4 Lessons My Black Mother Taught Me About Gentle Parenting

The concept and practice of gentle parenting aren’t new. Yet, with the surge of examples showcased on social media, misunderstandings often arise, particularly regarding how this approach unfolds within Black families. As I reflect on the lessons my black mother taught me about gentle parenting, I realize there’s a need to debunk some false assumptions prevalent in our society.

When I found out I was going to have my first child, I was scared about a lot of things. At 24, I was in a fantastic relationship but not yet married. When I first became a parent, I had no idea what it took to succeed. Don’t get me wrong; I had a terrific group of parents. My mother was and is a tireless worker, and I take after my grandmother in every way. But I came from an “old school” upbringing whereby neither mess was accepted nor offered. The techniques I observed were a good models. My observations, however, showed that many parent-child bonds were far less stable. No one is at blame in my eyes. Many of our parents and grandparents, I know, were raising us to make it through tough times.

After seven years and three children, I am not an expert parent, but I do my best to parent deliberately and meet my children’s needs. Gentle parenting is one approach that has served me well thus far.

From what I’ve learned as a parent, gentle parenting involves setting clear limits and modeling behavior that you hope to see in your child. By emphasizing the importance of lessons learned over penalties, gentle parenting has helped us promote discipline developmentally and appropriately. Since this kind of parenting aims to instill admirable characteristics in children, I strive to set a good example.

However, I’ve noticed that many people have false notions about Black gentle parents and the advantages of gentle parenting for Black families. Some people still look askance at the parenting approach because they don’t think it’s “for us.” For more on why Black families can benefit from gentle parenting, keep reading!

A Gentle Approach to Parenting

Misunderstandings regarding the form and method of gentle parenting may have contributed to the widespread assumption that it’s not for Black people or that there are no Black gentle parents. Not enough people know about the positive effects on Black children and families. However, gentle parenting is not a recent phenomenon, albeit its methods have become more prevalent with the help of social media than they were in their earlier days. The practice of catering to children’s desires and needs dates back likely centuries. However, the term “gentle parenting” is commonly attributed to British child care specialist and author of The Gentle Parenting Book, Sarah Ockwell-Smith.

And while there isn’t a ton of evidence on the term “gentle parenting,” studies have shown that strong parental attachment can help kids grow up lot be confident, successful individuals.

Boundaries and Respect Are Still Taught to Children

The idea that gentle parenting means kids can do whatever they want is a common misunderstanding. Those who hold this view may be startled to learn that gentle parenting can nevertheless include discipline. Parents and children benefit much from clear rules and limits. Respecting our children as people and assisting them in developing empathy, self-awareness, and compassion can be achieved through teaching them emotional regulation and meeting them on their level. All of them lay the groundwork for teaching kids the skills they’ll need to have successful adult conversations.

Loving Parents Can Teach Discipline

There is no inherent contradiction between discipline and corporal punishment. Discipline can be taught without resorting to physical punishment. Although gentle parents place emphasis on the relationship, they do not completely forego discipline. Instead, we should prioritize situational learning and tailoring limits to your child’s needs.

After reviewing the evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in 2018 warning parents against spanking their children. Studies have linked Spanking to a higher occurrence of mental health problems and slower cognitive maturation. According to experts like pediatrician Karen Estrella, MD, children who their caregivers spank become more aggressive and have worse self-esteem later in life.

Raising Black Children in a Nurturing Environment

Because most of them were also parenting out of fear, our parents, grandparents, and caregivers all had similar parenting styles. They were protecting us from harm in a world that wouldn’t otherwise care. Anita Thomas, Ph.D., writes in the APA’s Children, Youth, and Families newsletter that “omnipresent fears and dangers from police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline, or living in violent inner-city neighborhoods” have historically and currently pushed Black parents towards physical punishment.

Black parents may have doubts that gentle parenting can address the unique requirements of Black families because of these concerns. Attachment, love, community, and support are the bedrock of gentle parenting. Black parents share these characteristics with other members of collectivist cultures.

We are still working through the pain of our upbringings, even as more Black parents look towards conscientious and sensitive approaches to raising children. However, by doing so, we are preparing the next generation to be responsible, caring citizens. We are still the stuff of our ancestors’ imaginations.

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