Life Changing Question: Who Should We Hang Out With?

Gentle Parenting Hanging Out Socialising with Non Gentle Parents

This feels like the first life changing question my gut instinct doesn’t help me answer. Is it beneficial to hang around with other people who are not gentle in parenting or teaching style? Will exposing my 3 young children to, in my opinion, unhealthy emotional or physical situations cause any harm? On the flip side, would avoiding exposure to different types of people cause any harm? These questions will be looked at in the following blog post.

Benefits to Different Parenting Styles

As with every social interaction in life, differences make the world a significantly better place to live in. One reason I don’t like the idea of putting my children in school is due to the discrimination of classes all being of the same age range. With our decision to homeschool, I knew there would be a wealth of expriences and knowledge our children could learn from other age groups too. This form of learning will be unique in comparison to schooled children.

Having exposure to the opposite end of the parenting spectrum, the authoriation style, is likely to help children have empathy towards others. Witnessing another child being smacked or controlled may be the only experience your children have that people can be hurt or manipulated by loved ones. This could help them treat friends with understanding, as well as feel grateful for their own upbringing.

Impact On Children of Witnessing Different Parenting Styles

As can be seen above, there could be a number of benefits to having a varied social network. However, on finally taking the 3 kids out alone into the social world, I became increasingly worried about the effects of some of the families and groups of people we were meeting.

The trigger for feeling this anxiety, and therefore the whole basis of this blog post was that another mother complimented my son’s toy as ‘by far the best one’ out of my 3 children’s equivalent items. All 3 children were engaged in that particular conversation. My other 2 children no longer play with either of their toys, having had a love for them before. It made me worried about all sorts of impacts, such as sibling rivalry, if similar comments were made towards my son frequently.

The more I’ve considered this though, the more I realise it’s not the fact of how she’s parenting her children that worries me. I was aware we had differences in our parenting before inviting her to our house, and didn’t find it bothersome. In fact, her different parenting choices helped reinforced my own decisions. The reason this particular instance affected me is because it was someone else’s comment directed at my children.

So where does this leave me? That potentially this family are not suitable friends unless she can keep her personal child preferences to herself? It’s not my place to force someone to say, or not say, certain things. Also, there will be all sorts of people over the years who make comments about preferring one child or one child’s belongings over another. Ultimately, is this scenario that bad to end a possibly great friendship?

Impact On Gentle Parents Being Around Different Parenting Styles

It affected me quite deeply that another parent would discuss their preference towards one of my children in front of all 3. I make great efforts to ensure all 3 of my children feel equally loved. I do this by watching the words I say, not praising any of my children, attempting not to shame my children when they hurt each other, but also enforcing clear boundaries over treatment of their siblings (e.g. not hitting each other).

Frankly, following all of the above parenting strategies is sometimes overwhelming and exhausting. Physically intervening with an angry child can be physically challenging too. Do I put all of this effort in to expose my children to harmful comments that could blow all of my efforts out of the water?

Effects of Avoiding Other Non-Gentle People

Truly, how many gentle parents are around us? Even the ones that are may not follow the same decision to homeschool, or may not understand intrinsic motivation, among many other decisions we make as parents. I can personally vouch for how challenging the isolated life is with toddlers, having done it since the twins were born until they were about 2.5 years old. Therefore my gut instinct tells me it could be detrimental to avoid socialising with other people. Even if our kids weren’t affected by a limited social network, I was feeling lonely in that isolated world.

Through writing this blog post, I have come to realise that us following gentle parenting boundaries will power our children through these sorts of scenarios. If my children felt sad or jealous about the things another person said, then that’s absolutely fine and I can be there to help them deal with those new emotions.

The bottom line for a child is that they do not feel less valued by their parent(s). This means that they aren’t compared to their siblings, and that there’s no obvious parental preference, as well as having a connected relationship to encourage conversations about any doubts or worries. The key part is the parent’s role, not an outsider or friend’s role in their lives.

To put it in context, we have multiple children of similar ages, all of whom are homeschooled. This means over their childhood, they will no doubt be exposed to similar friendships and people. Inevitably some of these people will prefer one child, whilst others will prefer another. The feeling of consistent love and equality of value to their siblings will come from their parents, which will be their rock to carry them through any hurtful comments they may hear.

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