I’ve discussed “Gentle Parenting” in previous #momlifemonday posts. I’m not one to label myself but this is one label that I’m happy to wear. It’s one that I’ve worked hard to earn and spent a lot of time sowing onto my mom version of a Girl Scouts vest. You see, I had to remove my “yelling mom” badge stitch by stitch. I had to keep heating the glue that held my “mean mommy” badge on so I could pull it off once and for all. The patch left a permanent faded imprint of the “mean mommy” badge but over it I’ve sown on my “Gentle Parent” badge with lots of time, thought, effort, patience, and often choosing the harder parenting strategy.
One aspect of gentle parenting that I’ve worked really hard on is parenting with understanding instead of compliance. If I put myself in my 7 year old shoes, I can remember what it was like to be a child. I remember being told what to do all of the time. Having these thoughts, plans, and ideas in my head that weren’t valued, appreciated or asked for. I remember being told I was disrespectful and disobedient when that was the farthest thing from my intent. Here I was trying to be helpful, heard, and understood and I was coming off as inconvenient and unhelpful. As a parent, I can understand how explaining yourself is exhausting, irritating and time consuming. I understand there’s a time and place for it and sometimes you just need your kids to listen. I also understand that it’s easier to have your kids just listen to your every
command word the first time you say it. The thing is, most of the time, it’s not a life and death situation that your kids have to listen to avoid sudden danger. The reality is, it’s just more convenient for them to do so.
I hope I’m not losing you yet! I’m not harping on you, I promise! The thing is, I’ve learned from my ways and even though I’m still working on it, I can see the value in explaining myself. No one likes to be told what to do, whether your’e 6 or 96! You have your own thoughts, ideas, opinions and not being able to express them is very frustrating. Can you imagine constantly being told what to do, when to do it, to be quiet, getting shut down, not being able to express your opinion or ideas, and basically being told in so many words that what you think and say doesn’t matter? I’m sure this isn’t the intention of parents when our actions and words communicate this but that is how it’s received. Though they may be small, that doesn’t take away the value of their input.
Even if you just hear them out, it can be reassuring to know their voice is being heard. That instills confidence and self-worth. You can play along and tell them what a great idea they had! You might be surprised that they can offer a simple solution or prompt you to come up with a plan. Allow their voice to be heard! It’s hard to raise them to be leaders and to speak up for what’s right when they are getting shut down more times than they can count in the place they’re supposed to be able to express themselves in a safe environment. Give them reasons when you can. I understand you don’t have 20 minutes to explain everything you
tell ask them throughout the day. Aim to give quick and simple explanations when you give instructions.
- Tell them why they are doing something, help them see the value in what they’re doing. For example, you’re picking up your room now so when we come home from the park you can have more time to play in the bath before bedtime.
- Let them know why you’re having them do something a particular way. It’s not because their way is wrong but because it’s easier, will save them time, or it’s more efficient.
- Give them a choice to give them a sense of control and decision making opportunities. For example let them choose their clothes for the day (they can pick between two outfits) or let them choose between two things that have to get done but they get to pick the order.
- Give them a time table that they can understand. For example, we’re leaving the park in 3 minutes (about 1 song) so we can go home for dinner or you have 10 minutes to play before it’s time for homework.
I’ve found that when I parent my kids from a place of understanding, my words are generally better received. I don’t get the whining, crying, or unhappy looks because she understands what’s going on and feels like she’s part of the process. Of course it’s not fool proof (she’s still 7 and I’m still learning to be more patient) but it definitely helps (a lot!). We talk things out, she’s able to ask questions, she exercises problem solving and critical thinking skills in real life situations and most importantly she feels understood. Her opinion is acknowledged, taken into consideration and sometimes even implemented. She knows that her thoughts, words and feelings count and she feels like a valuable member of the family. She knows that her thoughts aren’t diminished because of her age and we often praise her for her valuable insight and creative solutions.
We are making the choice to give explanations whenever possible and reasonable with the understanding that emergency situations don’t offer the luxury of explanations. While those are few and far between, you can establish a code word, a look, or just get your message across with your tone. The difference is clear when you don’t give instructions in that manner regularly. These days instead of telling my kids “because I told you so” I try to give the real reason behind my instructions before the question even comes up. I know it’s a lot easier for kids to just listen to what their told, but in our family that’s no longer a motto we live by. It costs more than it gained and we’d rather our kids feel the value of their thoughts than the contentment of their compliance.
Here’s an older #momlifemonday post you might like. It’s about being silly with your kids.
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What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you offer explanations freely? Were you raised being told what to do? How did it make you feel? Do you see the value in parenting through understanding? Have you already been using this approach? How does it work for you? Do you have any tips or suggestions for future posts? Do you struggle with something you’d like to see a post on? I’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to share in the comments section!