When Will I KNOW That Gentle Parenting Works?
Most parents these days don’t want to be authoritarian, and they don’t want to be permissive.
Unfortunately, since most of us didn’t have a strong example of what The Other Way looks like – in practice – we sometimes flounder when all of our firm-but-gentleness and consistent respect are met by Resistance (despite our gentle requests!), Selfishness (despite our abundant sharing!), Anger (despite our best intentions!), Mean Words (even though We Don’t Call Names in Our Family!), Ingratitude (despite our giving, giving, and more giving) or a myriad of other Things Kids Do When They Are Growing Up.
Many parents who call me up for coaching say things like, “He was fine until he turned…(3 1/2 or 5 or 12).” Most children, at some point, will experiment with behaviours that you don’t like. Some will start experimenting early, and challenge you all through the years. Others will throw you a wild curve ball somewhere along the way.
So then, when the curve ball comes, or frequently through the years, we worry that Gentle Parenting Doesn’t Work and we try some other stuff, stuff that may not feel good in our hearts.
I want to offer you some reassurance. Often when a parent of young adults hears that I am a parenting coach, and after we’ve chatted a bit about my take on parenting, they say, “Oh! You help parents be the kind of parent I was!” When this happens, I take the opportunity to do an informal interview of that parent. As you know, I also read a lot of books and look at lots of research about specific parenting styles. The interviews always back up what I know. They go something like this:
Me: Soooooo…..how was it? Raising your child? The teen years?
Parent of Young Adult (with a big smile and sparkling eyes): It was amazing! She/He was definitely (15 – with a vengeance), (a little distant around age 20), (a rebel without a cause for a while), but it was great. And it’s even better now. We have a great relationship and we (talk on the phone several times a week), (have dinner together every Sunday), (go on amazing trips around the world together), (have the same parenting styles, now I have grand-kids!), (are best friends), etc, etc, etc.
Whatever your personal hopes and dreams are for your relationship with your kid(s) as they grow up, I want to reassure you that gentle parenting works. It’s not always easy. You will be challenged, again, and again, and again, to choose kindness over punishment, to choose love over power struggle, to choose connection over proving your point, and to think for days about what is the right way to handle the particular curve ball that your child has thrown at you.
So, that’s the delayed gratification answer – you’ll know that gentle parenting works when your child is an adult. Probably not so great to hear if you’ve got a 3 year-old or a 5-year-old that is challenging you right now, so here’s a big slice of shorter-term encouragement….
You’ll get a lot of amazing moments along the way. You will be at the mall one day, and your 5-year-old will see a parent threaten, then punish their child, and will slip her hand into yours, look up at you, and say, sadly, “Mom, I’m so glad you don’t punish me.” Your 7-year-old will call you the Best (and some days the Worst) Mommy Ever – and you’ll know that his judging mind has kicked in, and he’s actually thought it through, compared you to his friends’ parents, and you’ve come out A-OK. Your 8-year old will confront her teacher in a meeting with you, her dad, and the principal, will state her values and ask for respectful treatment, and your heart will beam with pride and respect for her articulate and kind assertiveness. Your 10-year-old’s friend will confide in you, and tell you how much he likes having an adult actually listen to his ideas, and your own child will say, as they walk away, “Yeah. My dad’s awesome at listening.” Your 12-year-old will mobilize her class to earn $5000 for an orphanage in Tibet, then crawl into your bed that night after sending off the cheque and say, “How can I do more?”
And your child will be 3 1/2, and 5, and 9, and 12, and 14 (boys) and 15 (girls), with a vengeance. They will live out their developmental stages, and explore the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities in ways that are not pleasant for you, and you will doubt yourself. You will question your values. You will make mistakes – lots of them.
Parenting in keeping with your values is hard. And, I want to reassure that it will be worth it. You will cry. You will worry. You will wonder if you’re giving your child the skills they need to thrive. You will second-guess yourself.
And, in spite of all your imperfections, your children will forgive you, understand you, and probably even grow wiser than you.
And one day down the road, you’ll be the parent I interview, and your eyes will sparkle, and you will tell me, that yes, gentle parenting works.
If you need support figuring out what your values are, and how to parent in ways that feel great to you, even when things aren’t working, contact me today! I love coaching, and I’d love to work with you, in person, by phone, or by Skype. <3 <3
And please, post below about one of those special moments along that way that gave you a big slice of hope. We’d love to hear!!