When you start your gentle parenting journey, you quickly realise that simply doing the opposite of your parents or going with your gut reactions may not be the best way to parent. You soon become convinced this is the best way to raise your children as it helps build a strong connection between you and makes you all feel more in control and loving.
In the next interaction with your children, your partner ignores all the exciting information you’ve given them and yells at your kids. Your partner is adamant that your son / daughter needed that treatment. So where do you go from here? This blog post discusses how to more closely align your parenting with your partner.
When you become passionate about how to offer the best for your children but your other half is not fully on side, it can cause tensions in your marriage or partnership. You may have arguments frequently, feel undermined or worry about the effect the differing parenting approaches may have on your kids in the future. This can be psychologically draining to both you and your partner, as well as your children. But it is resolvable, and this post discusses ways to get your partner on board with your new parenting strategies.
Below is a list summarising the actions to try when dealing with different parenting styles. Each will be outlined further in this blog.
- Have a non-threatening conversation.
- Don’t underestimate their love for your children.
- Hear out their views and follow up with research.
- Present your own views, backed with research.
- Understand the path to becoming gentle.
- Step in with real-life examples with your own children.
- Create a page of quotes that may help motivate both of you into following gentle parenting.
- Don’t let third parties interfere with your discussions.
- Create a space with pictures or memories of any gentler influences on your lives.
Differences in opinions are an inevitable part of life, sometimes the other parent may never reach your level of passion or experience in being gentle. The following actions may assist in both of you at least understanding the other’s perspectives. Remember two minds are better than one. By your partner forcing you to debate and explain your new ideas, you may find it consolidates your knowledge even further. Even if your partner does not make changes as a result of your learning, you certainly will become a better Mum / Dad.
This section will cover how to have a conversation about your children without it blowing up into an argument, why it’s worth doing and what sort of words to use to help inspire your partner.
The first trigger that really came to me with my oldest daughter was when the twins were newborn. A visitor came to our house and wrongly assumed our daughter was going to hit one of the twins (she’d never hit at this stage, just adored hugging them). The guest raised her voice sternly at her “get away!” and said to me “she was going to smack him”.
After the guest had left, my daughter did go to hit one of the babies. I had no idea what to do and panicked, so I half shouted at her “you cannot do that!” and pushed her away. I felt horrendous about my reaction. I felt inside like I was becoming my mother. I then started researching what I could have done in that situation instead.
My daughter then started trying to hit one or both of the twins frequently – several times a day. I was getting so stressed with it. Professionals were recommending to tell her ‘gentle’ rather than say no, but it wasn’t working. My husband questioned my attempt to be gentle to our daughter, suggesting that she stopped to a raised voice.
I did further research which led me to trust my gut instincts. I did not want to raise an obedient child who did everything correctly in the present. Whilst that would be easy, I want to ensure my children grow up to love each other from their own internal desire to. Just because someone learns to behave in your presence, because you demand them to and instil fear in them to, does not mean they will behave this way when left alone.
To ensure they would choose to be gentle and kind even without me by their side, my gut told me I had to allow them to understand in their own minds why it is better to be kind to people, and to realise that they are entitled to feel strong emotions but they are not entitled to lash out at someone around them. I felt that the only way to ensure this is to follow my previous post about trauma.
Now I had it clear in my mind, I just needed to convince my husband that shouting was not an option. I took the following steps to let him know I empathised with him as well as help him understand the importance of gently parenting, especially at a time of high emotions for our daughter. Key themes of my conversation:
- I stated that we are a team.
- We both want the best for all of our children.
- That we don’t want our children to feel the anxiety and stress that we have in life.
- That we did want our kids to feel loved and happy when they are older, so they will feel comfortable in our company and therefore choose to spend time with us.
- It was common sense to me that through our own Mum’s shouting / smacking us it made us feel fearful of them.
- If someone had offered us peace to be ourselves and feel loved, even when we made mistakes or hurt someone, we would feel close to them now.
- I then read a few chapters to him from Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld’s ‘Hold Onto Your Kids’ book, which is all about connecting. I found that educating him with things that meant something to me helped him understand where I was coming from.
- My husband agreed and has been using me as a guide throughout his gentle parenting journey.
Don’t Underestimate Your Partner’s Love for Your Children
It is easy to feel frustrated towards your partner when they see your vision on how to gentle parent and yet continue reacting in the heat of the moment. It is important to accept that gentle parenting is a learning path. Gentle parents can take years to truly deal with their own childhood traumas and become the best parents they are able to be. I set up a process for my husband and I to follow so that when our kids needed discipline, we could refer to the really calm and gentle steps I put in place. It really helped my husband understand all that I had learnt.
Hear Each Others Views and Follow Up With Research
An important part of the gentle parenting philosophy is to accept that you will have differences in opinion. These differences between you as a couple will help you refine your gentle approach to your children. Follow up on any views your partner has with research to support or argue against his or her view. Google Scholar refers to scientific websites and I find it easy to find content quickly as it gives short abstracts to read. Look for more recent articles, as these have newer and more relevant research than something written 10 years ago.
Understand the Path to Becoming Gentle
The path to becoming gentle, especially if you come from a traumatic upbringing yourself, is a long and windy road. It can take time to realise that your children genuinely are trying to please you, want to connect with you and are not intentionally trying to disobey you. They are simply on a learning journey too. You are, say, 20 or 30 years further along the lifelong journey.
Gentle parenting involves accepting that you are all learning together and that life supporting each other kindly is significantly more enjoyable than battling with each other in power struggles. Even if you are further along your healing path than your partner, it does not mean that they will not reach their milestones too. They may just need more research, support and time.
Step in with Real Life Examples
If you feel confident in how to deal with your children in a certain situation and foresee that your partner is about to revert to their not-so-gentle reactions… step in! Take over for a minute. Let your partner witness what they could do to stay in control of themselves and also gentle guide your children. It helps them to witness first hand how special and loving a gentle parenting response can be. Especially when they see how calmly and happily your children respond to gentleness.
After the kids have gone to bed, you can then further expand on what you did, how they could have done the same, and ask them if they noticed how peaceful the whole situation ended (even if there were huge emotions from your children during the gentle interaction from you). Gordon Neufeld refers to ‘tears of futility’ and that if they are allowed to be expressed fully in your loving presence, the end of that emotional expression will always be a relaxed state of acceptance.
I would like to explain more about ‘tears of futility’. This is a process where someone, particularly toddlers when they reach the ‘terrible 2’s’, realises they can’t control something or a situation. They first try and change it. If change comes to no avail, they either have to accept it where tears pour out of them in sadness. If they refuse to accept it, they get angry and frustrated. If the frustration does not get anywhere, they start the process again. You want to assist your children to accept and grieve the fact that they cannot control all situations. This acceptance can be encouraged when they first express emotions by being there and encouraging their emotions to be expressed healthily. Please see the blog post about dealing with emotions here.
Motivational Quotes About Gentle Parenting
It is useful to have a page of motivational sayings, quotes or poems to refer to in times you are struggling. I have copied some of my quotes below as a starting point for your own:
Children do not experience our intentions, no matter how heartfelt. They experience what we manifest in tone and behaviour. (Gordon Neufeld)
Yelling silences your message. Speak quietly so your children can hear your words instead of just your voice. (L. R. Knost)
I was never worried my kids would be angry at me. I was only worried that they wouldn’t be angry enough. (See another of my blog posts for more analysis on this quote)
We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun. (Winnie the Pooh)
The secret of parenting is not in what a parent does but rather who the parent is to a child. When a child seeks contact and closeness with us, we become empowered as a nurturer, a comforter, a guide, a model, a teacher or a coach. (Gabor Mate, Gordon Neufeld)
Think before you speak and choose your words wisely because they say it is easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult.
The key to activating maturation is to take care of the attachment needs of the child. To foster independence we must first invite dependance; to promote individuation we must provide a sense of belonging and unity; to help the child separate we must assume the responsibility for keeping the child close. (Gordon Neufeld)
Meet your baby’s needs swiftly and gently. They won’t remember what you did or didn’t do at this stage, but they will always carry with them how it made them feel. (L. R. Knost)
Every day, in a hundred small ways our children ask, “Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?” Their behaviour often reflects our response. (l. R. Knost)
We help a child let go by providing more contact and connection than he himself is seeking. When he asks for a hug, we give him a warmer one than he is giving us. We liberate children not by making them work for our love but by letting them rest in it. (Gordon Neufeld)
One day your child will make a mistake or bad choice and run to you instead of away from you and in that moment you will know the immense value of peaceful, positive, respectful parenting. (L. R. Knost)
So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.
Love your kids when they misbehave because that’s when it matters most. You really feel love and see growth when expressed after you’ve shown your worst, than if you only receive love when behaving lovingly...
The goal is not to scare kids into not lying, hurting or defying but to care them into living truthfully, compassionately and considerately.
It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless. (LR Knost)
Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist. Michael Levine
When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, let go and live in the moment.
Don’t Let Third Parties Interfere with Your Discussions
As with any disagreement between people, try to stop other parties such as your own parents, to get involved in your arguments. This only adds pressure onto your partner and does not feel very supportive for them. Allow them to feel like you respect their choices but that you are both working towards the same goals. By following the above post for ideas on how to talk healthily to each other you will feel like you are both relating.
As a gentle parent, or aspiring gentle parent, you will value the effect that positive communication has on other people. Follow the same principles you have with your children when communicating with your partner about your parenting choices.
Pictures and Memories Space
The majority of people will have had somebody who was a gentler influence in their lives. Pick that person and focus on the positive feelings they brought you as a child. If you have special photos of them and of some of the happy memories they brought you, pull them out and frame them in a special place. You can then go to that place and take some time to reflect on how important being gentle will be to your own children.