Post by contributor, Marissa
I’m a gentle parent but I haven’t always been that way; I’m not always that way now but I always want to be.
I’m a gentle parent, but I’ll just be straight up and tell you that not everyone would consider me that. When I began my parenting journey I brought my own baggage and expectations that continually caused friction with my parenting ideals.
We committed to parenting our daughters with gentleness and loving respect because that is our understanding of how Jesus has told us to live in community with others, including our children.
Yet, even though that conviction has been clear in my mind, I don’t always know how to apply that principal. It comes way too naturally to bark orders because I’m the parent. I have a tendency to get uptight and impatient.
I ask myself questions like, how can I parent gently with consideration while still helping my girls be little people, and eventually big people, that others actually are able to enjoy being around?
How can we really connect with our girls in a way that reaches their hearts rather than simply modifying their behavior to make it more presentable? I’m not going to present a list on what works for our family because I honestly believe that in the same way that Jesus meets with each of us in different ways, we’ve also been given unique ways to parent so that our children can see Christ.
That said, I wanted to share a few of the practical ways that I’m learning to parent my girls with gentle effectiveness.
1. We find it crucial to directly connect with our girls before offering instructions or addressing behavior.
That might be getting down at their eye level, gentle hands on their waist or shoulders, a question to get their attention, or asking them to look in our eyes. It seems to demonstrate a commitment to working with them that helps build the trust in their response.
2. We choose to explain our reasons and expectations to our girls.
There of course are always times when we need them to do what we ask with no questions asked (and that’s something that we also work on) but more often we can explain the why and the what of whatever has been asked.
We can acknowledge how they feel, remind them of the choice they have in their actions and we can give them ways to choose appropriate responsive actions.
3. When I have an expectation of the girls, I think it’s important to consider why I expect it.
Is it because I’m worried about what others think? Am I reacting to feeling inconvenienced or annoyed? Is my expectation because I’m genuinely caring for them in the present and for who they will be in the future? My answer doesn’t always change how I respond but if often does change my heart and often affects their response to discipline.
5. Discipline isn’t always dealing with a child doing something wrong and needing correction.
I really think that a great portion of discipline includes all of the good, fun, and even easy parts of being a family. Discipline includes the conversations, the working together, the learning to care for others, and the family practice of living like Jesus.
It seems to me that when we focus more on those areas of discipline, it strengthens the relationship for dealing with the challenges and often turns those challenges into something positive.
6. One of my biggest struggles as a mama has been to let go of fear as a parent.
I have a hard time letting go of my ideal of perfect parenting. I’ve found myself needing to be willing to try something different without fearing that if it doesn’t work well I’ll ruin my girls. Seriously.
So often I need to stop and clear out the voices (including that accusing, fearful one in my head) so that I can listen to the Holy one speaking truth in how I parent.
I can treat the girls with the same love and respect that I would give any adult which includes admitting when I’ve been wrong even if that means going back on what I said. But, I’ve also had to let go of fear so that I can parent with the confidence that I need in order to give the girls the confidence and trust that they need.
7. Honestly, mostly I’ve discovered that parenting is just super messy.
It just is. Both they and I choose wrong over right at times. Some days I find that we are connected in such a beautiful way and other days, I can barely keep the ugly in while they push all of the wrong buttons. Some days, I just need more sleep and I’m so tired of even trying.
And that’s truly where grace covers our messes.