This is a conversation starter my husband has had with me at least once… or twice… or more! This blog post is a reminder about the aim of gentle parenting and why we should not let our children’s inability to listen when we want them to sway us from our hard work. First, we debate how it feels to the parent when a child does not seem to listen to ‘anything we say’. Then we look at why gentle parenting does not aim for our children to ‘do as we say’, at least not in the sense of ‘do as I say because I said so’. Finally, we look at ways we can encourage our children to listen to us when we need.
Do As I Say…
The ‘do as I say’ idea stems from non-gentle parenting. As many of us gentle parents were not necessarily raised in a gentle household ourselves, it can be a question that crops up occasionally, naturally. It is the sort of statement that would have been drilled into us by authoritarian parents. If you fill in the blanks to your own sentence when you think ‘Do as I say…”, it can help direct you towards the flawed thinking. You could be feeling this way:
- “… because I decide what should be done, not you”
- “…because you’ll hurt yourself / someone else”
- “… because it’s for the best”
- “… because I am your Mum / Dad and you should follow my commands”
- “…because I haven’t got the time right now to connect and work out how to do this gently…”
Ultimately, when you work out the full sentence for ‘Do as I say…’, you may feel that your children should do as you say immediately. It may help you realise you are being controlling and we cannot control other people against their will. Alternatively, you may realise that you are putting your opinions and desires as the top priority. What about your children’s needs and wants? Relationships, including those with our children, are two way.
How It Feels For the Parent When You’re Not Obeyed
You may not be confident in how to proceed gently with taking charge of a situation for safety. It can then become overwhelmingly frustrating when a toddler does not listen to you. You can end up in power struggles, or worried about how your child will hurt objects or people around them. Your requests for them to do what you want seem to be ignored. You may even feel like you’re failing as a parent. You may doubt whether gentle parenting is working.
Gentle Parenting View
A gentle parenting idea on the ‘Do as I say…’ stance is that in a family we are all unique individuals, sharing life together. To assume that one person commands and controls every action and decision is not accepting of the individual’s preferences. Your child has an opinion on what they want in certain situations too. Perhaps you can question yourself on how important your view is to the situation. Do they really need to be quiet right now? If not, perhaps leave them to it, if it’s doing no harm.
It may be true that a child who is connected to their parents will more likely join along with their ideas. Remember this following is over the course of a lifetime, and in connected moments, not at every single moment. Imagine someone who copied every little and big thing you did. It would get slightly annoying having a parrot on your shoulder wouldn’t it? We also want to encourage our child’s individuality, whilst ensuring the important safety boundaries are there. For more help on this, you may be interested in my previous post about the importance of holding boundaries.
If your fear is that your children aren’t listening because gentle parenting is flawed… Think again. Remind yourself at how gentle and loving your children are the rest of the time. That no parenting method will give you a contented child, with the freedom to learn who they are, without phases of standing their ground and expressing their wishes. If you attempt to control your child in the heat of the moment, you may end up losing the confident and assertive child you adore.
How to Gentle Parent Your Child to do What You Want
If you want your child to stop tearing books up, but they want something to tear… have a think about what they can tear instead, like that old newspaper in the recycling bin. If you need your child to behave a certain way for safety, for example, then you can follow my process in my previous blog post on discipline. Keep focusing on connecting in the difficult moments, i.e. eye contact, explaining why you need something done and empathising with your child’s feelings.