How to be a gentle parent for our kids
I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never put my kids to sleep then sat on the bed crying, ashamed and disappointed in myself for losing my temper and being a jerk to my kids. I want to be kind and patient, understanding and forgiving. But every once in a while, the nasty side slips out.
I look at their angelic faces and beat myself up, hoping to do better next time, but not really making a plan. I’m willing to bet you’ve been there too.
Our kids, the people we love most in the world, can be on the receiving end of our most emotional outbursts. We can make all the resolutions we want to become a better parent, but without a plan, it’s just not gonna happen.
I decided it’s time to come up with a plan.
Let’s even go one step further and call it a challenge. A Momster Challenge.
We are going to challenge ourselves to control our emotions and become more gentle parents. We’re going to work on being the best parents we can be for our kids.
Before we can start, we need to prepare. Let’s brainstorm some ways we can be more gentle and curb the Momster within.
How to be a gentle parent
Use a kind voice
- Talk to your kids firmly, but gently. Focus on keeping an even tone of voice and it will actually calm you down.
- Get down to your kids’ level and talk to them. When I need my kid to do something, I need to make sure to get their attention and engage. Giving them instructions does nothing if they’re not listening.
- Keep things simple and straightforward. No one likes a lecture.
Say what you mean, mean what you say
- Don’t make idle threats. “If you don’t pick up your toys, I’m throwing them all in the garbage!” Yeah… I’ve said that before, but I didn’t actually want to follow through. It also escalates the situation instead of getting things done. Adding in a crying child doesn’t help things at all.
- Say only constructive things. Not rhetorical questions. They serve no purpose except to ramp up everyone’s emotions. “Wow, you look upset” serves a purpose (empathizing). “What is your problem?!” does not.
Calm down before responding
- Take a breath. Some things just tick us off. That’s the most important time to take a deep breath or two. Or five. Decision making just doesn’t work when you’re upset.
- Use calming techniques. Stop where you are if you’re too upset to respond gently. Slow your body movements, count to 30, do a few pushups, or walk away.
- Take data. Stepping back to write down what’s happening is a great way to calm down!
Use meaningful consequences
- Keep being a parent. Being gentle doesn’t mean your kids get to run amuck, or that your new job is to be their friend instead. Encourage behaviors you want to increase, discourage behaviors you want to decrease. Set limits. Use charts. Go ahead, go all the way.
- Teach your child. You’re helping your child be the best he can be. Don’t use harsh punishments, but instead, gently teach your child how he should behave. Teach by example and give instructions and rules.
How to Curb the Momster Within
- Don’t shout and scream. Try to keep your voice even. Shouting doesn’t make things better. It just fans the emotional flames and heats up the room.
- Don’t use a nasty, sarcastic voice. Or the whining, huffing and puffing, moping. Those can hurt just as much (or more) than shouting. Take breaks to snap yourself out of these grooves when you find yourself in them.
Avoid meaningless arguments
- Pick your battles. A healthy relationship has more positive interactions than negative ones. That’s the goal. It’s really not a big deal for your daughter to wear her princess dress grocery shopping. Let it go. (In song…because she’s probably dressed like Elsa).
- Don’t micromanage. Give your kids as much freedom as you can (appropriately, of course). They can choose whether they’re going to take a bath first or brush their teeth first. But you probably shouldn’t let them choose to eat ice cream for every meal.
Don’t punish when emotional
- Take a break before deciding on consequences. They should involve well thought-out plans, not rash, emotional decisions.
- Try other tactics before punishment. Sometimes you might need to use punishment to stop a behavior that really needs to be stopped. But before you use it, you should try other tactics and seriously consider all the pros and cons for your child.
- Don’t plan or take revenge. Punishment is not the same as revenge! You should not use punishment to “get back” at your child. It is a plan to decrease a behavior.
Don’t let behaviors slide until you blow up
- Make the effort to address behaviors. Sometimes I feel too tired or busy to correct a certain behavior, so I just let it go. Completely ignore that it even happens. Then eventually I hit my limit and lose it. Not the way to go. Make plans and address behaviors before they get out of control. Take care of it before you get emotional.
Now that we’ve thought through the ins and outs of being more gentle, let’s apply this knowledge to our actions. Let’s start the challenge together!
How to Take the Momster Challenge
Step 1: Prepare and learn about gentleness
- Read through the list above a couple times if you need to. Figure you what you struggle with the most, and focus on the tactics and situations you need to work on.
- Prepare! Click on the picture to get your printables. Hang the first page on the fridge. Cut the small reminders out and hang them around the house, wherever you know problems are more likely to happen.
Step 2: Start fresh every day
- Every morning, wake up preparing yourself to be gentle. Treat each day as a new day, no matter what yesterday was like.
- Reread the printable on the fridge and think about ways you can improve today. Concrete ways. Make some plans in your head and get ready for any anger-triggers you think might come up.
Step 3: Pause and remind yourself throughout the day
- Throughout the day, read your list on the fridge, look at the small notes you posted around the house, and try to be gentle in each situation. If you fall, it’s ok. Apologize and move on. Try again.
- When you feel yourself starting to lose it, take a step back and remind yourself of your challenge. Remind yourself of what you are trying to do and why.
Step 4: Look back every night
- At the end of the day, take a few minutes to look back and think about where you excelled and where you may have fallen short. Be thankful for all the good moments! If there are relationships to mend, mend them. Apologize.
- If you yelled at your kids, set a few minutes aside to spend just with them. Give them your full attention. Listen to their stories and laugh at their jokes. Read them a book, rub their back. Do something to make them feel a little extra loved. Then get ready to start fresh again tomorrow.
Step 5: Evaluate yourself weekly
- After each week, use the self-evaluation printable to look back on your week. Writing your progress will help you grow even more!
We’re still going to fall every once in a while. It’s impossible to be a perfect parent. But this challenge will help us get closer to being the parents we want to be. I’m looking forward to more nights where I can sit on the bed and smile at my angelic, sleeping children instead of cry.
I’ll tell you this: I’m absolutely ready to start this challenge! Follow me on Facebook or join my email list to take the challenge along with me. Let’s become better Momsters for our sweet little monsters.
Created in conjunction with To Jesus Sincerely.