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How to raise confident, independent children

What sort of parent do you want to be? It’s not usually a question that we ask ourselves, mainly because we are too busy ensuring our kids are safe, cared for and healthy. Often, we don’t have the time to consciously reflect on how we are parenting – we often just copy the style and patterns set by our own parents.

If your primary concern is raising children who are happy and confident, then have a look at an approach known as ‘gentle parenting’.

What is gentle parenting?

Gentle parenting is an approach to raising children who are happy and confident. It involves treating your children with empathy, respect and understanding within healthy boundaries.

Gentle parenting also means focusing on learning life lessons through patience and positive reinforcement rather than doling out punishment or causing fear. It is parenting without shame or blame. It means allowing children freedom to express themselves in ways that are socially acceptable.

Gentle parenting is not so much about using particular methods but rather about a set of attitudes towards parenting.

So how best could you approach this style of parenting?

  • Practice empathy

Empathy means being able to understand what your child is feeling at any given moment. If you are able to put yourself in your child’s shoes, you will have a clearer understanding of what is needed to resolve the situation in a calm and compassionate manner. We know that small children in particular are very emotional, and it helps if you try to understand, without judgment and with engagement and communication. It is also more likely that children who have been treated with empathy will grow up to be empathetic themselves.

  • Be understanding

Remember that you are dealing with a child whose thought patterns and emotions are far from being fully developed. It’s about understanding that their behaviour is probably entirely appropriate for their stage of development. Allow them their reactions and emotions, and make sure that they explore these in a safe environment.

  • Show respect

Mutual respect is at the heart of gentle parenting. It encourages compassion and acceptance. Showing a child respect through your language, tone and behaviour will provide a role model that hopefully will see your children growing up to be respectful of others. “Because I said so” is not the message you want to send. Rather, slow down, have patience, encourage and guide.

  • Create a partnership

If you see the relationship between you and your child as a collaboration, then choices will be made based on respectful engagement and followed by a child who is willing rather than one who has been forced. This style of parenting does not mean that boundaries have disappeared – rather, you guide your child using empathy and compassion towards mutually acceptable boundaries.

Sometimes parenting can be hard and it can help to talk to a mental health professional about any issues you may be facing.