Written by Amber and updated by Sarena-Rae Santos in November of 2023.
Not everyone knows how to parent gently. Not everyone had the privilege of being raised in a home where gentle parenting was important. In fact, many people weren’t.
Most people have stories to tell at some point in their growing up of a time when adults treated them in a less than compassionate way. Unfortunately, in the not-to-distant past, children were seen as a detriment to society and were not treated with kindness or respect.
There was a common misbelief (and still is today) that gentle parenting is permissive parenting. It’s not!
If you were raised in a home where gentle parenting was non-existent, you may struggle as you try to raise your own children under a gentle parenting model.
What implications does that have on your parenting today? Does it mean that if you weren’t treated gently as a child, you wouldn’t know how to raise your children with love and compassion?
Not at all!
You Must Choose to Be Different
Just because you may not have been raised in an ideal situation does not mean you can’t become what you never knew! You can be an amazing parent despite the worst circumstances you may have been raised in.
The key is that you must choose to be different. It really becomes a mindset shift that definitely takes a concentrated effort since not parenting gently may be all you ever knew as a child.
Get Some Education on How to Parent Gently
Just like anything else, parenting can be studied as well. You may need to educate yourself to understand what the gentle parenting model actually looks like.
Reading books such as Unconditional Respect can be essential for teaching you how to become a gentle parent.
Of course, our blog also has tons of resources, and you could spend countless hours learning how to parent differently than you were raised.
Can You Find Anything Your Parents Did Well?
Stop for a minute and think:
Is there anything your parents did that you were thankful for or could copy into your own parenting? If you weren’t parented gently, you might have to dig deep into your heart to find some memories that resonate with you.
But the truth is, even the worst parent usually has something they did right.
Was your mom a good cook? Did your dad give you any advice?
I realize this might be a difficult exercise for you, but I would challenge you to take the time to truly think and see if you can find anything that your parents did well.
What Do You Want to Do Differently Than Your Parents Did?
Of course, you will probably have a running list of things you would like to do differently in your own parenting. And you know what? That’s not a bad motivator! Use the things your parents didn’t do in your childhood to parent your kids gently.
Did Your Parents hurt you as a Child?
If your parents hurt you when you were growing up, either physically or emotionally, then use the hurts you experienced as a motivator to never hurt your kids in the same way and essence — become more compassionate as a parent.
Let those emotional scars be a reminder not to do the same things to your children. It would be easy to follow the same pattern, but you don’t have to!
Continue to Work On Your Relationship With Your Parents
If the relationship allows, continuing to work on your relationship with your parents may very well be healing for you and your parenting relationship.
As you work through the resentment that comes from not being parented gently, treating your own kids with love, care, compassion, and understanding will be helpful.
Find a Role Model Who Knows How to Parent Gently
Is there someone you think does a good job of parenting gently in your life? Begin to copy what he or she does as a parent. This is especially important if you weren’t parented gently as a child.
Finding a good role model might be exactly what you need to start gently parenting your kids.
Break Your Own Bad Habits
If you weren’t parented gently, you probably have brought some bad habits into your own parenting.
If either of your parents lost their temper quickly, you may also struggle with that. I understand this may not always be true, but you get the picture! Work hard to break your own bad habits with your kids and change one thing at a time.
Give Yourself Grace
It will take time to become a gentle parent, especially when you may not have known that as a child.
When you fail (and you will), permit yourself to start over again, and don’t give up!
Realize That Kids Are Kids
Let’s face it! Kids know how to press every button. If you already struggle with not having had a good role model as you were growing up, then the chances are that your kids may know exactly how to frustrate you.
Keep a good understanding that your kids are really not trying to destroy your life! Remember that your kids are just kids. They won’t stay that way forever! Then it will be easier to parent gently even if you weren’t.
Connect With Your Kids
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to parent gently, even if you weren’t, is to connect with your children.
Why? Because when you really connect with your kids, you love them for who they are. It will be much easier to become a gentle parent. Instead of resenting your kids, you will develop deep, lasting relationships.
Do you have a teenager you can’t relate to? Work on the relationship! Do you struggle with your toddler? Find a way to connect!
Perhaps that was the missing connection between you and your parents when you were growing up. Use the knowledge of what your parents may not have done right to motivate you to become a better parent yourself!