You may have heard the terms ‘attachment parenting’ or ‘gentle parenting’ being thrown about on social media, or gossiped about at your mother’s group. Attachment parenting is often a cause of controversy and debate, particularly on social media. Gentle parenting is less well-known, but is being discussed more and more.
But what exactly is ‘gentle parenting’?
Gentle parenting refers to a parenting approach that is based on four principles.
- Respect your children as thinking, feeling individuals.
- Use empathy to gain insight into your child’s behaviour, and parent with your child’s feelings in mind as much as possible.
- Seek to develop an understanding of your child’s behaviour and communication. Aim to understand what is normal developmentally, and adjust your expectations accordingly.
- Consistently enforce boundaries to give your child a sense of security.
Gentle parenting is not necessarily a set of rules. It doesn’t matter whether you co-sleep, or have your baby in their own room. Just as it is irrelevant whether or not you breastfeed for 3 weeks or 3 years. Gentle parenting is more about the conscious actions and thoughts behind your parenting. For more information please click here.
Gentle parenting vs. attachment parenting
|Attachment parenting||Gentle Parenting|
|It’s essential to prepare for pregnancy and birth and to eliminate negative feelings and thoughts about pregnancy.||Creating a birth plan is encouraged, but not necessary. Creating a positive birthing environment is encouraged in order to have a positive birthing experience.|
|Breastfeeding satisfies more than just nutritional needs, it provides the infant with feelings of security and attachment. Babies should be fed before they cry, and should be allowed to comfort nurse to meet sucking needs. Extended breastfeeding encouraged.||Extended or natural term breastfeeding is strongly encouraged as it is not just nutritional, but a wonderful comfort to the child. Extended breastfeeding is thought to help develop secure and resilient children.|
|All expressions of emotions, including tantrums are thought to be efforts of communication. Aim to understand, rather than punish the child.||Expressions of emotion, including tantrums, are to be approached with empathy, respect, and understanding. However, behavioural boundaries still ought to be gently enforced.|
|Co-sleeping is strongly advised so that the child can be emotionally soothed throughout the night.||It is up to the parent to choose their sleeping arrangements. Parents should not be judged for this. However, sleep-training that involves ‘crying-it-out’ is not promoted by gentle parenting.|
|It is advised that parents maximise skin to skin contact through baby-wearing and joint bathing.||Parents should not be judged for choosing not to baby-wear.|
|Provide constant, loving care through a constant presence of the parent. Childcare for more than 20 hours a week before the age of 30 months is discouraged.||Gentle parenting can be achieved regardless of work or other personal commitments. It is about approaching parenting with respect, empathy and understanding.|
|Practice positive discipline. Parents advised to use distraction techniques and to try and understand the cause of a child’s bad behaviour. Work together with the child on a solution.||Parents should approach bad behaviour with understanding and empathy. Children should also be treated with respect.|
Are they really that different?
As you can see, the differences between gentle parenting and attachment parenting are subtle. The main difference is that gentle parenting is a mindset, whereas attachment parenting is closer to a set of guidelines.
Personally, I think that there is value in both parenting methods, but you should always do what you believe is right for you and your family. After all, mama knows best!
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