I am a Gentle Parent. Parenting this way comes naturally to me. So naturally in fact, I didn’t even realize there was a “classification” for the type of parenting I practice until Asher was over one year. At home, we’ve adopted many Attachment Parenting principles such as breastfeeding (and in our case extended breastfeeding), babywearing and bed sharing. I also stay at home with Asher, so I’m obviously his primary caregiver. And although Attachment Parents and Gentle Parents do not always go hand in hand, it was through my research on Attachment Parenting that I learned about Gentle Parenting. Gentle Parenting is about parenting with empathy, respect and understanding for your child. If you’re interested in diving deeper, there is an excellent definition of Gentle Parenting on the recently-launched Gentle Parenting UK site here (as well as loads of articles, a forum and expert advice – woot woot!).
I am always on the lookout not only for resources, but for actual activities that help reinforce what we practice here at home. And in my quest, I found Smart Love Preschool. Smart Love Preschool implements the Smart Love philosophy that was developed by two highly respected experts, Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D. and William J. Pieper, M.D. The Piepers are native Chicagoans and parents of five. In their book, Smart Love: The Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Regulating and Enjoying Your Child, the Pieper’s explain developmental milestones from birth through adolescence and offer compassionate advice for “smart loving” your child (which includes loving regulation/guiding without punishing) through these ages and stages. It has been hugely eye-opening for me to understand Asher’s 2 year old behaviors from a developmental perspective. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that considers themselves a Gentle Parent. It’s easy to say you parent with empathy, understanding and respect, but often times this is difficult in reality – especially if your child is engaging in a behavior you don’t approve of and for a reason you don’t understand. Learning about what behaviors are realistic for your child depending on their age has really helped me to improve the way I parent. In addition to following the guidelines suggested in the book, we enrolled Asher in Smart Love’s Toddler Explorations class and have found it to be a good complement to what we are doing at home (review coming soon!).
Finally, one of my favorite Gentle Parenting resources is the blog, Nurshable. Sarah practices Gentle Parenting and Attachment Parenting and shares her experiences raising her 3 children. She also happens to be an incredible writer. Like the best. I aspire to be half as good of a writer as she is. And even then I’d be really good! Her posts are beautiful, reflective, informative and well-organized. If you are looking for more support, I would suggest liking her Facebook page. The community of women there are thoughtful, sensitive, responsive and super helpful.
Having spent the first 8 months of my Asher’s life juggling a super stressful job and a new baby with no family nearby, I have the perspective (and now lots of time) to truly enjoy Gentle Parenting and Smart Loving. To see life through a different lens than my own. And to have the opportunity to help guide, comfort and hopefully inspire Asher as he continues his journey towards independence.