Reddit mom admits to feeling ‘hugely triggered’ by her own child as she tries ‘gentle parenting’
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A mom shared a pressing parenting concern on Reddit recently — and asked for help.
The parenting philosophy known as “gentle parenting” has not been working for her, the concerned mother told the online community — and said she felt like “an emotional punching bag” for her four-year-old child.
“I was not raised by gentle parents and I knew I needed to do better for my kids, so I really latched onto the gentle parenting philosophy,” a Reddit user known as “mamaearthdumpling” wrote in the parenting subreddit in a post titled, “Gentle parenting burnout.”
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The post continued, “I’m now four years into it and I feel so burnt out after four years of validating emotions and being an emotional punching bag for my kid …”
The woman revealed that she’s burned out from “coming up with compromises” and “turning everything into a fun game” — and biting her tongue when her young son “gets hurt doing something I asked him not to do.”
But what is gentle parenting, anyway?
‘Fostering the qualities you want’
It’s made up of four main elements, according to parenting website Verywellfamily.com. The elements of gentle parenting are “empathy, respect, understanding and boundaries.”
Gentle parenting “focuses on fostering the qualities you want in your child by being compassionate and enforcing consistent boundaries,” the site points out.
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“Unlike some more lenient parenting methods, gentle parenting encourages age-appropriate discipline that teaches valuable life lessons,” it also says.
“I’ve resorted to raising my voice more often than I like and threatening [a] loss of privileges.”
The parenting style embraces “understanding a child’s feelings at the moment and responding accordingly in a way that is beneficial to the child’s emotional well-being,” Verywellfamily says.
The Reddit poster continued sharing her situation, admitting, “I feel like I just can’t do it anymore.”
She added, “Gentle parenting doesn’t come naturally to me, so every time [her child] yells or screams, I consciously have to work hard not to get triggered myself, and I’m just exhausted.”
Noting that she still admires the philosophy, the mom said that “in a perfect world,” she would love to be a “100% gentle parent.”
She also said she’s beginning to feel “a massive lack of empathy when my child is screaming the house down or [whining] or demanding things from me.”
She said she’s “resorted to raising my voice more often than I like, and threatening him with loss of privileges.”
“I was a raging mess — and I tried every parenting system under the sun to fix it.”
The Redditor continued, “I would love some advice to get back on track to being the best parent I can be …”
She said she regularly feels “hugely triggered” by her child and is “finding it hard to self-regulate, let alone co-regulate.”
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Fox News Digital reached out to the Redditor for additional comment.
Wanted to ’do better’
One California-based expert said that if a parent isn’t taking care of her own mental health first, then parenting willpower “will only last so long.”
“Just like this Reddit mom, I wanted to ‘do better’ for my children when I became a parent 14 years ago,” Stef Tousignant, a former nanny and a parenting expert for Parentdifferently.com, told Fox News Digital in an email.
“But unlike her,” she continued, “as a professional nanny I already had a decade of caregiving under my belt.”
She continued, “No matter the parenting style of the home, I did my job and I did it well — because I went home every night and took care of myself.”
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After she became a mother, however, Tousignant was “shocked” by how “triggered” she was by her own kids.
“No longer ‘Mary Poppins,’ I was a raging mess — and I tried every parenting system under the sun to fix it,” she continued.
“Behaviors such as screaming, whining or demanding are not behaviors that need to be tolerated to be in line with gentle parenting.”
“Still, nothing changed until I turned the magnifying glass on myself and started caring for my mental health through therapy, mindfulness, physical exercise and sleep,” she also said.
“That’s when things changed,” Tousignant noted — “and gentle parenting became as simple as it professes itself to be.”
Parenting can be exhausting, and it’s “not uncommon” to feel “drained and emotionally overloaded” at times, said one Pennsylvania mental health professional.
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“Gentle parenting is based on the idea that we need to let our children become more self-aware and [be able to] self-regulate,” Natalie Bernstein, a psychologist in the Pittsburgh area, told Fox News Digital.
This approach, however, does not mean that parents “engage in a hands-off approach” or “do not need to discipline or guide their children,” she said.
Clear and consistent boundaries can be helpful for all children, Bernstein noted, and can be enforced “while still educating about emotions and allowing the child to express them.”
Bernstein emphasized, “Without structure and discipline, it is easy to cross the line into permissive parenting.”
“I would encourage the mother to consider therapy for herself and/or her family …”
She also said, “Behaviors such as screaming, whining or demanding are not behaviors that need to be tolerated to be in line with gentle parenting.”
In addition, she said, if the parents are not consistent with this parenting model, “confusion can arise.”
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Bernstein said in regard to the Reddit mom, “I would encourage the mother to consider therapy for herself and/or her family in order to feel more balanced and less overwhelmed in the home.”
She said that “there are many research-supported parenting programs that can be effective and can reduce household stress.”
One Michigan-based physician with over 30 years’ experience said discipline is crucial for a child’s development.
“After 32 years of practicing pediatrics and listening to thousands of kids, I can tell you exactly what the parents of strong, happy, well-adjusted kids did,” Dr. Meg Meeker shared with Fox News Digital via email.
“Gentle parenting means kind parenting — not powerless parenting.”
These parents “set firm limits” and let the child know that they were in charge — not the child, said Meeker.
“Someone needs to teach boundaries,” she said.
These parents also “always allowed the child to feel what they felt” — but they never allowed those feelings to affect making the right decisions for the child’s best interests, Meeker also said.
These successful parents also understood that “kids feel loved when they have boundaries,” Meeker emphasized.
“Not taking back your authority is cruel to both of you,” said Meeker.
“Gentle parenting means kind parenting — not child-centered, powerless parenting.”