Gentle-ish Parenting: Breaking Generational Cycles of Trauma
When thinking back to how you were raised, you likely have a spectrum of memories ranging from fond to upsetting. Your parents shaped the formative years of your life as well as your early adulthood through their choice of parenting style, influencing everything from your self-esteem, personality, social development, academic achievement, and more. Most importantly, how you were parented directly relates to how you choose to raise your own children.
The Influence of Parenting Style
Using strict punishment to make children conform to unrealistic expectations was once upon a time normalized, especially among Black parents. Pew Research found that Black parents nowadays are still more likely to use corporal punishment as part of their parenting compared to other races. While this has been in decline for decades, yelling has also been found to have similar effects to physical punishment in children.
According to studies, adults who experienced verbal hostility and low nurturance as a child are more likely to transfer this trauma to their own children. Other studies also show that if you were exposed to physical punishment such as spanking as a child, you are more likely to use this type of punishment as a parent yourself. In general, harsher disciplinary strategies can be linked to negative outcomes for children. Breaking generational cycles of trauma means using a parenting style that doesn’t leave our children mentally scarred.
Gentle-ish Parenting: An Alternative Approach
Gentle-ish parenting offers an alternative to impulsive and punitive discipline which can often have harmful repercussions on a child’s development. It’s rooted in age-appropriate expectations, responsiveness to children’s needs, nurturing and affectionate communication, openness, and mutual respect. But it’s different from gentle parenting in that there are clear boundaries, limits, and consequences.
The caregiver is ultimately the authority, and though children are treated with respect, they also learn to respect their parents as human beings. It takes away “because I said so” and replaces it with reasonable explanations and teachable moments. This ultimately provides a healthy basis for the preferred behavior to be modeled by your child. Essentially, you treat your child how you want to be treated. According to research, parenting this way can help reduce anxiety in children and build up their mental health and resilience.
Gentle-ish Parenting in Practice
Gentle-ish parenting is focused on parents being intentional with their actions and words. It’s also about teaching children the power of their voice as well as setting boundaries. Positive changes can be noticed since adopting this parenting style, such as improved communication and a stronger connection with your child.
For Black parents and their children in particular, gentle-ish parenting could be a game changer that deviates from the usual tough love. Instead of harsh parenting practices born out of fear and oppression, gentle-ish parenting is a return to ancestral roots. Indigenous cultures did not parent harshly, and by adopting this style, Black parents can provide healing and empowerment to their children.
Striking a Balance
Some critics belittle gentle-ish parenting as submissive and ineffective, but it’s an important way to raise Black children. Gentle-ish parenting doesn’t mean being gentle 24/7, but rather holding children accountable and disciplining them while still treating them with respect. This approach allows children to interact with the world confidently and understand boundaries.
The gentle-ish parenting model also offers leeway for parents to have bad days and make mistakes. Parents need to give themselves grace and remember that there is no perfect parent. By handling their emotions and processing their reactions with their child, they are modeling healthy behavior and fostering a strong parent-child relationship.
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