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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lost in Translation - The Truth About Positive Parenting

Here's a comment on a recent thread about being a gentle parent:


Today's children are spoiled brats with no sense of honor much less respect because many parents fear disciplining their children. Gentle parenting is coddling and spoiling kids instead of teaching them manners, respect and to respect their belongings and others around them.... no baby you can have whatever you want cause Mommy or daddy are afraid to say no cause you might throw a temper tantrum.

This commenter is sadly misinformed about what positive or gentle parenting is, but unfortunately this is a common misunderstanding. I've seen dozens of comments like this one over the years, and I wonder if our message is getting lost in translation.

People hear "gentle parenting" and automatically assume we coddle incessantly, only want to be our child's friend, and have no limits.

People hear "positive parenting" and automatically assume we are blinded by an ideal of sunshine and kittens and don't quite get parenting is a big job with real challenges because apparently we make everything all better for our fragile tulips at the first sign of distress.

People here "peaceful parenting" and assume that means we do anything to keep the peace, including giving in to our child's every demand and whim.

Finally, people hear "conscious parenting" and perhaps think it's some sort of new-age fad.

Language is very powerful. The associations we build with certain words brings an automatic emotional reaction. We all know this to be true already. Mother. Father. Religion. Faith. Spouse. Republican.

These words all have definitions, and yet each words means something a little different for each of us based on our associations with the word.

We use terms like gentle, positive, peaceful, and conscious to convey the message that we've chosen something other than conventional punitive or fear-based parenting, but the message of what positive parenting really is isn't reaching people because I lose them at the word "positive."

Perhaps it's time for a new term? I wonder if considerate parenting is more palatable? Intentional parenting? Compassionate parenting?

I suppose my favorite may be "mindful parenting" because that truly is the definition of what I'm doing. I have to be mindful to not repeat old patterns. I have to be mindful not to yell. I have to be mindful to maintain emotional discipline. I have to be mindful about building relationships. I have to be mindful about what I'm teaching my children.

Maybe I need to change the name of the page.

But let me tell you the truth about the positive parenting *I* speak of on this website and on my Facebook page.

Positive parenting is not permissive parenting. Permissive parents fail to set limits or teach children what is acceptable, and that is negligent, not positive and certainly not mindful.

I believe actions have consequences, I just don't throw my weight around to hand them out to make my kids "pay." I believe they are responsible for fixing their own mistakes, and sitting in a chair or losing an iPad doesn't teach them how to do that, so we look for solutions when there's a problem. Problem-solving is about solving the problem, not just punishing it. It takes work, actually, and quite a lot of time and teaching. I'd rather send my kid to a time out chair, actually. That'd be easier, but I mindfully choose to discern what lesson needs to be taught in each situation and guide my child to learning that lesson. Sometimes, that means my child loses something. A toy he threw would get taken away when he was a toddler. A Kindle might get taken away today if it's the source of the problem.



I love being my children's friend, but that's not all I am. I have friends. I love them, but it's not the same relationship I have with my children. I can be my husband's wife and friend. I can be a parent and a friend, too. If I let my responsibility to them end at friendship, I'm cheating them out of a mother. I'm so much more than that.

I'm certainly not afraid to say no. I still have the authority here. I'm still the leader. "Can I have this toy, please!?" "No." I say it all the time; just ask my kids. If they get upset that they can't have the toy, I tell them I'm sorry they're upset, but still no, unless you want to work for it. Then, yes, because we can work toward things we want.

Those who think positive parenting is the easy way out are mistaken. It's the hardest thing I've ever done. It has taken so much diligence, courage, study, love, and work to parent this way. Five years in and I'm still a work in progress, and I suspect I always will be, if I'm doing it right. I don't do it to coddle my children. I don't do it to be their best friend. I do it in an attempt to raise wholehearted, emotionally healthy human beings. I do it because healthy relationships make us healthier overall. I do it because what they live now, they will take with them into the world, and I want them to take gentleness and compassion, grace and forgiveness, kindness and love out there because heaven knows the world needs it.




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