Author Archives: Colin

Doing Their Best

Gentle parenting isn’t easy.

I find it takes me phenomenal amounts of patience and understanding, and I find that I need to be constantly vigilant with regards responding to daily situations and happenings in a positive and calm way.

But of course there are other factors that impact upon the amount of patience I may have at any given time in the day, and this, without my meaning it to, affects how I deal with those everyday little situations that crop up when you have 3 little kids tearing about.

The factors I’m talking about are everyday life things, but that are external to both the situation at hand and to the concerns of the children involved. Perhaps I ate too much at lunch, and I don’t feel so good; perhaps I haven’t eaten; perhaps I’m thinking about work, or money, or my relationship, or frustrated at a little piece of code I can’t get to work.

Whatever it may be, such distractions can mean I don’t deal with a situation as positively and calmly as I could have. It ends up with me being frustrated at the children, they’re frustrated with me because of course they have no concept of the code I can’t get to work and why I might be frustrated by it, and ultimately with me being frustrated with myself.

But then think about it the other way around. What created the situation that required intervention in the first place? Perhaps the child involved has an upset tummy, perhaps they are hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or they have a bug working on them, or they simply just need some downtime.

One thing that helps me is something Jan Hunt wrote in her book The Natural Child, and it is something that I have found to be profoundly invaluable in trying to parent in a gentle and respectful way. It is that children are always doing their best. They are doing their best in any given situation, based on their level of knowledge, their experience, and how they are feeling at that precise moment in time.

They don’t have our level of experience, they don’t see situations the way we do, they’re not trying to be deliberately annoying, or obtuse. You’re their hero, and they can’t help but want to please you.

It’s also worth remembering that kids live in the moment. We, as adults don’t – we’re always thinking about something else, whether it’s what to make for dinner, or that we need to tidy the house. Children have none of these preoccupations; when they’re sitting in the mud, they’re thinking about mud, not the fact that they’re getting their clothes dirty and it’s going to mean extra washing.

Of course it’s not easy, and I for one find it very difficult. Walking into a situation, it’s hard to first stand back and think of how best to deal with it. But remembering, or at least trying to remember, these two things – that children are always doing their best, and that they live in the moment – I have found invaluable in helping to parent in a respectful, calm and considerate way.

For further reading, I highly recommend The Natural Child by Jan Hunt.


Hello.  My name is Colin, I’m an unschooling dad.

We have 3 children, aged 5, 3 and 1. Our eldest should have begun school last September, but after much deliberation we decided not to put him in. The big question I hear you ask of course is ‘Why?’ And of course this is a great question!

Home education, or unschooling is something Beth and I have thought about for a long time, and thinking back over the last 5 years or so, I guess it is something we always intended to do.

At it’s most basic, to my mind, the idea of a child sitting in a chair in a classroom surrounded by 30+ children of his own age, with 1 or 2 adults in the room, being told what to learn just doesn’t seem quite right. How does a child actually learn from this experience? How does it capture a child’s imagination?

But then I hear you ask, if your child isn’t in school, how do they learn? They learn, because they are children! Children have a vast appetite for knowledge, and they spend their entire days in pursuit of it. They learn through actual experience based on whatever is capturing their imagination right at any particular moment in time and space.  This allows them to develop independent ideas about these actual experiences as opposed to such ideas being determined by systems and methods.

This is a journey, for all of us, and one upon which we are just starting, and this is just an introduction – it is my plan to talk about our journey in more detail as we travel along this road.

There are plenty of unschooling resources out there, a great place to start is the Natural Child Project at