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Getting on board with Gentle Parenting

Gentle Parenting is everywhere right now. Parents are hearing it all the time. So what is it? And more importantly, what isn't it?

There is a misconception amongst some that gentle parenting means sing song coddling and no boundaries. This couldn't be further from the truth. The phrase is just a new way to describe a parenting style that has been promoted for decades.

In my early, early years of preschool assisting I was required to take Child Development 101. One of the first things we covered was the three styles of parenting, rated on their effectiveness. The three styles are Authoritarian, Authoritative, and Permissive.

Authoritarian Parents are the "my way or the highway" type. Rules are non negotiable, structure is very strict , and children must obey "because I said so". There is little to no leeway and disobedience is met with strict punishment. Children are often given high expectations for behavior and goals.

Authoritative Parents have established boundaries and schedules based on the needs of their families. Rules are limited but enforced. Punishment is avoided, and logical consequences are seen as learning opportunities. Children are treated like members of the family with responsibilities, and the ability to discuss rules. Expectations for children are based on their age and abilities.

Permissive Parents tend to have few or no structure. Children are allowed to do what they want. Parents are careful to not upset their children, or will often "give in" to avoid conflict. Rules are not enforced, there is always "one last time". The child's schedule supersedes everyone else's.

In practice both the Authoritarian and the Permissive parents report more behavior problems and greater challenges as their children mature. There is less internalization of control because the children are either always told what to do, with no explanation, or they are allowed to do whatever they want with the knowledge that they will always get bailed out.

Authoritative parenting enjoys the best outcome. Children are taught from an early age that actions have consequences, but their parents are always there to guide them without judgement or harsh arbitrary punishment.

Gentle Parenting is the next evolution of this knowledge. And it will sound a little different for every family. In general, it's a no nonsense approach to parenting. Expectations are clearly communicated and have reasonable foundations. Challenges are met with problem solving and letting children be part of the solution instead of passive bystanders. Consequences are logical and a natural response to what happened. Children are actively learning WHY they should do things, instead of doing things to avoid punishment.

If you have questions about how to navigate toward a more effective way to parent, research gentle parenting and talk to Early Childhood Professionals. We love to share!


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