Parenting is like a video game because as you keep leveling up, it keeps getting harder. As parent to a newborn, at times you think “wow, this is hard – how do people do this?” But then you get into the toddler stage and you realize how easy you had it. And that keeps happening!
Kids have more game than Lebron James and they will run all over you if you don’t have a plan, philosophy or mantra. It really helps to have something to rely on and refer back to when times get tough – a book, guru or school of thought.
We started out as devotees of attachment parenting, which we stumbled into while pregnant and it just felt right to us. In the past few years, I’ve been a big fan of the gentle, peaceful or positive parenting movement. These all have a lot in common: they focus on the connection and bond with your child, and on parenting in ways that won’t harm the relationship.
If I had to sum up these parenting methods and describe my own personal parenting mantra, it would be these three words: kind, loving and firm.
I think I’m usually a kind mom. I’m pretty confident I’m almost always a loving mom, too. But I struggle regularly, if not daily, with being a firm mom – and especially with nailing all three simultaneously.
I feel like that “firm” piece – setting boundaries and limits, offering gentle and respectful discipline – is one of the hardest parts of parenting. Some parents are too firm and end up parenting in a strict or authoritative way. I had a parent like that and it wasn’t any fun – it definitely harmed the relationship.
Other parents aren’t firm enough. I also had a parent like that, and it resulted in a lack of boundaries and the child steamrolling right over the parent. That wasn’t the right approach either – kids need to be held accountable and taught limits and boundaries in a loving and respectful way.
So yeah, I’m trying to hit that kind, loving and firm piece just right, but I’m figuring it out as I go. I still don’t always nail it – and I’ve had almost ten years of daily practice now! I just have to keep at it.
No buts about it
When I first started trying to figure out who I am as a parent, I did a lot of reading about gentle and positive parenting. I started out thinking of my mantra as “kind and loving but firm.” But then I learned that’s actually the wrong way to think about it.
Permissiveness doesn’t do our kids any favors. Being firm isn’t counter to being kind and loving – it’s part of it. I had to stop thinking about being firm as a necessary evil; there’s nothing at all bad about setting respectful boundaries. Being kind, loving and firm means you’re absolutely in your child’s corner and they know you have their back – and you’re also going to insist they keep their commitments and obligations.
The child may push back against boundaries and limits you’ve set, but the parent stays strong in a kind, loving and firm way.
It’s not always easy to be kind, loving and firm – it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something I have to actively work at. If I have a bad or stressful day, or kiddo is being especially ornery and pushing buttons, it can be hard not to yell, snap back or let my voice and tone mirror hers. It is also all too easy to relax boundaries – to let her have extra screen time, for example, so I can rest or veg out on my own phone or computer.
But that’s lazy parenting and not ultimately serving either of us. Boundaries and discipline are one of the most important lessons I can teach her – and one of the most important skills she can take into her adult life. And so, I continue to work on the “firm” part of my parenting mantra, and on nailing all three at once: kind, loving AND firm. I’ll get there if I just keep practicing and working hard!
If you made it this far, you may be interested in some additional reading on this topic. Some of my favorite parenting writers and resources about gentle, positive parenting are Dr. Laura Markham at Aha Parenting, Janet Lansbury and Rachel Stafford at Hands Free Mama.
What’s your parenting mantra or philosophy – or are you going at it alone and figuring things out as you go? I’d love to hear your parenting tips and stories in the comments below or over on Facebook.