Gentle parenting means that I always strive to have gentle reactions to my kids and enforce boundaries gently. It does not mean that my kid’s reactions must also be gentle. Here are my top three Gentle Parenting Myths!
I go out of my way to avoid upsetting my kids and that my goal is make them happy all the time.
What a doozy. I don’t try to upset them of course. I want them to be happy. What makes people think this is that I do speak respectfully to my children, recognize their feelings, validate their feelings, and do compassionate things for them.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say we are at the park. It’s time to go. My 3 year runs away from me screaming, “I don’t want to leave” so instead of leaving, I give him 5 more minutes to play.
Seventy percent of the time, at the end of his 5 minutes we leave peacefully. The other 30%, I carry a kicking screaming toddler like anybody else.
People assume I “gave” into him because he was screaming and unhappy.
I didn’t give into him. I compromised with him. I understand that children are ruled by their impulses and lack the brain power for self control. I recognize that children almost always react better to change when they have been warned and allowed time to process the information and their feelings. I worked with him instead of against him.
I only say yes.
I do say yes a lot because I realize my kids’ whole lives are defined by my yes’s and no’s. If I want my kids to see the world for the amazing, vibrant, exciting thing that it is, I must let them experience it.
However, I also say no. I enforce boundaries. I don’t give them free reign. For example, recently my 3 year old got his first dental fillings. Immediately after he wanted some taffy. He did not get it.
Because I don’t spank, I don’t discipline my kids.
This couldn’t be more wrong. The problems comes from the differences in the meaning of the word discipline. Popular culture sees discipline as punishment or exacting revenge. While we have dealt out some punishments (like taking away an Xbox for unauthorized game purchases totally more than $100), we always use them as a last resort.
For my younger kids, I always frame my discipline through the lense of safety. For my older child (10 year old), I find I barely have to do any discipline. Much of the time, his mistakes are unintended out of ignorance so a simple “don’t do x because y” is all that is needed.
Sometimes, we must delve deeper into an issue. For example, recently my 10 year old seemed to be skipping his math work and refusing to do it after I show him examples. Turns out, he was actually having quite a bit of anxiety (he has been diagnosed) that was making it very difficult. No amount of punishments will make the anxiety disappear so we spent 3 school days looking up and practicing coping mechanisms to find what works for him. His math anxiety is controlled, and he learned skills that will benefit him in many situations for the rest of his life. This is what discipline really means: to teach.
In closing, I think these ideals persist due to a lack of education. Those who believe Gentle Parenting is permissive simply are not aware of the many techniques and options out there to fill our parenting tool boxes.