By Virginia George, Contributing Writer
I had a grandma who questioned everything I did. If my baby had socks on, her feet were too hot. If she didn’t, her feet were too cold. If he coughed while nursing, my milk was too rich and I should give him formula. Hiccups? Just give them a pinch of table sugar. Just as she questioned and judged my every move, so we judge each other, particularly when it comes to styles of discipline.
As with everything, there are extremes on the continuum of parenting. On the one side is the harsh disciplinarian. Children are seen and not heard, in their homes as well as in public. There are strict rules and guidelines, and children dare not venture outside of those boundaries “or else.”
On the other side is the permissive parent. Children run the show, so to speak. Parents give in to children’s demands, and consequences are few and far between.
Most of us find ourselves somewhere in between. I argue that gentle parenting is that balance in the middle. Giving our children voices, but not letting them run the family. Teaching children responsibility and consequences without undermining their value as a human being.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of discipline, it’s important to note the difference between gentle parenting and permissive parenting, as they are decidedly not the same.
Gentle Parenting Isn’t:
Allowing children to rule the family
Allowing children zero responsibility for their actions
Giving chance after chance after chance for our children to make the right choices
Shaming our kids when they mess up
Gentle parenting isn’t about punishment or blame, and it doesn’t silence the voices of our children.
Gentle Parenting Is:
Giving your kids choices
Holding our children accountable for their actions without blaming or shaming them.
Allowing them to make decisions and experience the consequences NOW, when the stakes are not so high.
Hearing our kids. Giving them the opportunity to state their opinion, maybe even change our minds.
It is allowing them to have hard feelings, identify them, and to teach them appropriate expression of those feelings.
Gentle parenting is respecting our kids for what they are: people. People with thoughts, dream, feelings, goals, and fears. Autonomous human beings, not an extension of ourselves. Gentle parenting is allowing our children the space to make decisions that align with their goals.
Childhood is training for the future. It’s learning how to negotiate, how to stand up for something they believe in, deciding what they believe is right and what is wrong, and so many more foundational lessons of social interaction.
A disciplinarian will risk squashing a child’s curiosity, creativity, and ability to speak for themselves. A permissive parent will teach kids that there are never consequences and they can always have their way. But gentle parenting will guide a child through decision making. A gentle parent will teach them a sense of responsibility for their actions, and prepare them for life outside our walls.
I believe it is my job, my calling, my responsibility to usher my children through childhood, preparing them for life as an adult. It is my job to teach them the foundational skills of responsiblility, of self control, and of kindness.
As I give my kids the opportunity to share themselves with me and to coach them through difficult feelings, I believe I am doing just that.
What Do You See as the Biggest Difference Between Gentle Parenting and Permissive Parenting?
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