In my dreams I’m a gentle parent.
I’ve inhaled the books, sucked up the Instagram videos and listened to the podcasts.
But the daily power struggle that is getting my daughter Blake out of the house most mornings is a different story.
“I can see you’re feeling sad about putting your shoes on,” I bleat, doing my best to sound calm among the screaming, flying shoes and tears (mainly mine).
If you haven’t come across this new parenting craze yet, it may be that you’ve overheard an adult say: “I’m sorry you’re feeling sad/cross/angry” to a tantruming child and thought they were insane.
But the idea behind gentle parenting, or respectful parenting as it’s also known, is that you acknowledge and empathise with a child’s feelings, as opposed to correcting their behaviour.
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It does not involve heaving them, kicking and screaming, out the door.
Even if you are late for nursery.
There’s a lot to like about gentle parenting and I’ve picked up some good tips from it on being less reactive.
The main proponents of it, such as Sarah Ockwell-Smith and Dr Becky Kennedy (who has 1.3m followers on Instagram), seem cool and kind, like they have this parenting game licked.
But in the face of a nuclear meltdown because my two year old wants an ice lolly, I lose my patience and either give in or shout.
Which is why now, in what feels like the 546th week of the summer holidays, I’ve started to wonder if gentle parenting might actually be impossible – and even a bit toxic.
Many aspects of it feel very counter-intuitive or like I have to police my own language.
If your child is whacking another child, you’re not supposed to say: “Don’t hit.”
Apparently saying: “It looks like you’re feeling mad.
"It’s OK to feel mad. It’s not OK to hit,” is better. Which I get.
But that’s quite a mouthful when you’re in the moment. Plus by that point your child may have drawn blood.
Too much praise is also banned.
For the gentle parent, “well done” should be replaced with the not-at-all robotic sounding: “I can see how hard you tried with that.”
Except I can’t help a “good job” slipping out when Blake presents me with a drawing she’s done.
Especially one that’s not all over our living room wall.
I wonder what kind of adults this parenting will create in 20 years’ time – either hypersensitive snowflakes who have never been told off, or self-important dictators who think their every need is paramount.
Are we raising a generation to think their parents are serene all the time?
Surely our kids should see all sides of us?
And should we really empathise with every single tantrum – or sometimes do they just need to put their shoes on?
Every decade has different schools of thought on the best ways to raise children, from helicopter tiger moms of the ’90s to the “ignore them and they’ll be fine” latchkey parenting I experienced in the ’80s.
Older friends have stories of being left in the car for hours or spending all day in a pub eating crisps and drinking cola.
Parents in the ’20s were told not to kiss or hug their children, while the idea of playing with your kids is a relatively recent invention.
Whatever parenting style you go for, there’ll be things you do right and things you get wrong.
You just have to pick and choose the methods that work for you.
As the poem goes: “They f**k you up, your mum and dad”.
Even if it is gently.
● Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.
This week I’m…
Reading… The Girls Are Good
Ilaria Bernardini’s novel about competitive teen gymnasts is Black Swan meets Heathers.
Watching… Irma Vep
Alicia Vikander is pure evil in a velvet catsuit in this show about actors behaving badly on Sky Atlantic and Now.
Excited about… WOW
Tickets are on sale for the 2023 Women Of The World festival – previous guests include Elizabeth Day and Marian Keyes.
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