Gentle Parenting and the Milestones Family

May 10, 2017

By DJ Long, Milestones Staff Writer

Have you ever placed yourself in your child’s shoes?

Not literally, of course. Those little light-ups would barely fit your big toe. Rather, imagining how life must appear from your child’s unique perspective. Getting inside his head. Growing up in a world of challenges from her point of view.  

You probably have, at least once. And that might have made you stop and think. It may have given you a new outlook that informed the way you interact with, instruct and discipline your child. If so, you have had a taste of Gentle Parenting.

Gentle, as in open. Aware. Attuned. Gentle Parenting is a growing practice sometimes also referred to as Respectful, Conscious, and/or Attachment Parenting.  All approaches fundamentally promote connection between children and their caregivers. 

“Gentle Parenting is not a formalized movement; rather, several emerging thought leaders have come forward to provide us with tools for engaging with our children,” says Rebecca Doyle, Milestones’ Licensed Clinical Social Worker. “These leaders come from various personal and professional backgrounds including mental health clinicians, psychiatrists, physicians, educators, and parent advocates. They have used neuroscience and attachment research to develop tools parents can use to support positive interactions with their children.”

It’s all about attunement (which is a two-way street) and making strong connections between you and your child. It’s learning to respect their unique strengths and limitations as well as your own – not just generally, but also what’s going on at the moment. If you’ve had a stressful day, for example, it may not be the best time to tackle something difficult. Or if your child is calm and receptive, it might be a great time. Gentle Parenting suggests that if you can be alert to both internal and external stresses you’re more likely to make better decisions, and deal with situations most appropriately.

Same with your child. 

“Being connected and in synch with our children has a positive impact on brain development,” says Rebecca. “The more skilled we become at reading their unique, individual cues, the better able we are to meet their needs, make adjustments to our approach, and experience moments of joy together.” 

Rebecca has honed her own Gentle Parenting skills by working with children and parents for years. At Milestones we’re working at incorporating Gentle Parenting strategies across all our disciplines. “One of our first tasks as therapists is to make a meaningful connection with a child,” says Rebecca. “As our interactions with them unfold, each child guides us in how we might support them in meeting their goals.  Gentle Parenting strategies can help us to facilitate growth and healing for children and their families.”

Oh sure, you say. Professional therapists have had years of training and experience. What about the typical parent? Not so much! This is why we love involving parents and families in our sessions.

Rebecca Doyle calls it the Parent-Child Dyad.

“When parents and caregivers can partner with us in session, we can support each other in learning and finding new and useful ways to engage with their child. Working with parents and children together allows us to experiment with different techniques and troubleshoot challenges as they arise. When parents are right there in the room, we can work through situations in real time.”

She uses as an example having a child suddenly react in an unexpected way during therapy.  “I can say – ‘wow, did you notice what happened in your child’s body right there?’ Together we can track the changes in the child’s physical and emotional presentation, explore what might be happening, and experiment with how best to respond.”

Gentle Parenting – the goals are many and the responses are almost limitless. But it really boils down to three things:

  • Learning how to read ourselves and our children
  • Learning how to make adjustments and provide validation to our children
  • Learning how to make repairs – because nobody’s perfect

“There is no one way to parent.” Rebecca emphasizes. She points out that because each of us is an individual, each of us is coming from a different place, and each of us is dealing with our own unique set of situations, we need to come up with strategies that work for us and our child just the way we are. 

Here at Milestones we encourge you to be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your precious child. And from all this gentleness, in time, will come great strength!

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