The path to gentle parenting often looks a little different for each family. The story I most often hear comes from a desire to stop spanking; either because it isn’t working, or because the parents have developed a conviction against it. For others, its because they see a disconnect between the way they manage all of their other relationships in life and the way they manage their relationships with their children, and they desire to rectify the two. Oft heard in gentle parenting circles is the sentiment that we ought to treat our children as whole people—with the respect and dignity that we willingly offer to every other relationship in life that we care for.
I became interested in gentle parenting when I was pregnant with my daughter. As my husband and I grew deeper and deeper in love with the sweet baby in my womb, I knew I wanted to do whatever it took to love and respect her. Gentle parenting made so much sense to me. What I couldn’t have expected is how it would actually have an inverse effect on me; as I sought to learn how to empathize with Evelyn, the blind spots in my life where I have not empathized very well with friends, or my husband, or my neighbors also became apparent. As I sought to learn how to help her deal kindly with her emotions, I realized that I often do not deal kindly with my own or other people’s. And as I learned about how important it is to be intrinsically motivated, I started sorting through the areas in my life where I have bought into external reward systems as the sole motivation for accomplishing something. I started to realize that perhaps I wasn’t always willfully offering the respect that we so esteem to these other relationships in my life. My path to gentle parenting started to expose places in my own life where I have taken shortcuts, or swept things under the rug, or dealt with emotions in unhealthy ways. In my desire to be a great parent to a great kid, I found myself also becoming a better wife and a better friend.
I pray that, as you seek to become the best parent you can be, you would also be challenged by the concepts of gentle parenting to become not just a gentle parent, but a gentle person.