“Okay, Buddy, it’s time to put your shoes on. We have to go.”
“I don’t want to.”
“You have to wear shoes… so what are we going to do?”
“But Mom, those shoes need socks. I don’t want to put socks on. I hate socks.”
“Well, okay, what shoes would you like to wear that don’t require socks?”
Our youngest happily trots off to find other shoes that will work for the day.
Yes, this is my life now. It seems surreal to be honest. It wasn’t always like this.
As a parent you know every kid has their own little bunch of quirks. I am a mom of a child that hates to wear socks. Sumitha has bemoaned her child’s refusal to wear jackets, coats or leggings. Lisa has spoken of her daughter’s irrational fear of water. Spend a few minutes looking through the comments on this site (or any parenting site), and you’ll come away with tons of stories about kids refusing to eat, sleep, brush their hair or any number of things that drive us parents insane.
2 years back I used to trip up big time with my son’s Socks Issues. I have 3 sons. Getting them out the door on any given day is like herding cats. Who has the time to deal with the irrational whining about socks, right?
Tears, orders, screaming, threats… we’ve been through it all.
And yet, these days, most of the time instead of power struggles we have peaceful discussions.
Do you want to know what made the difference? A decision to be a positive gentle parent.
I’m going to shoot straight with you. I once was a really negative parent. In fact, I was a bit of a negative person all the way around. It is going to show through what you are about to read.
I still struggle not to judge myself for how harshly I once judged something I knew nothing about.
And the switch to positive parenting has neither been easy nor without epic fails.
But I can say one thing unequivocally — this choice has turned my home from a constant battle field to a place of calm, open communication.
I hope something here will resonate with you if you are struggling with parenting. According to a study conducted by Oregon State University, “Children who experienced high levels of negative parenting were more likely to be antisocial and delinquent as adolescents.” I know no parent wants these results for their children, but the change begins with us.
So I am going to be candid. I’m going to share with you the good, the bad and the ugly of what I once thought of positive, gentle parenting and what I found out once I finally gave it a go.
What I Thought Of Positive, Gentle Parenting Before I Tried It
1. I thought it was a ‘weak’ style of parenting.
When I first became a mom I had no clue what I was doing. I fumbled around for the first few years mimicking every parenting style I came into contact with just trying to find a little direction.
So when I came across the parents that were gentler in their approach, I only noticed them in the instances when their kids were not immediately jumping up and responding to the gentle approach of their parents.
I naturally just assumed that it didn’t work. I thought, “Why don’t they just show the kid who the boss is?”
I basically just assumed that the parents were all push-overs and their kids were going to grow up not knowing any boundaries because of this approach.
2. I thought the kids would bull-doze the parents.
When I first started observing different styles of parenting, I was told by many people ‘you have to get their attention.’
What they meant was you have to assert authority in an aggressive tone so your kids will remember that you are ‘the boss.’
The fear that drives this way of thinking is a parent being absolutely ran over by their child. After all, if we can’t ‘control’ our kids whatever will we do? (note sarcasm)
That was the fear that drove me to think that if I approached my kids in a gentle way, they’d immediately take full advantage of my kind approach to a situation and rule the roost.
3. I thought my kids would grow up to be self-centered and weak individuals.
I thought if I didn’t bark orders and demand my children’s respect and attention then they wouldn’t learn how to respect authority figures in the future.
It was a fear of mine that they would think the whole world revolved around them because a gentle approach might lead them to feeling a sense of entitlement and becoming consumed with themselves.
At the worst, I feared my kids wouldn’t know how to take a hit in the real world. You have to ‘toughen’ them up before you throw them out there, right?
To sum it all up: I was afraid.
And then one day, I was hit with reality.
What had started as snapping at kids had tuned into a “yelling habit”. It sometimes even bled into other parts of my life. I remember clearly a very nasty fight I had with a person I didn’t particularly like.
One thing led to another and before I knew it, they were criticizing my parenting. They said I yelled too much, and I was screwing my kids up.
That stung. But it was a bit of an eye-opener. I looked around me in defense. There was another person close to me who parented the exact same way as me. I paid close attention to their interaction with their child. It wasn’t pretty. For the first time I actually saw how I did not want to be.
That was my trigger point. I knew I needed to change my approach to parenting. I began my positive parenting journey, even though I didn’t even know that was what it was called at the time.
What I Know About Positive, Gentle Parenting Now That I’ve Tried It
1. It is the strongest form of parenting out there
Now that I’ve tried this, let me tell you… it takes a lot of strength to be a positive, gentle parent!
Anyone can yell when they are angry; bark demands when they are in a rush; or require that everything go their way at all points in the day.
However, it takes strength to control those emotions so you can communicate effectively. It takes strength to put your relationship with your child over the daily stresses or even our own selfish desires. You have to regulate your regular human reactions constantly in order to parent in a positive manner.
We aren’t always flawless; I know that. But positive parents keep trying and trying even when their emotions get the better of them.
2. Positive parenting is not permissive parenting
According to Dr. Ari Novick at selfgrowth.com, “Permissive parenting is where parents let the children have a free rein; rules made are not consistently adhered to.”
This is what I once thought positive parenting was. What I have realized now is that it is actually very different.
Positive parenting means that you have set boundaries, but you allow the kids to give their input on these said rules and consequences for pushing those boundaries.
Positive parenting is not a free pass for kids to run rampant. It just means that instead of barking and demanding things from your children that you take the time to communicate with them. You enroll them in the process of clearly defining what the acceptable behavior is and what happens when the rules are broken.
And rules will inevitably be broken. When this happens at first, you try to understand the reasons why the rules didn’t hold. If it makes sense, you get rid of old rules and make new rules. You work on it together with your kids to find something that is acceptable for all.
Once you find the rules that work for your family, you stick with them. Within the boundaries you give your child complete freedom. And, if the rules are still broken, you deal with it in a consistent, gentle, empathetic manner.
That is the total opposite of permissive parenting.
Take for example the case of my son refusing to wear socks.
If I still practiced my old authoritarian style of parenting, I would yell at my son and brook no arguments… he had to wear his socks and shoes when I told him to and that was that.
If I was a permissive parent, I would let my child run barefoot. Or in cases where that was just not an option, I would bribe him with treats and trinkets just to get him to wear his shoes.
As a positive parent though, I did 2 things: (a) try to understand why my son was dragging his feet about wearing shoes and (b) keep the eye on the ball – i.e., I remembered that what I want is for him to wear some footwear and we get out of the house on time… whether the footwear included socks or not is really irrelevant. We talked about it and came to a quick solution that worked for both of us.
At first it took effort to think this way. Now it is mostly second nature.
Positive parenting allows for healthy boundaries to be set in the midst of healthy relationships being formed. It is the parenting style that I most want to be remembered for.
When I dreamt of being a parent, I knew I wanted to be the type of mom that had well-behaved, strong children. However, I also wanted us to have a good relationship, where I could talk to them freely and they would come to me if ever in trouble instead of being scared of me and trying to hide things from me.
I’m thankful because making the choice to be a positive, gentle parent has allowed me to travel a path to fulfill my parenting dreams.
3. My family has more balance with positive parenting
My days prior to positive parenting were filled with me yelling and my kids ignoring me. They got so used to my barking and making constant demands that they grew immune to it.
So the approach of ‘you have to get your kids attention’ was failing. On top of that, my kids really didn’t like me. If I’m honest, I didn’t like me either. I was making myself miserable following other’s instructions to ‘keep control of my home.’
Now that I’ve decided to parent my way (i.e., a gentler, positive approach that speaks to my heart) my home is way more balanced. We still have conflict which is natural, but we handle it differently.
We communicate about our problems. We resolve to find solutions for the issues instead of just bypassing problems all together and creating demands that really solve nothing.
I still have bad days. They just happen. I become short fused and snippy with my kids because they aren’t moving fast enough for my taste. However, now on those bad days, I force myself to slow down.
That is another thing I love about positive parenting, it forces me to continuously work on myself. So on my short days, I know I’m short because of a ‘gap’ I have somewhere in my life.
It is usually because I’m overwhelmed by a schedule that I allowed to be jam packed. Those are the days I force myself to take a time out and revisit a situation once I’ve dealt with my own ‘gap’ issue.
4. My kids are stronger now
I find it rather comical that I once was worried that my children were going to be weak or self-centered because I was a positive parent.
Positive Parenting is all about leading by example. That takes strength. How that could ever make a child weak is beyond me.
I am happy to report that now that I have embraced this positive parenting style my kids are much happier and well-adjusted individuals. They are comfortable with expressing themselves and are becoming more confident in who they are.
I had a great example of this just last week.
Our youngest used to be petrified of being in front of people. He wouldn’t do the Christmas play at our church because he didn’t want people looking at him. We have worked really hard at helping him to be comfortable in his own skin and trying to help him be himself no matter what.
Through lots of one on one time and words of affirmation, he performed in the Mother’s Day celebration at our church. He not only sang but decided he was going to add a little dance (which was not a planned attribute), but it made me happy to see him so comfortable in who he is.
It is an awesome thing to experience this transformation in their lives.
5. I have peace with my parenting
When I was first confronted about my parenting almost two years ago, I had no peace in who I was as a mother. I don’t think I was in fact ‘screwing my kids up’, but I was very unsure about how I was supposed to guide them in a way that worked for us.
I feel good about the way I’m raising them now. We have a good relationship, even on our ‘human’ days. I have a better understanding of who they are and how they are feeling.
One of our boys is a teenager now. It makes me feel really good that we actually enjoy him. I have so many friends that have teenagers, and they are battling each other constantly or worse, they don’t communicate at all.
That isn’t the case within our family. We talk and enjoy our relationships even in the imperfect moments.
I think that is what parenting is about, raising great kids while enjoying them at the same time. So I feel confident that if the same remarks were made to me today that were made all of that time ago, I’d probably just let it roll right off my back.
I’ve learned to accept my imperfections but also see past them. I know who I am. I know I’m a good mom and love our boys with all I have. I know I’m not always as positive and gentle as I’d like, but I really try.
I know our boys are very well adjusted and while our family isn’t perfect, we love each other and enjoy doing life together. Isn’t that really all any parent can hope for?
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
Let’s do a quick review to see where you stand with positive parenting.
- What do you think of positive parenting?
- Have you taken the plunge to find out how positive, gentle parenting will work for your family?
- If yes, what have you learned from embracing positive, gentle parenting?
- If no, what’s still holding you back? Let us know in the comments… Sumitha and I will both do our best to see if we can answer some of your concerns.
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Positive parenting is a journey. And like any journey, things can sometimes feel like a dreadful uphill climb or that you are stuck in a low valley. Commit to sticking it out not matter where you are on this journey.
You will hear a lot of naysayers who haven’t tried positive, gentle parenting speak it down. But I have yet to find someone who has actually tried it (or for that matter any research studies) that suggest that this doesn’t work.