willing to pay the older child something for an out of the ordinary task. This one can be different through Gentle Parenting families, but the important idea is that they want the child to work for the satisfaction of a job well done.
By teaching your child these new skills you will equip them for a lifetime to desire to learn to do things for their self, to work hard, and to feel good doing it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Gentle Parenting
Take these 5 pillars of Gentle Parenting into consideration as you pursue a happier home with fewer power struggles. Reflect on some of the changes you might need to start making today and don’t forget to sign up for Gentle Foundations if you want to go a little deeper.
Just remember though, Gentle Parenting isn’t built in a day. You’re not going to be a perfect parent after one day of Gentle Parenting strategies (if ever) and your kids are not going to be perfectly behaved kids after one day of Gentle Parenting strategies (if ever).
If you truly want success with Gentle Parenting, you need to go into this knowing that this is absolutely a long term approach to discipline and at times you might wonder if it’s really working. Just stay patient and keep learning and one day you will feel like a brand new parent and your children will seem totally different too.
Gentle Parenting isn’t just about changing your kids; it’s about changing yourself.
Use the information from this post as a quick guide. Go ahead and pin it to save it for later and then sign up for Gentle Foundations for Parenting if you need something more in-depth.