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Mom Fears She's Failing At 'Gentle Parenting' By Raising Her Voice At Her Whiny, Disobedient Child

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A mother of a 4-year-old wrote into a Reddit forum on parenting seeking advice on feeling burnt out by gentle parenting.

As she explained, she herself was “not raised by gentle parents, and I knew I needed to do better for my kids.”

Gentle parenting has become a popular mode of child-rearing, yet it comes with its fair share of challenges.

“I really latched onto the gentle parenting philosophy,” she states.

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She feels guilty for failing at gentle parenting by raising her voice and threatening to take away her child’s privileges.

“I’m now four years into it and I feel so burnt out and after four years of validating emotions, and being an emotional punching bag for my kid,” she explains.

She’s frustrated by the constant need for “coming up with compromises and turning everything into a fun game, and biting my tongue when he gets hurt doing something I asked him not to do.”

“I feel like I just can’t do it anymore,” she admits.

“Gentle parenting doesn’t come naturally to me so every time he yells or screams I consciously have to work hard not to get triggered myself and I’m just exhausted.”

“I still admire the philosophy and in a perfect world would love to be an 100% gentle parent but I’m starting to feel a massive lack of empathy when my child is screaming the house down or whining or demanding things from me.”

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She writes that she’s begun raising her voice, and 'threatening him with the loss of privileges.'

She asked parents on Reddit for advice on how to continue with gentle parenting when she feels “hugely triggered by [her] child and finding it hard to self-regulate let alone co-regulate.”

The other parents on the thread responded to her request for advice with their own parenting experiences while also offering compassion for the mom and her levels of frustration.

As one parent explained, boundaries are key.

“I will not allow myself to be treated badly by my kids,” they said. “I'm not perfect and I've raised my voice when my kid goes deaf to direction, but I try to be a gentle parent. Not my kids' doormat.”

“Gentle doesn't mean toothless, just not aggressive,” noted another parent.

“You can be gentle AND enforce boundaries,” stated another.

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One Reddit user explained that 'gentle parenting doesn’t mean no consequences.'

Another user stated that “gentle parenting [is] about teaching [children] how to feel, process, and deal with those emotions in a way that does NOT hurt others OR themselves,” as opposed to allowing hurtful behavior to continue.

“When we see behavior in our children that is not acceptable… we do them a disservice if we don't address it, correct it, and enforce a consequence when necessary.” 

“None of those things need to come from a place of anger,” the user explained further.

Another user confirmed this belief.

“Sometimes taking away privileges is appropriate. You can do that without yelling or hitting. THAT is what gentle parenting is about - setting boundaries and discipline without meanness.”

Parenting expert and author Sarah Ockwell-Smith defines gentle parenting, also known as authoritative parenting, as “treating our kids with respect, understanding that respect is earned, not demanded."

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She states that many people “get confused and think gentle parenting is very permissive,” when in reality, gentle parenting is about seeking to understand a child’s behaviors while also setting clear boundaries.

Within the authoritative style, parents have age-appropriate expectations of their child’s behavior based on what developmental stage they’re in. The focus is on connection and understanding, while also respecting children in order to gain equivalent respect from them. 

Within authoritative parenting, there’s “a dance of control and a good degree of discipline.”

“There [are] lots of boundaries and lots of rules, put in place with love and compassion and respect.”

Too many parents are held up to impossibly high standards for child rearing, which leads to the type of burnout the mom in question was feeling.

There’s no such thing as perfect parenting, but when parents listen to their children’s needs and approach those needs with compassion and empathy, they’re acting in ways that validate their children, even when setting strict boundaries.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.