TikTok isn’t just home to teens ad libbing to synchronised dancing, or funny clips of dogs, or instructional videos on how to make sushi from scratch. It’s also the new home to everything from medical advice and parenting techniques.
One parenting technique that has been making waves is known as gentle parenting.
Gentle parenting isn’t new per se, but it’s gaining traction on the video sharing platform amongst parents and parenting coaches. They describe gentle parenting as believing that children deserve respect, and all that behaviour, whether a tantrum or a meltdown, are all forms of communication. By seeing it from that perspective, children are allowed to process their emotions in their own way, without fear of judgement, correction, or reprimand.
If you think being a gentle parent is easy or lazy, think again
Given that the whole basis of gentle parenting recognises the fact that kids are not developmentally at that stage whereby they can communicate their needs and desires effectively, there is a common misconception is that gentle parenting allows children to act however they want without any repercussions. But that’s not at all the truth.
Traditionally, many parents are ‘reactive’ parents, whereby they react to their children’s behaviours and try to stop actions they do not like. Gentle parenting, or positive parenting, approaches this from a different perspective – instead of trying to train their children to be perfect, they guide the child to better behaviour by being a stellar role model themselves.
This is thought to be much more effective than screaming at a child for not doing what you expect them to do. Furthermore, screaming or acting angrily towards your child will show them that they are entitled to scream or act out when they don’t get their way.
Discipline is the very foundation of positive parenting
Staying in control of your temper and being consistent is not easy, but to be a gentle parent, you will have to be proactive and remember these key elements in parenting:
Understanding your child, including their developmental milestones. Are they capable of communicating or regulating their emotions? Children tend to not do things to displease us or make their parents angry intentionally, it’s a reactive emotion that will only incite fear.
Empathising with your child. To you, as an adult, something like a broken banana isn’t something to cry about, but twenty years down the road, you can look back and laugh at your own foolishness. But we have something that children don’t: life experience. So don’t laugh at your child’s feelings, instead talk them through it and allow them to feel how they feel.
Respecting your child like you would respect a friend or a colleague. One TikTok mother made a series of videos talking to adults the same way that most adults talk to children. It drove a very strong point, and is one of the key takeaways of gentle parenting. If you won’t say that to an adult, don’t say it to your child.
According to the rules of gentle parenting, saying things like “Okay, playtime/work is OVER. Take your bath/lunch NOW” are all unacceptable phrases to both adults and children alike.
Gentle parenting aims to teach instead of subjugate or punish, because when you punish a child, all you’re teaching them is fear. But when you guide them and teach them, they grow.