Lately I have heard all sorts of gems from the mainstream parenting department. Comments like, “No you can’t have that cookie until you eat all of your McNuggets and milkshake” and “Gia refused to pick up her room so I took away her favorite movies”. Comments about how to manipulate your children into being perfect little robots and how to use guilt to get whatever emotion is required at the moment. (Say sorry or else you are going straight to your room!) People, there is a GENTLE way to parent!!!! Sure, I am learning too, but here are a few steps that I have taken that may help you on your journey.
1. TREAT YOUR CHILDREN LIKE PEOPLE- Do you make your best friend ask to go to the bathroom? Do you berate your husband for not finishing all of his food? No, of course not!! So why is it ok to do this to your children? Your child knows when he or she is hungry or full, has to go to the bathroom at inconvenient times like everyone else, and will remember the mean comments and irrational punishments. Is dropping a plate of food or asking for a cupcake really worth ruining your relationship over?
2. LOOK AT THE SPECIFIC SITUATION- If your kids are fighting all the time take a look at why the fighting is going on, not the actual hitting or yelling. My girls tend to bicker when they are cleaning their rooms or helping around the house- Gabby complains that AJ isn’t helping, she gets mad and starts to cry, AJ gets mad and throws things, then I jump in and get upset that they are fighting instead of helping keep their space sorted. So to put a stop to it we decided that they need to tidy different rooms and have different sets of chores to choose from. This way AJ understands her choices and Gabby knows that she is not the only one helping out.
3. BE FORWARD MINDED- The best way to handle issues is to think about the problem going forward. If your son is constantly destroying books then do not leave special ones within reach and give him something that he is allowed to rip up and destroy. Do not punish him for the initial destruction because chances are, even if you told him not to do it, he forgot in his curiosity. Moira really likes to climb, anything that is climbable she heads that way quickly. So we make sure to fold up chairs, put stools away, and I let her climb stairs and such whenever I can in a safe way.
4. LET GO- Your kids are not robots and are not perfect. You have kids and your house is not going to always look perfect. You are human and there are days when you are going to look less than perfect. It’s OK. Your day doesn’t have to look like everyone else and your life shouldn’t look like anyone else. If you concentrate on your relationship with your kids then everything else will fall into place. This is the hardest one for me because I get caught up with the magazine image of a flawless home complete with stain free furniture and spotless floors. I sacrifice my children’s fun for a clean playroom and then realize, “what’s the point in it if they don’t actually play?”. Let’s just say I am working on it…
5. SAY YOU ARE SORRY AND MEAN IT- This one is HUGE! Yes, you are human and will yell, but get down on their level and say you are sorry. Not only will this teach them about saying sorry far better than forcing an apology, but they will respect you more for it. By saying sorry you are admitting that sometimes you are wrong too and that you are going to try not to make the mistake again. It is so very important to a good relationship, not only with your kids but with everyone you means a lot to you.
So there you have it. Hopefully this helps anyone else struggling to be a bit more gentle out there!