A few months ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to learn about respectful parenting through books, podcasts, and lectures. I give the credit of my knowledge to Janet Lansbury (https://www.janetlansbury.com/) and Sophie from The Natural Montessorian (https://www.thenaturalmontessorian.co.uk/)
Over the past few months, I’ve began implementing respectful parenting concepts and working hard to rewire my parenting approach.
I am no where near perfect (what parent is really?), and don’t plan to be, but there are several tried and true approaches to respectful parenting that you can begin today. No, you don’t need to wait until you take that course or hear that podcast. Begin today. You owe it to yourself and your children.
Here are 5 ways that you can start parenting in a more respectful way with your toddler:
1. See your child as a whole person
I absolutely love how Magda Gerber (the amazing woman behind RIE) and Maria Montessori describe the child. I am amazed at the concept of the child being a whole person; something that should be common sense, but is lost in our society unfortunately.
According to the concept behind the child being a whole person, the child is NOT an extension of the adult. A child is his or her own being, deserving of the love, respect, and validation that every human receives.
If you are going to work with your child instead of against them, then start seeing them as their own person with different interests and needs than yours. Appreciate them for who they are.
2. Be direct with your child
Tell them what you are expecting. Don’t beat around the bush or constantly shoot their exploration down in an attempt to get them to understand.
Are they climbing the couch and you’d prefer they didn’t due to safety? Tell your child that you can’t let them climb the couch because it isn’t safe instead of “No!! Get down now!” Give them something they CAN climb instead. Redirect them and be clear with what they can and cannot do.
Another example here would be:
Let’s say you need to step away for a moment to use the restroom or make a cup of coffee (while they are in a safe space). Instead of saying, “Stay here, I’ll be back”, be clear; “I am going to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Would you like to stay here and play until I get back or go with me to the kitchen?” Give them a choice (also another important component of respectful parenting).
3. Live more slowly
The laundry will get done and the house will eventually be clean, but the connection with your child is fragile and of great importance. Take it slow, live in the moment. Be simple.
I didn’t realize the importance of slowing down until I noticed the effect it had on my daughter and my mood. If we rush to do something, we both end up on edge. If we take the waves as they come and not overbook our days, we are better able to process our day.
Something just as important to consider: when your child is younger, they don’t need to attend classes that are of strict timings and especially ones that you pay for (which puts even more pressure on you and your child). Yes, swimming classes sound lovely and ballet…wow, but your child isn’t concerned with these classes. They are wanting to live freely without the pressure of having to be somewhere all of the time.
Sure, attend a forest school or storytime at the library where there isn’t pressure (or a fee) if you miss the class. Take them to the park on some days, to soft play on another. Just be. Follow your child’s interests on the days when you can.
4. Set clear and attainable boundaries
Is there something that you’d prefer your child would do or not touch? Gently implement those boundaries and stick with them. Don’t flip flop just because you’re in a good mood or you need a minute to yourself.
Shaky boundaries are confusing for children. Imagine a friend or colleague demanding that you don’t call them, but rather text, but then question why you don’t ever call? (Uhhh…confusing)
5. Be gentle with yourself as well
One of my favorite aspects of respectful parenting is the green light it gives to parents to care for themselves just as much as they care for their children.
If your child is asking you to stop what you’re doing and give them all of the attention, but you’ve got to prepare dinner or finish a task at that particular time, validate what they are feeling (and wanting) and gently explain that as soon as you’ve completed the necessary task, you will be there for them (of course all the basic and essential needs of the child need to be met regardless of what task you’re trying to complete). Rather, the example I am providing is one where the need isn’t necessarily urgent).
The list above is by no means the only practices or reasonings behind respectful parenting. What I listed above are ways to practice respectful parenting that I found useful as someone who is just starting down the respectful parenting journey.
What other practices of respectful parenting do you think should be added to this list? Do you have any experiences that you can share with me?