9 Ways To Use Gentle Childrearing Methods

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You wake up later than you planned, and you’ve got one hour to get everyone ready and out the door. When it’s time to go, you nicely say, “OK, put your shoes on please.” Your child refuses. You try your best, but you end up yelling and threatening to take away their favorite toy. You might make it out the door, but you feel like you’ve failed at parenting once again.

If this scenario feels familiar, you’re not alone. With so much advice floating around it can be hard to know what to try next. If you’re looking for a more tender approach, gentle parenting might be worth trying.

The evidence-based parenting style uses guidance and choices over demands and discipline. It gives children expectations that help set them up to succeed. The idea is to approach that relationship from a place of respect and empathy, helping children garner the tools they need to navigate emotions as they grow up. How you respond to them will determine what the relationship will look like years down the line.

Heading Out the Door

You’ve got seven snack options packed and you’re ready to hit the road. But there’s one more task yet to do: get out the door and into the car. You have to prepare your child ahead of time, explaining that unwanted behavior is often eliminated when children know what is expected of them.

You can say, “In a little bit of time we are going to leave to go to the store. You will need to put your shoes on now so that you are ready to go. Young children typically can understand the concept of “little” easier than a specific amount of time.

Time To Turn off the Screens

Ending screen time can be a tough transition. The key here is to set expectations before it begins. Discuss the amount of time allowed and what the plan is for when it’s over. By using a timer that your child can set themselves when the time is up, offer an option for them to do next. Say something like, “Once your device is on the charger, you can play with your dinosaurs.”

Your Child Runs Off in Public

Taking kids to a place with a lot of people can be stressful. A good idea is to set them up for success and tell them your expectations. You can say, “We’re going to the store. It’s important that you stay close to me so that you are safe.” If your child starts walking away or leaving your immediate area, get on their eye level and calmly remind them of your expectations.

Leaving the Park or a Playdate

Unfortunately, part of parenting is deciding when the fun is over and it’s time to go. Of course, that’s not always easy to do. Again, discuss expectations ahead of time. Talk about what kinds of things they might do there and that when you say it’s time to go, they’ll have to stop playing and be ready to leave.

Coming in From Playing Outdoors

When it’s time to head inside after playing, do you feel pressure to get your children cleaned up, fed, and into bed at a decent hour? You’re not alone. Keep your own expectations low and don’t put too many tasks on your kids at once either. They can get overwhelmed easily, so keep the directions simple. Say something like, “It’s time to come inside and get cleaned up.”

Your Kid Wants To Buy Something at the Store

For many parents, a trip to the store ends in an argument with their child about what they are or aren’t buying. Teach them how to express what they are feeling and how to express themselves. It’s OK to acknowledge that you’ve heard what they would like, but right now you need their help selecting another item. Remember to remain calm, and if possible, offer a distraction.

Not Sitting Down To Eat a Meal

Routines are extremely helpful in teaching your child how to know what to expect. Dinnertime is a perfect situation in which to implement a routine and explain to your child why mealtime is important. Tell them that it’s a time for everyone to be together and talk. But also make it fun! Ask them what their favorite part of their day was. Make sure to tell them yours, too. This will help build a connection with your child.

Another way to enhance mealtime is to let your child help. Ask them to get involved in planning and preparing meals or to help clean up. Try to limit your control during this process. It will help them gain a sense of purpose in the household and foster their independence.

Not Listening While Playing Around Water

Water play can be a stressful activity for parents. Always be sure to go over rules and remember to reinforce them each time you are around water. If your child does something inappropriate, tell them that if they continue to be unsafe, they’ll need to take a break. And when it comes to safety rules and consequences, she notes that follow-through is important. You may need to provide space between your child and the activity until they can show you that they are safe.

Hard Time Getting Used to Bedtime

Many parents dread bedtime. Everyone is worn out, and you still have to get the kids into bed and hope for some kid-free time before your head hits the pillow. Routine predictability is key and having a regular routine is a great way for your kids to get used to bedtime. Try to keep it the same each night if you can.

The Bottom Line

No parenting style is perfect, and every child is different, so gentle parenting may not always work. But if it’s a style you want to try and follow, remember to always acknowledge your child’s feelings. Give them choices and celebrate when something goes well. And remember, you can always try again next time.

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