Why ‘Gentle Parenting’ Could Boost Your Child’s Self-esteem

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Parents nowadays grew up before the ‘gentle parenting’ era and may have experienced a disciplining style closer to ‘Supernanny’ and likely involving a ‘naughty step’. But there is a new kind of parenting that is rapidly becoming popular on social media. The hashtag, ‘gentle parenting’, has 273.5 million views on TikTok. Gentle Parenting has proven time and again to be the healthiest way to raise a confident, happy, independent, intelligent kind child.

What is ‘Gentle Parenting’?

Gentle Parenting creates a parent-child bond for life and a strong relationship over the years to come. Gentle Parenting is a scientific, evidence-based, approach to raising confident and happy children. It is a parenting ethos characterised by four different areas:

1 Empathy

Gentle parents raise their children in a manner that they are aware and considerate of their child’s feelings. The best way to raise an empathetic child (or “kind child”) is to be empathetic towards them. Lots of difficult parenting situations arise because the child’s needs are being misunderstood and they are then labelled as “naughty”. When in fact, if the root of the misbehaviour was understood (usually fear, anxiety, distress or unease) then the “bad behaviour” will be extinguished. 

2 Respect

As parents, we demand respect from our children, but do we really respect them back? Gentle parenting ensures that respect is a two-way equation by respecting their children and their unique feelings and personalities. Once a child respects you they become intrinsically drawn to want to help you and to keep you happy. Just as you desire to help and make happy those that you respect and like.

3 Understanding

Gentle parents have an understanding of children’s brains and how they develop as they get older. Science says that it isn’t until after their 20th birthday that we can expect children to think and feel like an adult. Before this, their neurological understanding and functioning does not allow them to see the world in the same way as us and they do not have the same control over their behaviours. Gentle Parenting also requires parents to understand how their own behaviour impacts their children.

4 Boundaries

Gentle Parenting embraces discipline as a vital part of parenting. The difference between Gentle Parenting and conventional parenting is that the gentle discipline used is age-appropriate along with being positive and respectful. Gentle Parents take time to set limits and boundaries for those things that really matter to them, such as “no hurting others”, or “no throwing inside”, and importantly they always enforce them. There is no ‘winner’ or ‘loser’ in Gentle Parenting, no parent triumphing over their naughty child, just families working together.

What Does It Look Like?

Gentle Parents do not believe ‘rewards’ or ‘punishments’ in traditional parenting are effective in raising healthy-minded children. Instead, they want their children to internalise good behaviour for its own sake. Some examples are:

  • The caregiver is focused on maintaining a strong connection with the child.
  • Instead of ‘shushing’ or ignoring the child during a tantrum, the child’s feelings are validated and paid attention to. The parent might say ‘what do you need right now?’ or ‘You have a lot of strong feelings about…’
  • Affection is not forced. If the child does not want to hug a family member, for example, this is respected.
  • Parental time-outs are taken when parents feel they are about to snap. The parent takes a breath and regains their composure.
  • The parent will give choices instead of commands such as ‘would you like carrots or broccoli with your dinner?’
  • The parent will decide on limits with their child when possible. For example, they might ask, ‘how many more minutes would you like to play with your toys?’
  • Rather than labelling children as ‘good’ or ‘naughty’, the parents label the behaviour: ‘It is very tiring for me to tidy up the toys you left around’.

What Benefits Could Gentle Parenting Have For You And Your Child?

As a Gentle Parent, you recognise your child as a mini-human who has needs like the rest of us. When these needs go unmet, they don’t always have the coping skills to regulate their emotions. This is seen as the root of tantrums and meltdowns. It is the caregiver’s job to guide the child to recognise their needs and communicate them. As a parent, this approach could help you understand your child when they are upset, strengthening your bond with them. It will also help you get to the root of issues faster, likely meaning fewer tantrums overall. By engaging with your child’s needs when they are upset, rather than dismissing or ignoring them, your child will feel seen and validated by you. This will boost their self-esteem and possibly enable better handling of their emotions as adults. This will also build trust between child and caregiver, opening up communication as your child grows up.

All clinicians at Oxford CBT are Cognitive Behavioural Therapists or Psychologists, offering evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.

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