Gentle Parenting Hasn’t Worked, So Now What?

Posted by on Sep 26, 2023 in Gentle parenting | No Comments

gentle parenting doesn't workPerhaps you’re trying to negotiate your way through your child’s third tantrum of the day, but in the face of it, all your calm negotiation skills and empathy just disappear, exhaustion swamps you, and suddenly a thought crosses your mind that, until now, you’ve been able to quash. Things aren’t working! Perhaps you say to yourself in a calmer moment, Gentle parenting hasn’t worked, so now what?

It’s a low moment for a lot of people, but don’t worry. Have hope; there’s a lot you can do. First, it’s important to acknowledge how you got here and to recognize all the good intent in what you’ve done. You care; that’s quite obvious. Anyone who takes on the gentle parenting method is like most parents, wants to do their best, and is often willing to sacrifice a lot of their own personal comfort to make that happen. Practically every gentle parenting website that I’ve been on emphasizes how hard gentle parenting is and how dedicated you must be to pursue it because your child will test you. This explanation that I quote is typical. “Gentle parenting takes more time and dedication because it is an investment in validating your child’s feelings.”

I meet a lot of former ‘gentle parenting graduates’ and they’re lovely people who’ve finally decided that maybe their kids aren’t behaving the way they thought they would by now. Things are chaotic and stressful. Often, parents don’t want to take their kids out in public or to family events because they’re embarrassed by their behaviour and they get steely, rolled-eyed looks from people. Perhaps their child is rude, disrespectful, or talking back in a way they would never have believed they would, or perhaps every day is fraught with tantrums at an age when tantrums should have long disappeared. Perhaps their child has been kicked out of daycare or lost a nanny due to their misbehaviour.  Gentle parenting promises family serenity, love, emotional bonding, and self-regulating happy kids, yet people often wake up to find they have the opposite. So what went wrong?

Is it the approach, or is it the application of the approach? It’s easy to blame the parents and say that if they’d just practiced the gentle parenting approach correctly, then all would be well, but I would argue that’s unfair. The approach itself is almost impossible to do in the real world. It demands more than most parents, even the most dedicated parents, can give. In my view, it’s not the parents fault; it’s the fault of the practice itself.

I’ve written several articles on this where I dissect the approach, which you can find in these two articles about gentle parenting (#1) and the second part to gentle parenting argument, so I’m not going to focus on that today. What I am going to focus on is what you should do once you recognize that this approach is no longer working.

Gentle parenting hasn’t worked, so now what? First, evaluate where to go from here.

Ok, things aren’t working, and you’re ready to admit that. That’s a great place to be, and please feel good about it because you’re on the cusp of getting things under control. Whether you work with me or someone else, the first thing to do is to evaluate what you can do now. How much change is it feasible to make? The answer to that lies in the age of your child or children. I work with children under eight, but I will go up to around ten, and I can work with families with older children if the little ones in the family are the ones that are causing the problem. For those of you with older children, it’s not impossible to make changes with over tens, but it’s much harder and requires a different approach than the one I offer.

Next, be prepared to think differently.

It’s easy to feel worried when you approach a professional. You might think you will be judged, but you really don’t need to worry about that. One of the first things I talk to you about when I have a consultation is how common it is to have some of these issues, and I recognize that none of this comes about because you don’t care or you aren’t trying your hardest. There are a lot of people in a similar boat because gentle parenting is all the rage right now. It means there are a lot of people to help.

The first thing to do is to be prepared to think differently about what being a parent means. We’ll go through all that in a consultation, but you’ll find I don’t replace one ideology with another. I’m all about helping you discover your own innate sense of confidence as a parent. I help you learn to run your own family ship and be the confident captain, knowing where you need to go and getting your kids (passengers) there with confidence, love, boundaries, and expectations. You know what you have to do. You may not think you do, but that’s because quite often parents have heaped on themselves conflicting ideas from books, online courses, and influencers and listened to every opinion other than their own. But the truth is, parenting should be simple, and with each new ideology, we’ve tried to make it more and more complex. Complexity never helped anybody. Try to solve a simple problem with a complex solution, and what you get is chaos instead.

What we have to remember is that we have been parenting for at least 60,000 years, and we’ve done it very successfully, to the point that we’ve managed to feed ourselves, proliferate, and come up with a ton of cool gadgets. Have we learned things along the way? Of course.  But the essence remains the same. What children need remains the same. I help you rediscover that essence and the core of what it means to be a parent.

Gentle parenting hasn’t worked, so now what? It’s important not to sit on this and wait.

A word of caution. Something I hear a lot of is, “It’s just a stage.” Recognize that if your child’s behavior is driving you around the bend, it’s very easy to think it’ll just go away by itself. It’s a comforting thought, and it’s one that many parents hang on to for far longer than they should. If you have little kids and you sense something is wrong, then now is the time to do something about it. Don’t wait. Bad behaviour often does disappear as a child ages, but if you haven’t sorted out what caused it, it routinely pops up later in all sorts of unpleasant ways with rebellious and often downright dangerous behaviour and that’s because the issues that caused it remained unaddressed.

Gentle parenting hasn’t worked, so now what? Have hope.

Common and not-so-common parenting issues can be fixed, particularly if you have little kids and have the will to do something about the problem. The hope I’d like you to take from this is that it is grounded in reality. I do this all the time, and people are happier. You can look at my little movie (made by my awesome professional filmaker sons) if you’d like to hear about it from some of my clients. There is a way back from any mistakes. You can make significant changes and get things working for your family. Life doesn’t have to go on being rough. Take heart.

Behaviour Intervention Service

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Here’s Annie the Nanny on CTV Calgary talking about how to ground your own personal hovering helicopter.

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