Monday, May 20, 2013

Gentle Parenting

I've noticed lately a lot of my blog posts are coming in response to other blog posts that I've read. Some solely because of what the post was about, and some in conjunction with other situations I have observed. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the other parents and bloggers out there who give me so much food for thought.

Today's reflections are on "Gentle Parenting".

Last week I met a friend of mine for lunch. She is also a new(ish) mom, and her little one is just one month older than Baby. As we were catching up she was telling me about life, and juggling a baby and a new part time job. As is common when you have an infant, the topic of baby sleep came up. She asked how Baby was sleeping (to which I replied "just fine") and then told me about her own situation. Her son's sleep patterns changed drastically at 4 months when they could no longer swaddle the baby to sleep. At the end of their rope she and her husband hired a baby sleep consultant who put them on a strict bedtime and naptime routine. It seems to be working well. But she mentioned that sometimes her boy doesn't sleep during nap time. He just lays in his crib, sometimes crying for the whole 90 minutes. She checks on him every so often, but per the consultant's advice she does not remove him from the crib until nap time is over.

I have a second friend who's daughter is about 15 months old. She and her husband have just enrolled their daughter in a montessori daycare beginning in August. My friend was telling me they will have to work very hard to meet the minimum requirements, which include walking, and DD being able to sit in a chair (albeit a child sized one) by herself and feed herself with full size silverware. These requirements for enrollment allow the daycare to 'teach' children to be self sufficient from a young age.  

On Saturday I read an interesting blog post about 'gentle parenting'. The post was advice on how to better reason with a small child/toddler so that a parent wouldn't have to 'resort to spanking'. The author suggested phrases such as 'I won't let you do XYZ' rather than simply saying 'No' or 'You can't do XYZ'. She also said right out that patience and love would allow you to be a gentle parent without spanking. From which I inferred that being a gentle loving parent and using spanking as a form of discipline are mutually exclusive. 

Each of these examples have given me pause for consideration over the past week. When my friend offered me the contact information for her sleep consultant I politely declined. When my friend was talking about the hassle of finding a daycare, and finally settling on one she and her husband thought best for their child I was thankful that Boo works hard so that I have the privilege to be home with Baby. But the blog post really got me thinking.

I grew up in a home with spanking. And I truly believe I am a better person because of it. But I would also say that the discipline my parents enforced was both loving and gentle. But on the other hand I know plenty of people who grew up in homes where discipline included hitting that was neither loving nor gentle. But I think there is a huge difference between hitting a child and spanking a child. I also believe it is possible to be a loving, gentle parent and believe in spanking and to never raise a hand to your child but not be loving nor gentle. So I have taken issue with the implication that spanking = unloving and no spanking = loving. I have observed so many parents call their child a name without raising a hand. But that is no less abusive than hitting outside the realm of discipline and love.

I have always thought that I would be a gentle parent. And I knew that I would need to work on being a bit less Type A and a bit more patient but I want to be a good mom so those were challenges and self-growth that I looked forward to. I knew I would need to learn to be a parent, and I am still determined to learn to be a gentle and loving mother. When Baby was born, I had no idea how quickly I would need to learn. I think by the time he was 2 weeks old I had ditched the day planner (well mostly) and had stopped caring if my floors had little dust bunnies. And I have found that I am so much happier because of him. And oh the patience I have now. I never would have thought I could be so calm. What a wonderful teacher a baby can be! But every day presents new challenges, and my role as a mother is constantly changing.

Baby changes every day. Last week I didn't need to know how to teach him to be gentle because last week he didn't bite at the breast or pull my hair. This week is different. Who knows what lesson he will need to learn next week. I certainly don't. But I do know that parenting challenges will arise. And I know that in everything I do I want to communicate love to my son in a way that he understands and that will help him grow.

Mom says "You can always learn from every situation. You can learn what to do, or you can learn what not to do". I choose to let the examples above teach me. I do not think my 5 month old baby understands that naptime is from from 9-10am everyday. Therefore letting him cry in his crib for an hour even though he is not sleepy does not communicate in a way he can understand. That is not the kind of gentle parent I want to be. I do not want to rush away his baby moments to hurry along to the next milestone of walking or feeding himself. I want to cherish every moment that he is dependent on me because I know they will already pass too quickly. My kind of gentle parenting has a different way to teach him independence. And if or when it is necessary I will spank my child. I will teach him the rules and the consequences, and I will be faithful to follow through with discipline in a gentle and loving manner.

Just because I believe in spanking does not mean that I cannot be a gentle and loving parent.  To me gentle parenting is not the absence of spanking. Gentle parenting is teaching, guiding, disciplining and raising a child in love. Always in love. If I am thinking anything other than 'this action is what is best for my child, and I will do this because I love him' I am not being a gentle parent. The beauty is that my brand of gentle parenting could never be used universally. No other person could love another child in the exact same way that I love mine. And, I am sure I will have to learn a new way of being gentle when Baby gets a little brother or sister because there is no doubt that two different children will learn and understand differently. I don't take issue with the idea of gentle parenting. I take issue with a single definition to define every parent and child.


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