In the digital age, inspiration and guidance can come from the most unlikely of sources. TikTok, the social media platform, has been increasingly used as a space for parents to share and gain advice from parenting experts or other relatable caregivers. Gentle parenting advocate, (@lauralove5514) went viral when she posted a TikTok showing how she redirects the behavior of her two young sons through logic, validation, and careful conversation. For this week’s blog, we asked two members of The Guidance Center staff, Safiya Tormo, LMFT, and Danae Samson, LMFT, to share the best techniques to implement these tools into daily practice.
Gentle parenting is a parenting approach that encourages a partnership between you and your child to help make choices based on an internal willingness instead of external pressures. This parenting style asks you to become aware of the behavior you model for your child, encourages compassion, welcomes emotions and accepts the child as a whole, capable being.
Putting yourself in the child’s shoes and imagining the feelings they may be experiencing shifts the way you interact and think about their behavior. In practice, parents are asked to reflect on the meaning of the behavior and to consider if the child is expressing an attachment need. For example, a child that is frequently climbing up onto the kitchen counter, getting into the cupboards and creating a mess can easily be labeled as “difficult”. A reflective parent would want to figure out what is underneath the child’s actions and what they are trying to communicate through that behavior. Does this child want to be involved more in helping in the kitchen? Does the child love to climb/explore and need more opportunities to do that at a park?
Danae Samson, LMFT, clinical therapist at The Guidance Center’s Long Beach Outpatient program, recounts a similar instance with her own client and the client’s parent. The mother wondered if her child wanted to be more involved in the kitchen, so instead of chastising the behavior, she decided to include the child by having her engage in simple tasks such as preparing their food. Sure enough, the climbing onto the counters stopped!
When a parent addresses the underlying cause of the child’s behavior, the child will feel more understood, heard, and connected. By working with parents by encouraging them to be “detectives” and hold their child’s perspective in mind, the parent-child bond is strengthened while also reducing the child’s “difficult” behavior.
Reflective parenting and gentle parenting are unique in that there is not a set list of rules that you must learn and implement; rather, they are a mindset and world view that you hold in mind while parenting. One of the most meaningful qualities of gentle parenting is its emphasis on reflection. Reflecting on the compassion with which you treat your child is at the heart of this approach. Gentle or Reflective parenting recognizes that children are simply learning and mistakes are not flaws that must be quickly punished. While this approach may take more time and consideration than other parenting methods, it allows you to provide your children with the emotional tools they need to creatively problem-solve and express themselves freely.