Lately I’ve found myself relying more and more on my gentle parenting resources for guidance, advice and a sense of community. Perhaps it’s because we’ve recently gone through some major transitions (such as weaning) or that we are anticipating big life changes (like a move) or maybe it’s simply that we’re smack in the middle of being two and sometimes things are just tough. Whatever the reasons, it’s made me realize how grateful I am for the resources I have to help me as I continue along this gentle parenting journey.
For me, gentle parenting is comprised of four pillars: empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries. And although I practice many principles of attachment parenting such as breastfeeding, baby wearing and cosleeping I don’t believe that it’s absolutely necessary to do so in order to parent gently. I follow these AP principles because 1) this is the environment in which my son thrives and 2) I find it enjoyable, do-able and easier in many ways. But this is our experience with our son and I fully recognize that every child is unique in what it takes for them flourish. This is one of the reasons why I’ve fallen hard for gentle parenting—all are welcome—breastfeeders, formula feeders, cot sleepers, cosleepers, baby wearers and stroller pushers. Whatever you need to do in order to parent with empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries. However, there are certain things such as CIO, yelling, punishment that includes isolation, shaming and any form of spanking that are not advocated and by definition not part of the gentle parenting philosophy. So with that said and those four pillars in mind, I’ve listed some of my favorite gentle parenting resources below—experts, books, blogs and websites, Facebook communities and even in-person services (imagine that!) available here in Chicago.
- Dr. Laura Markham is one of the most recognizable authorities here in the U.S. on peaceful parenting. Her website, Aha Parenting!, has tons of helpful tips for creating loving, healthy relationships with your kids as well as a thorough “ages and stages” section. She also maintains a blog as part of Aha Parenting! that typically has at least two new posts each week. I follow Ahaparenting.com on Facebook to find out about new blog posts and use her site as a complementary resource when I’m looking to address something specific.
- L.R. Knost is one of my absolute favorite gentle parenting experts. She is a mother of six, the author of various gentle parenting books and a monthly contributor to Natural Parent Magazine. She’s well known in the gentle parenting community and maintains the Little Hearts website, which houses amazing articles with tips, easy-to-apply advice and beautiful sentiments on gentle parenting. I really enjoy L.R. Knost’s style of writing and have referred to her website many times for both inspiration and advice. L.R. Knost does practice babywearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping and homeschooling, but don’t let this turn you off if you don’t share these practices. Her focus really is helping families learn how to parent gently through listening, understanding, responding and communicating and you don’t need to practice AP to achieve this.
- Sarah Ockwell-Smith is one of the premier European authorities on gentle parenting, the author of BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm and co-founder of the recently-launched website, Gentle Parenting: From Growing Roots to Giving Wings. I’m learning that Gentle Parenting seems to be more mainstream in Europe versus the United States and that there are many more European experts on the subject who I have yet to become familiar with. However, I currently find the Gentle Parenting website and it’s closed group on Facebook to be valuable resources for information, advice and community.
- The Whole Brain Child, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D
I don’t know that this book generally falls into the gentle parenting category, but I found that it fit well with the pillars of empathy and understanding. Learning how my son’s brain was developing helped me to have a better understanding of his behavior overall and to be more empathetic during what is often classified as “misbehavior.” The companion book by the same authors, No Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, focuses more on discipline techniques that work and the science behind why. Again, this book is one that extends beyond the gentle parenting category, but it’s endorsed by gentle parenting authorities and focuses on using discipline to teach and guide versus punishment.
- Smart Love: The Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Regulating and Enjoying Your Child, by Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D and William J. Pieper, M.D.
This book introduces readers to the Smart Love parenting philosophy, which teaches parents how to help cultivate your child’s inner happiness, among other things. Before reading this book I hadn’t really thought much (okay at all) about my son’s inner happiness and didn’t realize the impact I had as a parent on it. According to the Piepers, we are all born to love whatever care we receive and to want more of it. Because children learn to treat themselves and others as they are treated, Smart Love guidelines for managing behavior are nurturing, compassionate and kind rather than negative. The guidelines in the book are easy to follow and implement and although the Smart Love approach seems to be lesser known, it’s still a great addition to my gentle parenting toolkit.
- ToddlerCalm, by Sarah Ockwell-Smith
A gentle parenting book focused on discipline, I found one of the most interesting parts of the book to be about the use (or non use) of rewards to intrinsically motivate desired behaviors. It also helped me to better understand how to set boundaries and enforce them gently without being permissive.
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Dr. Laura Markham
This book really hits the mark touching on all four pillars of parenting with empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries. It focuses on self-relfection as a parent, too, in order to help you better understand your own emotions and how to keep them in-check, which fosters more peaceful parenting.
Blogs & Websites
This is one of my favorite gentle parenting blogs/sites written by Sarah Sprague (otherwise known as Sarah Nurshable on Facebook). Sarah is an amazing writer. Amazing. She writes from the heart—from a place that’s raw and real—helping parents along this often imperfect journey. She is also well known for her Wait it Out (WIO) method of “sleep training”, which is detailed on Nurshable here.
Aha Parenting! was founded by Dr. Laura Markham, and as mentioned earlier, has tons of helpful tips for creating loving, healthy relationships with your kids as well as a thorough ages and stages section. There’s a separate blog as well that typically has at least two new posts each week.
The Little Hearts website features the writing of L.R. Knost and is packed with both beautifully written articles and practical advice. The site itself is a bit clunky to use, but you’re sure to find what you’re looking for if you use the extensive menu list on the right hand side of the page. This site is a go-to of mine for tips on handling specific toddler discipline issues such as managing aggression.
Launched this past May, the Gentle Parenting site was co-founded by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. Similar to Aha Parenting!, the content is divided into ages and stages sections in order to more easily locate relevant information. It is updated regularly by a number of different gentle parenting experts and contains a nice list of recommended gentle parenting books. The site is geared towards a European audience when it comes to sections such as gentle parenting providers, but it’s still relatively new and I hope to see these types of sections expand to include the U.S. as well.
Facebook “Closed” Groups/Communities
- Gentle Parenting International
5,800 members and going strong! This community is an offshoot of Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s Gentle Parenting website. The community is extremely active with new posts flying in and comments often in the twenties. The community is comprised of both moms and dads and is highly moderated by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. Any issues such as negativitey and foul language are addressed promptly and the majority of the members are really supportive and friendly. If you are looking for an active and positive community, this one’s for you.
- The Gentle Parenting Community
This community is comprised of over 1,100 members and is moderated by Sarah Nurshable. The Gentle Parenting Community is the “home” group for many more specialized gentle parenting communities focused on things like homeschooling, green living, tweens and teens, WIO, transitions and other pretty cool stuff. The community is fairly active depending on the group you are in and bullying is not tolerated (Sarah Nurshable is an admin for all the communities). For a comprehensive list of all Gentle Parenting Community groups, click here.
In-person Services (Chicago)
- Smart Love Family Services
Located in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Smart Love Family Services offers assistance to families in the following areas:
All services are based on the Smart Love principles of Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D. and William J. Pieper, M.D. Smart Love Family Services hosts monthly, evening parent education seminars (with childcare) on topics such as toilet choosing, discipline and sleep. They also have preschool, toddler and baby classes located in their Buena Park Avenue school taught by early childhood teachers trained in Smart Love. The school teachers and staff are welcoming, laid back and knowledgeable. My son is currently enrolled in the Toddler Transitions class. He went from being home full time with me to going to school for two hours twice a week. The gentle and gradual approach to our separation was a completely positive experience and my son is gaining the independence I knew he was craving without pressure, bribes or tears. As a gentle parent, I truly feel at home at Smart Love.
I’m certain this list isn’t all-encompassing, and if I’ve missed some major gentle parenting goodies please make sure to note them in the comments, but I hope it’s a pretty solid starting point.