To understand and have faith in this gentle parenting ‘thing’ you really need to have a solid understanding of age appropriate expectations and developmentally appropriate behaviors. But most of us don’t start out parenting knowing any of that. What we do know is what we’ve experienced and seen and for many of us that is often the total opposite of what we’re trying to do by choosing to be a gentle parent.
So here’s some things that helped keep me on track in the beginning.
Infants and children until around age 6 have an under developed frontal cortex, they also have practically no impulse control and are only just beginning to understand and use empathy and emotional intelligence.
There are things like impulse control that are simply impossible for a 2 year old to master. Just like it is impossible for a 6 month old to master walking. Do we get angry at the 6 month old for not displaying skills above her age? No. Do we set about walking the baby everyday, insisting on endless exercises and reprimands to make it walk earlier? No, and the evidence suggests that when we interfere with a childs physical development we risk hampering their development. So why don’t we apply the same principles to a child’s brain and cognitive development?
Why can’t we trust that if a child can learn to roll, crawl, walk and talk on its on from trial, error and observation of its surroundings then why can’t a child learn to be kind, caring and empathetic using the same principles?
So now that you understand a 2yo is incapable of controlling himself all the time what can we do about it?
“when little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm not join their chaos. ” – L.R Knost
We role model calmness, patience and compassion. We become their frontal cortex (just as we are a babies mode of transport before they can walk). We actively choose to avoid shame, punishment and hurtful words as these all short circuit and interfer with our child’s development. We accept that we want our child to do the right thing because they know its the right thing not because they’re scared of us. Yes there are limits, that is part of our role. To guide them whilst they’re learning, to be present and consistent.