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Raising a child isn’t easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all parenting style for every family. It is very much a trial and error endeavor where parents and children alike learn what works best for them as they navigate daily life.

Gentle parenting is one style of parenting that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. This style helps foster essential qualities in children such as compassion and empathy, all while teaching valuable life lessons. Here we dive into the basic principles of gentle parenting and how they can be implemented.

1. Consider your child’s feelings

Gentle parenting is based on three main elements — empathy, understanding and boundaries. The whole point is to foster qualities you want your child to have by demonstrating them yourself. Children experience big emotions that they don’t yet know how to deal with. At its core, gentle parenting is the process of welcoming these emotions and guiding your child through coping and making sense of them.

As you interact with your child, be empathetic, compassionate and considerate of their feelings. Pause and listen to what your child is going through to determine the appropriate way to handle the situation. Remember, we were all children at one time, so draw on that experience to put yourself in their shoes.

2. Set age-appropriate boundaries

Just because you follow a gentle parenting approach doesn’t mean you let your child run amok. Setting boundaries is important for your child’s growth and gives them a clear structure so they understand what is required of them.

The hard part is setting boundaries that are within your child’s capabilities. For example, you might want your toddler to sit quietly during a long car ride. However, are they really capable of following through with that? Often, parents need to readjust their thinking with gentle parenting and take their child’s age and abilities into account.

In addition, it’s important to explain the reasoning for boundaries and that kids don’t have restrictions “just because.” For example, limiting screen time before bed may feel very restrictive and almost like a punishment to your tween. However, this is the chance to explain where you’re coming from and how such an activity could potentially disrupt their sleep and hinder academic performance.

3. Discipline the action, not the child

This one can be tough. When children act out or do something wrong, it’s typical for parents to yell or immediately impose a punishment that has nothing to do with the situation at hand. A good example is if your younger son breaks his older brother’s favorite toy. It could be hard to keep your calm in this situation. You might immediately yell at the younger son and punish him — maybe taking away his tablet time or restricting TV. But do either of those consequences have anything to do with the younger child’s action? Not really. Instead, maybe the younger brother could earn money to repay or buy a new toy for his brother. Not only does this teach him he’s responsible for his actions, but it doesn’t make him feel bad about himself.

4. Display open levels of communication

Gentle parenting hinges on communication between you and your child. To do this, you need to make time to be together and listen to them. Have a family dinner, go for a walk or spend time doing something they love. These are the moments your child will open up to you, and together, you can build a strong bond.

Final thoughts

The tools learned through gentle parenting will set your child up for success as they get older and help them develop a healthy self-esteem. Should you have any questions regarding your child’s behavior or your own parenting style, the experts at Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics can help. For more information, contact us to schedule an appointment.