I research things obsessively. If I’m buying something, traveling somewhere, starting a new project…I’ll be making lists and reading everything I can find online. When I became pregnant, it was no different. I ransacked the library and read dozens of books on pregnancy and childbirth.
I knew everything to expect, and actually I was blessed with a very simple birth experience. I believe most of that was due to chance, but would like to attribute some of it to my preparedness and deep knowledge of what was actually happening to my body. Spoiler alert to anyone who picks up that classic tome Childbirth Without Fear, it still hurts even if you’re not afraid. Sorry! Anyway, I was versed in the scientific aspects of becoming a mother due to some impeccable research. But what does one do with the actual baby?
Suddenly, there I was. The midwife and nurses and my husband were all excitedly shouting. “Look, you can see the baby! Do you want to see?” What did I do in that brilliant moment? I yelped, shut my eyes tightly and turned my head away. I was terrified.
Of course, this terror dissolved as soon as the baby was fully born. I will never forget my first glimpse of Felix, held aloft in the tiny hospital room while a television in the background played Law and Order: SVU on mute. (It was a fast labor, we had no time to worry about what was going on around us!)
All of this is to say that I was completely clueless about how to actually raise my child, how to keep him alive–let alone happy, well-mannered, intelligent, etc.
I’m happy to say that I’ve done my research, through the early toddler years at least. My conclusion? A little of this, a little of that, but I like the label ‘gentle parenting’.
For me, gentle parenting is respectful parenting. I work very hard to view my child as a full human–his actions, his temperament, I try to give them the same weight as I’d bestow upon a grown peer. In many cases, if I wouldn’t do something to another adult, I won’t do it to my child. This means no hitting, no spanking or pinching or swatting in unanticipated frustration. I won’t yell, I won’t yank his arm.
I am very open to other parenting methods, many of my friends use different philosophies or styles with their kids. I stand firm with my belief on corporal punishment, however. If you hurt your child physically, even if it is to teach a lesson, even if it was “for their own good,” you are wrong. There are other methods of discipline, fear and shame are not the best motivators.
Gentle parenting is mindful parenting. I’m not perfect. I’m not even always gentle! Gentle parenting is not bending to a child’s every demand. It is not cosleeping and solely breastfeeding, it is not unobtainable or unrealistic. It does take effort, because it is an exercise in filtering yourself.
We can all be gentle parents. In trying moments, being mindful and breathing intentionally can calm tension. We’re leaders for our kids, even when we feel lost ourselves.
I hope this blog can open other parents up to this concept, which actually has been a wonderful guidepost for me thusfar. I recommend Janet Lansbury as a starting point, her website and books are so refreshing.
When we are very young, we are often taught to let our conscience be our guide. This is true in parenting! I look forward to growing into this philosophy, and hope you can find something that feels right for you also.