The Critical Step to Gentle Parenting That We Often Overlook

Image via Photographer Jaci KulishMarianne Williamson said it best when she stated, “There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.”

This is not a small undertaking.

Many of us who practice Attachment Parenting and gentle discipline do so because we understand the importance of raising children in a non-violent atmosphere, to help create a non-violent world. We know we want to create a peaceful and harmonious relationship with our children, and raise them to be compassionate, helpful, kind, responsible adults.

But how? How do we even begin such a monumental undertaking? How do we break old patterning, better ourselves, so we can be better for our children? How do we do it every day?

There are a great many books, articles, blogs, even instructional videos emphasizing techniques for gentle discipline and peaceful parenting. These resources are invaluable for daily reminders, for creating a strong practice of gentle parenting, and for re-reading and clinging to on days where you’ve been thrust beyond your limit by one too many inexplicable messes or an extra loud round of competitive screeching.

There’s so much advice available, it can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

It all begins with one simple first step:

The Golden Rule.

Treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

We’ve heard it before. This is common knowledge. This is oft-cited wisdom meant to remind us that we need to be the change we want to see; to encourage us not to be hypocritical in the behavior we expect from others if we cannot provide it ourselves.

But we break this rule consistently with our children.

We expect self-control from our children (often unreasonable for their age and brain development) and then we have grown-up tantrums.

We require patience from our kids, and then we impatiently tell them to hurry up.

We tell our children to be quiet, and then we raise our voice at them.

We demand that our kids listen to us, and then we tune them out.

We tell our children to use gentle touches, to learn to solve their problems without hitting, and then we’re expected by some to hit them to mold them into decent human beings.

Kids these days, after all, are so unruly (a common complaint that has been made for hundreds of years by every generation about the following one).

But what is it that kids are witnessing? What is shaping them? What are they seeing that is influencing their behavior? Are they regularly witnessing kindness, compassion, human decency — not only in the way we treat others, but the way we treat our spouses, our children, and ourselves?

The basis of the golden rule is avoiding the hypocrisy of demanding from others — our children, in this case — what we are unable to show them. This is especially poignant when we consider the fact that our kids do not have fully developed brains, but we do. Our children do not have our level of emotional intelligence or impulse control, because their brains are not yet fully developed.

Ruminating on this should evoke an enormous amount of compassion towards the “flaws” we tend to see in our kids.

Our job as parents is not solely to discipline our children. It’s certainly not to punish them, as punishment comes too late. Punishment is the aftermath of a missed learning opportunity.

Our job is to guide and teach. To model the emotional intelligence we want to see. To do unto our children as we would have them do unto us, unto the world.

Our job is to be the change we want to see.

Image credit: Jaci Kulish

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