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.