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As someone who grew up in a much different time, I can safely assure you that my parents weren’t necessarily consumed with the notion of gentle parenting, and I can assure you that neither were most of my friends. However, as we learn more and more about the human mind, psychologists are beginning to see how much a more gentle approach can impact little ones for the best possible outcome.

What does gentle parenting sound like to you? You might be envisioning a hippie mom with dreadlocks carrying her baby on her hip through a meadow of wildflowers, or something along those lines. Put simply, gentle parenting is simply mindful parenting that is conscious of the fact that children are just tiny people, who deserve empathy and understanding. It’s not asserting some wild or too lenient approach to discipline or anything like that.

The best aspect of gentle parenting is that you will begin to notice that your kids do listen when you approach them with empathetic communication. Not only that, but their bond to you will also deepen. And it’s not a difficult approach, either. Here are 8 gentle parenting techniques you can use.

1. Use non-violent communication.

It might sound odd, but if you’ve ever gotten frustrated by the way someone spoke to you, then you likely already realize deep down that communication and delivery are key. When someone demands you do something or criticizes you to get you to do something, the first thing that happens is that an emotional response is evoked. With kids, this can make a major difference. Try speaking to your child in a gentle way to get them to listen. For example, instead of saying, “It’s time to go to bed. Get going NOW.” say, “It’s time for bed. Would you like to brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas?”

2. Seek to understand their emotions.

When your child is upset, it is for a reason. If they are on the verge of a meltdown, level with the. Sit down and ask them what is going on. If they won’t tell you, remember their needs: hunger, comfort, sleep, and to be understood. If they are hungry, they are going to have a hard time dealing with their emotions. So, feed them. Oftentimes, it might seem like a child is pitching a fit for no good reason but in reality, there are plenty of reasons when you think about it.

3. Comfort them.

If your child is upset or not listening, try a different approach. If they are getting upset, acknowledge it. Say, “I can see you are upset. I get upset sometimes too, especially if I don’t feel good. It’s okay to be upset.”

4. Support them.

Be supportive of your little one. If you notice they are hesitant to do something, assure them it will be okay. If you notice them feeling insecure, cheer them on.

5. Encourage good behavior.

When your child is modeling good behavior, water that seed. For example, you may notice them cleaning their room all on their own for the first time. Give them a special treat and mention how happy you are that they took the initiative to clean up their room. “I noticed how clean your room is. Doesn’t it feel nice to have a clean space and to do that all by yourself? I am so proud of you!”

6. Listen.

Listen to your child. Stow away your phone and sit down with your child one on one. Ask them questions or just let them vent.

7. Demonstrate respect.

Children are going to do what they see from us, in most cases. It isn’t “do as I say,” it’s “monkey see, monkey do.” So, if you want respect, you need to show it to them. Be respectful of your child and their boundaries.

8. Set age-appropriate boundaries.

Children need age-appropriate boundaries. These shouldn’t be based on what you want your child to do, or what you think they could do- but on what they are capable of. As an example, a 1 1/2-year-old may have a hard time sitting still at a restaurant. You may want them to, and you may want to allow them the opportunity to, but if they don’t it’s likely because they simply aren’t there yet. Be gentle and help guide them to that outcome as they develop.

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