mardi 14 juin 2016

What Gentle Parenting Means To Me

I'm feeling inspired to write a little bit here after a conversation with an old friend yesterday. (Someone I did my undergrad with but who moved across the country after we graduated. We've only seen each other a few times since then but each time we do, there's no awkwardness, it's like we just saw each other the day before. I love friendships like that.) My friend, who has no children, was asking me questions about how I am raising my kids after I mentioned that I would have a hard time leaving them in a daycare that used time-outs. She was surprised, and I think I would have been, too, had I heard someone say that before I had children of my own. She said, "well, what do you do instead?" And I tried to summarize my parenting style succinctly but with difficulty. I said, well, time-outs are kind of an "easy solution" and a one-size-fits-all approach to solving problems, which isn't necessarily the most effective. What I do if my 3-year-old is "acting out" or having trouble dealing with his emotions (frustrations, anger, sadness, etc.) is to get down on his level and talk to him. I try to name his emotions for him since he's not quite able to do it himself yet. ("Reflection" is actually a communication skill that works well with adults, too!) And I ask him to try to come up with a solution to the problem himself. It's harder than just saying "go to your room!" It takes more time. It requires more involvement. It requires me stopping what I'm doing, which can be annoying. It doesn't give immediate "results." But it does foster a strong relationship between him and I, and that's my main goal. I told my friend I was just trying to parent in the best way I knew how. I told her that it turned out that there was a name for this gentle parenting style: "attachment parenting." She said the word "attachment" sounded negative to her - it made her think of clingy children! I was interested to learn that, and I value my friend's opinion enough to avoid using that term now. I think the best way of explaining how I try to parent is that I treat my kids as humans, like I would like to be treated. That means no belittling, shaming, punishing, etc. I often make parallels with how I react to my kids' cries with how I would like my husband/partner/friend to react. Just because, deep down, I think it's a ridiculous reason to be crying, doesn't mean that I can't empathize, and recognize that these are real emotions that they're feeling. They're not having a tantrum just to piss me off. They are having a tantrum because they are genuinely really upset about something, trivial though it may be. I can't imagine someone I love with all my heart ignoring me while I cry my heart out. I just can't. That's not ok. When people say "just ignore them when they're acting out" I feel like that's an awful thing to do. That does NOT mean that my kids get to do whatever they want, no rules, no consequences. The best analogy that I read was that I'm a fair, caring boss, and they are my employees. The fair, caring, boss listens to her employees, but when it comes down to it, she does make the final decision. But her employees know she always has their back, and they can always turn to her for help if they need it. That's the kind of relationship I want with my kids. I think that kids with a strong bond with their parents have more self-confidence later on. Knowing someone's always got your back does that. I may write more on this subject later...

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