I'm trying gentle parenting, and it's hard

Trying to do right by your child can be quite difficult

In Summary

• My parents, like most African parents, yelled a lot, accompanied by threats and beatings.

• Trying a different approach is harder than I thought because that's not what I saw growing up.

Mother and child
Mother and child

Somebody pinch me because this could all be a dream.

As of August 20th, my offspring, turned four years old.

I am now a parent to a four-year old child.

Correction, my partner and I are now parents to a four-year-old child.

As many people will tell you, parenting is not an easy undertaking at all.

In fact, half of all the unsolicited advice I have gotten since beginning this journey has been about how tough it would be.

But even some of the best advice in the world cannot really fully prepare you for the realities of being in the actual trenches of parenthood.

It’s tougher than tough. It’s rough.

Trying to raise a child to become a well-adjusted adult person when they grow up is a challenge that those of faint hearts should not get into.

The first thing I said I would do is try to do things differently from the way my folks did.

Not that they didn’t do it correctly, no. They did the best they could.

They just did it in the most African parent way.

There was a lot of shouting, a lot of threats and of course, a lot of caning.

Psychology has proven over the years that these methods actually do not yield the best results in the upbringing of children.

But I understand where they were coming from. That was how they were raised, so that is how they were bound to raise their own children.

One day, I’ll have to have a conversation with my folks about that part of growing up.

Anyway, because I decided to do things differently, I had to go to the one place where I could get the information I needed to do exactly that: the Internet.

Thank God for the global village.

I found out about something fellow Internet parents are calling 'Gentle Parenting'.

Basically, gentle parenting is about being gentler with your child.

You have to be calmer, more patient, more empathetic and respectful of your child.

I love everything about this parenting approach. It’s just the way things should be.

Parents and adults in general need to be gentler with children because we have had more time to understand ourselves and our feelings, and children have had less time.

In fact, children have a very hard time understanding what they are feeling, hence the meltdowns and the tantrums they have.

Gentle parenting requires that we talk with children instead of lashing out at them.

As it should always be.

I thought it would be very easy to parent like that, of course, because it makes absolute sense.

But with the shadow of the African parent upbringing following you around, it becomes very difficult.

A lot of times, my first instinct when my child begins to misbehave is to yell.

When she is being very naughty, my instinct tells me to bring out a cane and instil discipline the most effective way I know how.

That’s what my folks taught me.

It’s deeply wired in my brain.

But what I’m beginning to understand is that much like adults, children too have bad days and when they act out, it’s because they feel it is the only way to be in control when they are having a bad day.

If someone wants to start a masterclass on gentle parenting, I would be very interested to join.

I need to unlearn many things.

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