I love Gentle Parenting, I would consider myself a Gentle Parent. But man oh man is it tough sometimes!
There are days when I literally feel like the worst parent in the world. That all this effort is for nothing if I can’t be gentle 24/7.
That if I fail, they’ll suffer the same detrimental effects as if I subscribed to mainstream parenting.
I want to share my personal coping strategies for when Gentle Parenting feels impossible – some practical ideas, some helpful equipment, some mantras.
Some of these posts will come from a place of peace and harmony – from a “here’s what worked for me” point of view. These are my day-to-day strategies.
But other times, I will be writing from the trenches.
When I need to have an intervention with myself.
An escape from impulses of rage or frustration or terrible sadness.
To avoid being driven to less-than-gentle parenting methods.
When I am *this* close to admitting defeat.
That’s when my follow-up posts will really come into play:
But first, what can we do to lessen the chances of reaching that point of overwhelm in the first place?
Day-to-day Coping Strategies
Allow yourself Bucket Days
Perfectionism is the enemy of peaceful parenting . I know from painful experience, as this is a major trigger of mine.
The real kicker is that kids never stay the same. Just when you think you’ve figured out how to make things run smoothly, they change. Suddenly, you are floundering in the dark again!
If you aren’t careful, perfectionism will pounce and leave you ready to quit.
Tag-team with your partner
Parenting has got to be a 50:50 deal. If the work isn’t split equally, it leads to resentment, favouritism, good cop bad cop, and (in extreme circumstances) relationship breakdown.
I have such admiration for single parents! I know if I had to raise our twins solo I would find it incredibly difficult to parent gently.
The 70:30 Parent
I have already touched on the fear of damaging our kids through non-gentle parenting. There are many good reasons we chose this life philosophy – reasons grounded in science.
Gentle parenting is about the long game: the long-term mental and emotional well-being of our children. As a result, it doesn’t always yield the same short-term results as, say, punishments & rewards or sleep training.
If the benefits hinged on 100% consistency then we’d all be doomed to fail!
Gentle Parenting is tough and takes stamina. Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s 70:30 theory is incredibly freeing, and a blessed relief.
Secure some babysitting
For my own family, overnight babysitting wouldn’t be the right choice. We feel that night time is when our boys are most vulnerable and arguably need their parents most. We’ve decided to forgo night time babysitting – at least until they are old enough to be part of the discussion!
However: I can’t overstate how much it benefits my parenting when I have had a little daytime break.
It’s not about needing time-off from my kids – they are my favourite people!
But I do need time-off from striving to be a good mum. From maintaining self-control and working against the triggers from my own upbringing.
Plus, it’s good to find time to pursue my hobbies too!
Pick your battles
Mainstream parenting revolves around training kids out of behaviours that, to be honest, I wouldn’t actually consider misbehaviour.
For example, trying to get children to sit still. Why is this a problem? Surely we want our kids to exercise? Does it hurt anyone if they are fidgeting around/exploring the room?
If every little behaviour becomes a battle ground, both parties default to conflict mode.
Parenting became much easier when I decided to reduce excess boundaries, but make sure the important ones were consistently upheld:
Anything that harms people or things is to be avoided.
Anything else can be negotiated.
Get some Headspace
I’ve been using a mindfulness app to try to decompress my brain a bit and reevaluate my priorities. In all honesty, I haven’t been consistent enough with it! However, the periods of time when I get back into the groove are always my most peaceful.
It’s easy to get self-involved as a parent. If you are a SAHP, you can feel alone a lot of the time, and get to introspecting. For example, there are two ways to view the kind of time I am having today:
“My boys are being difficult. I have been ill, I am exhausted, the housework has piled up since I’ve been out of action and I am pretty lonely.
I am fed-up of having no adult company! My boys refuse to settle and are being so clingy – I just want to scream at them ‘Why won’t you just sleep! What’s wrong with you? I am already holding you, why are you still crying?'”
But that line of thought is selfish and unhelpful. It sews division, and doesn’t accurately reflect their motives or stage of brain development.
Reframing forces me to get out of my own head and have empathy for my children:
“They are having a rough time. They are feeling lonely/uncomfortable/scared.
They are picking up on my negative emotional energy. It’s making them unsettled because they can’t rationalise it.
They can’t communicate what is preventing them from getting the sleep they need, other than to cry.
They need me to be their safe place throughout the night as well as the day. It’s a powerless feeling, to be a baby, with no control over your environment. There’s no guarantee that your parents will ever return.
If I were in their position, I would do just the same.”
This one is two-fold; first: Did I cause this in some way?
For example, getting annoyed that the kids broke something… then admitting that actually I was the one who left it where they could reach it, and should know better!
So really, I am annoyed at myself, and taking it out on the kids.
Second: Is there some internal reason why I’m so much more short-tempered today?
Am I annoyed at my spouse? Lonely? Irritated by something I read online?
Often my reaction has more to do with how I’m feeling than how they’re behaving.
Used with kind permission from Look With Love Bridgett
The Golden Rule
‘Treat others as you would want to be treated’.
This is actually from the Bible (Matthew 7:12). My faith plays a huge part in my decision to parent gently.
But even for non-Christians, this is the essence of Gentle Parenting.
Put yourself in their shoes. Have empathy for them. How would it feel if it was you? How would you want your own mum/dad to respond if you were the child?
If I haven’t been looking out for myself enough, then I find it impossible to give my best to my family. I become more tetchy, ruder, sadder, more lethargic. Self-care can feel selfish and indulgent. This is only because we parents are used to giving and giving and putting our family first.
But if you reframe it, you’ll see we must take responsibility for our own well-being.
Does your family deserve a narky Mama? Then maybe you need to prioritise that singing lesson, that face mask, that massage, that coffee date with yourself!
There are also many ways to practice self-care that don’t cost money, for example: meditation, reading, walking, drinking more water, etc.
The Wonder Weeks
A really helpful book & app that enables you to understand what the child is going through from a brain development perspective.
It’s so much easier to have empathy for your children if you have an idea of what they are going through.
Bit of a sanity saver really!
All babies go though the same changes in the mental development at the same time. This is called a mental leap. With each leap, your baby is given the possibility to learn new things. And every baby wants to learn, much less master, these new skills, as learning these makes him master that ‘puzzle’ or ‘chaos’ that is in his brain since the leap. Learning new things helps him to get through the fussy phase and is good for his development for the rest of his life.
– The Wonder Weeks
Check your Job Description
Don’t waste precious time and energy on things that aren’t your job!
Surround yourself with positive influences.
Whatever you fill your mind with will come out in your behaviour.
So make sure you are feeding your mind a diet of parenting advice and research that sits well with your values. I find my Facebook feed is the best way of shovelling it in!
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Life with a baby is stressful. Life with twins can be off the charts! But there are myriad ways I can make this easier.
If I put in the extra effort to make sure everything is organised and where I need it to be, I spend less time flapping about. The whole day goes more smoothly!
It’s about reducing the stressors that you actually can control, so you have more capacity to cope with the stuff that you can’t!
Wait it out
Often, if I pay attention to why I am getting impatient, or why the kids are reacting badly, it’s because I am rushing them. Rushing them out of the door, rushing to get to bed time, getting irritated at how long it takes them to drop off to sleep.
But rushing babies NEVER WORKS.
It just riles everybody up.
So, intentionally kissing goodbye to the need for speed and letting the day run at its own pace brings a lot of peace!
So, to recap:
1. Allow yourself Bucket Days.
2. Tag-team with your partner.
3. The 70:30 Parent.
4. Secure some babysitting.
5. Pick your battles.
6. Get some Headspace.
7. Practice Reframing.
9. The Golden Rule.
10. Self Care (General).
11. The Wonder Weeks
12. Check your Job Description.
13. Parenting Heroes
14. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation.
15. Wait it out.
For more immediate measures, check out the rest of this series:
Does this struggle resonate with you? Do you have any further tips for reducing the overwhem? Comment below to let us know!