Parenthood is one of the most challenging and fulfilling roles in this lifetime. A child is born into the world with sheer innocence and curiosity. John Locke, an English philosopher, proposed the concept of “tabula rasa” that translates to blank slate, where children are molded according to their upbringing. They get their values from their role models and environment. In the first few years of life, these major influences are the immediate family members and the home. We form the foundation of their values, character, hopes, and dreams.
Gentle parenting is a parenting style characterized by mutual trust and respect between parents and their children. It is based on the thought that violence in the form of yelling, spanking, or hitting only passes on the hurt to the next generation. A study by Hoeve et al. (2012) also found a link between poor parental attachment and delinquency in adolescence. Another study in 2013 by Michael et al. found that children who are spanked in childhood have a greater risk of externalizing the same behavior to others.
Parents that practice gentle parenting are in tune with the thoughts and emotions of their children. They create boundaries not to restrict the child, but to ensure safety and guidance. Here are some tips to practice gentle parenting at home:
1. Know that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Therefore, it is important for you to heal from your own hurt, may it be from your own upbringing or from your own environment. The challenges at work should not be brought back home and displaced to the child. A simple trick would be to leave the worries at the door of the house by taking a few deep breaths before entering.
2. Infants are still unable to self-regulate their emotions. They learn the appropriate reactions and responses from their surroundings. They learn appropriate reactions to danger, fear, joy, worry, among others primarily from the people that surround them. Hence, your calm is their calm. They will not be little anymore in a few years, so take time to hug, kiss, and carry them as much as possible.
3. The misbehavior of a child stems from different reasons. For example, item breakages at home come from their exploration and may not be deliberately done. Their thirst for exploration may be satiated by identifying “yes spaces” at home where they can play and explore. The meltdowns and temper tantrums may be due to their immature self-regulation or their need for power. We need to understand early on that we cannot put out fire with fire; misbehavior can be addressed through gentle correction.
4. Communicate and spend time with your children. Research have shown that corporal punishment increases the levels of anxiety among children. They do not necessarily correct behavior, but they make children better at hiding their mistakes. Consider those errors as learning opportunities instead. Communicate tactfully to your child.
May we raise children who will find meaning in their lives. May we give them a childhood that they would not need to recover from.
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Hoeve, M., Stams, G. J., van der Put, C. E., Dubas, J. S., van der Laan, P. H., & Gerris, J. R. (2012). A meta-analysis of attachment to parents and delinquency. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 40(5), 771–785.
MacKenzie, M.J., Nicklas, E., Waldfogel, J., Brooks-Gunn, J. (2013). Spanking and child development across the first decade of life. Pediatrics, 132(5), e1118-e1125.
Shi, R. “What is Gentle Parenting?” Accessed from on August 25, 2021