There are many styles of parenting, all are unique in their practices, methods and goals. Navigating and understanding how each parenting method can benefit and hinder a child can be overwhelming and scary.
We all want what is best for our child and for them to have a happy, fulfilled and accomplished childhood so that they can grow up to be functional, productive and self-confident adults that contribute to society, know their worth and how they fit into the world.
There are many types of parenting; Gentle, Montessori, Tiger and Permissive (to name a few). This article helps you understand the differences between each so that you can choose a method that suits your family, child and situation.
At Kynd we practice the Montessori Method of teaching and strongly encourage parents to research Montessori Parenting. Incorporating and practicing the same method within the household and teaching environment allows for a solid, foundation of education.
This article also guides you on how to practice Montessori Parenting and Gentle Parenting within your household to nurture and guide your children throughout their lives and raise happy and confident children, ready to take on the world.
What is Gentle parenting?
Gentle Parenting is an evidence-based, alternative approach to raising children centred around 4 main aspects; respect, understanding, empathy, and boundaries.
What is Montessori Parenting?
Montessori Parenting has similar principles to gentle parenting and has 5 main aspects; Respect, The Absorbent Mind, Sensitive Periods, The Prepared Environment and Auto-education.
How Gentle Parenting and Montessori Fit Together?
Montessori and Gentle Parenting can be defined as a much more relaxed approach to parenting, with children having the freedom and independence to play, study, work and learn, and are not taught respect not through punishment but through learning taught by experienced Montessori educators.
Montessori and Gentle Parenting use intrinsic motivation instead of extrinsic.
Extrinsic motivations such as bribes, rewards and punishment are not used within Montessori Parenting or Gentle Parenting. Instead, Montessori and Gentle Parenting build intrinsic motivations, that help develop internal self-discipline rather than looking to others to make decisions.
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting focuses around compassion, enforcing consistent boundaries and valuable life lessons to foster the qualities you want in your child.
Gentle Parenting is often confused with ‘attachment parenting’ but the two parenting styles, are slightly different but can often be used alongside each other and used interchangeably.
Gentle Parenting can often be used interchangeably with many methods including Montessori Parenting.
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting as both have several things in common and encourage the child to take responsibility for themselves, guiding them towards independence for the betterment of their mental, social and emotional development and wellbeing.
Parenting Expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith in The Gentle Parenting Book says:
“Gentle Parenting isn’t really about using specific methods. It’s about an ethos and completely changing the way you think. It’s more a way of being than a way of doing. Approaching any and all parenting situations with empathy for the child and trying to understand the reasonings behind their behaviour, working together to change it positively and accepting what cannot be changed.”
Similarly, Dr. Montessori believes the role of the parent and the future of humanity is dictated by how we raise our children and that teaching children requires a high moral compass and the ability to demonstrate empathy and self-regulate emotions. Which allows the child to model their behaviour through experience, she says:
“She [the Montessori teacher or parent] must acquire a moral alertness which has not hitherto been demanded by any other system, and this is revealed in her tranquillity, patience, charity, and humility. Not words, but virtues, are her main qualifications.”
Dr. Montessori also believed that children possess a different understanding and skills than those of adults, and experience feelings differently. The Montessori Parenting method can help validate children, creating a cycle of care and empathy. Dr. Montessori also believed that The Montessori Method of Parenting can help children establish their role and their worth within their community which in turn builds not only values within the classroom and the family unit, but also an understanding of their purpose. The Montessori method encourages active community building, demonstrating how children can and are positively contributing to society and the world, which encourages self-appreciation, self-love, self-worth and self-esteem.
Dr. Montessori says:
“Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul.”
What Sets Gentle Parenting and Montessori Apart From Other Methods?
Gentle Parenting has often been debated as it offers a wide scope of methods from ‘Tiger Parenting’ which is considered a strict method of parenting, a more relaxed therapeutic type of parenting, to a more lenient, permissive type of parenting.
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting are more positive approaches to situations and focuses on age-appropriate discipline, rather than traditional authoritarian parenting punishment style.
Research has found Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting have very few negatives and appears to have a positive effect on behaviour, children’s mental health, teaches children compassion, and foster positive traits to help a child develop socially whilst a more relaxed or stricter style of parenting found in other parenting methods have been found, during extensive research to have negative effects.
Tiger Parenting is focused on practice and study, primarily being results driven, requiring children to learn certain skills for lengthy period of times often leaving no time for fun or social activities. Research has found children of tiger parents are often not socially stimulated by their peers and can become withdrawn, suffer from anxiety (both emotional and social) and the need for high-achievement can cause distress, anger and upset when high expectations are not met.
Dismissive or Permissive Parenting ‘opt out’ of discipling their children, and have lower expectations than Tiger Parenting, although research has found that often permissive parents have stronger bonds than Tiger Parents, they often struggle understanding the rules, regulations and social cues for everyday situations.
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting strike an in-between showing compassion, foster positive traits, offering guidance, support gentle encouragement and clear defined boundaries.
The Benefits of Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting compared to other parenting Methods
Using the Montessori and Gentle Parenting children are encouraged to work within the family unit, and taught how to express their wants and feelings in a socially, acceptable way learning about respect, empathy, and boundaries. Gentle parenting and Montessori Parenting teaches children to understand right, wrong, patience and positivity and promotes a relationship with your child based on choices and willingness that rules, demands, fear and punishment.
Many researchers have found that Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting create much more socially attuned and socially aware children and is a sound method to raising confident, socially independent, happy children.
Research has also shown that gentle encouragement can reduce risk for anxiety and helps a child’s cognitive state and is beneficial to their development by establishing guidelines and creating an understanding on what behaviour they should be exhibiting at each part of their mental, social and intellectual development. Children model their own behaviour by mimicking how their parents react which creates an ‘inner voice’ and sets a firm, yet gentle tone for positive development and growth that will accompany them through their lives.
Children learn how to model their behaviour through how their parents react. Allison Andrews, a Psychotherapist and owner at Child Development Partners a practice that supports connections and growth at Child Development Partners says:
“When we show gentleness, especially during stressful times, we model frustration tolerance, and we model flexibility. Staying calm and being gentle and firm sets the tone for positive growth and development,”
Allison Andrews, PsyD, Practice owner at Child Development Partners in Boston, MA.
Dr. Montessori believed that we underestimate a children capabilities to name, process and evaluate their emotions and that we can learn to understand our children and their behaviour if we just listen to what they are trying to tell us and encourage them to share.
“In the child is much knowledge, much wisdom. If we do not profit from it, it is only because of neglect on our part to become humble and to see the wonder of this soul and learn what the child can teach.”
How to practice Montessori and Gentle Parenting
To practice Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting, you may wonder where to begin, understanding their key principles can help you simply start applying gentle parenting into your daily life.
Respect and respectful communication
It all starts with respect- to show respect, to teach respect, to gain respect.
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parent requires your respect being earned than setting rules, demands, punishments and telling your child what they should do, should want and should be.
Dr Montessori says:
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”
― Dr. Maria Montessori
Gentle Parenting is about respecting your child’s feeling, allowing for their individuality and personality to shine through and respecting them as an adult and a separate being to you. Over time a child learns to respect their parent, by learning how respect can be earned, learned, achieved and through mimicking their parents behaviour.
Montessori Parents and Gentle Parents speak and listen to their children with respect, without raising their voice or demeaning them. Children learn through what they experience. If they are shown anger and if parents raise their voices to communicate they will teach their child that shouting if a way to solve problem or to be heard. Similarly, if a child is told ‘no’ often then will begin to learn that ignoring a problem or person is a way to communicate and will begin to ignore their parent.
Dr. Montessori says:
“The things he [your child] sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”
― Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori teaches parents to demonstrate positive reinforcement and allowing children to learn they are valued, seen, understood and supported. Gentle Parenting also uses respectful communication.
Empathy and compassion
Being aware of your child’s feelings and needs shows empathy for their situation, understanding the root cause of certain behaviours (including misbehaviours) instead of dismissing this crucial part of their emotional development. In turn, a child will grow to understand empathy, give empathy and receive empathy which is a fundamental part of their social development and will accompany them throughout their lives, eliminating confusion in the future.
Understanding behaviour triggers and teaching a child to take responsibility
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting allow parents to develop an understanding on their child’s behaviour, by understanding their own behaviour and the triggers, causes and the way they like to address their emotions. Parents that use the gentle parenting method understand that children are not yet fully developed and do not possess the same behavioural control as an adult. Therefore they must learn control and age-appropriate behaviour. Modifying their own behaviour to become a role model, by controlling their emotions, and setting an example such as finding alternatives to shouting, punishment, aggressiveness or not showing emotions correctly or in a socially acceptable manner.
Montessori Parenting and Gentle Parenting both require the parent to teach their children how to take responsibility through empathy and understanding through experience. A child learns modelling behaviour through their parents.
“We are our child’s greatest teacher. Stop and ask yourself if how you’re behaving is really what you want to teach your child – e.g. if they have done something inappropriate do you really want to shout at them or punish them (teaching them that yelling is how to resolve situations) or do you want to teach them how to stay calm and problem solve?’
Something simple as apologising, showing empathy to a person’s situation or encouraging the child to correct a mistake, through time will build the social, mental and emotional skills required to take responsibility, handle a difficult situation when a child has made a mistake and learn to solve a problem for themselves.
Problem solving together
Montessori Parenting and Gentle Parenting encourage a parent and child to work together to find a solution to a problem, understanding how to respond to certain environments, or learning how to cope with a situation. Instead of using bribery or fear of punishment to carry out a task, Montessori Parenting helps involve the child in the process, teaching them how the completion of a task or contribution can help them positively provide to their social community and family unit. Something as simple as setting the table or helping with the shopping is teaching the child how to be part of the family unit, how they can care for family members and how they are important and valued within the family.
Gentle parenting and Montessori Parenting encourage parents and children to problem solve and work together to understand, contribute, find a solution and learn how to cope in certain situations and environments.
Boundaries and ‘freedom within limits’
Boundaries play a crucial part in any children’s development, learning and with Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting.
Within both Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting boundaries are not a set of rules or regulations, but a guideline to teach your child how to cope, how to address certain situations and how to become an emotionally, socially and morally sound adult.
“Really boundaries are just a set of family rules. It’s important to decide these mindfully, in conversation with your partner or co-parent. Also involving others who will care for the child. It’s better to go with fewer rules, but ones that really matter to your and ones you know you will stick to, than have an exhaustive and overwhelming list that nobody will stick to.”
This is also called ‘freedom within limits’
Montessori Parenting and Gentle Parenting exercise the notion of ‘freedom within limits’, which allows for freedom of expression, freedom of self-guiding but sets clear boundaries and limits to ensure a safe environment for their child and those around them.
Dr. Montessori in her book Education for a New World says:
“Following some inner guide, they occupied themselves in work different for each that gave them joy and peace, and then something else appeared that had never before been known among children, a spontaneous discipline. This struck visitors even more than the explosion into writing had done; children were walking about, seeking for work in freedom, each concentrating on a different task, yet the whole group presented the appearance of perfect discipline. So the problem was solved: To obtain discipline, give freedom.”
– Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Potential Challenges & Drawbacks To Gentle Parenting
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting do have a few drawbacks, as is the case for any other parenting method, even though it has fewer than the alternatives. Gentle parenting can be challenging to those just practicing as it requires patience, empathy and self-control and not responding or reacting quickly to your child’s behaviours, tantrums and odd sleep patterns.
‘It’s hard work! Lots of people think being a gentle parent means being permissive and letting your little darlings get away with anything. That really isn’t true – families will have many rules and boundaries and well planned routines. It takes a lot of effort, both physically and emotionally and if you don’t take care of your own needs, it can be easy to burn out.”
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting can also require parents to delve into their own upbringing, that for some can be challenging, upsetting, eye-opening and triggering.
Dr. Montessori says:
“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.”
― Maria Montessori
To truly understand how your child behaves, their emotions you must first understand and comprehend your own feelings and emotions like a self-directed therapy. But it is all part of the process. Growth for you and your child.
A kind word from Kynd
At Kynd Montessori we encourage you to explore every parenting style and find one that accommodates you, your situation, your family and how you wish to raise your child.
Gentle Parenting and Montessori Parenting has many benefits and are widely recognised as effective teaching methods to foster a positive bond and relationship with your child and help raise happy, self-aware and empathetic children and sets up your child with the tools to succeed in life.
It is important, however, to understand that its benefits may not come to fruition immediately and, similar to any parenting method, Gentle and Montessori Parenting needs your full commitment, patience and time to be fully effective. The results cannot be seen or achieved overnight. It is a continual process, one that takes place over the course of a child’s life and some days may seem more challenging than others.
The ending rewards, however, of gentle guidance and an empathic and compassionate upbring comes later on when your children start displaying and applying all you’ve taught them to navigate the world around them and see how they fit in.
Just like in society, there are no ‘quick fixes’, no ‘quick results’, you are raising a whole human being that will one day contribute not only to your world but the world around them.
As Dr. Montessori says;
“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”