I’ve been noticing a growing trend in the gentle parenting community. I’ve seen it all over social media and these posts get a lot of positive feedback from people who agree wholeheartedly. What I’m talking about is parenting influencers who criticize the use of soft, singsong tones in other parents’ clips saying that’s not what gentle parenting is about.
But, here’s the problem. I have yet to see a gentle parent on social media encouraging people to use soft, singsong tones with kids. What I have seen, however, are people like the infamous Michelle Duggar using a soft, calm voice to “correct” her children, knowing full well that all her children were blanket trained and spanked. I’ve seen parents speaking quietly to the camera through gritted teeth in their videos about how their kids are assholes. And, I’ve also seen critics of gentle parenting accuse gentle parents of using unrealistic, infantilizing soft… singsong… tones.
I think what might be happening is that these gentle parenting influencers are all reacting to a bogeyman conjured by critics and forced upon us to reckon with. It’s the specter of a culture that diminishes the work we do by calling our children out of control, calling us enablers, and mocking every move we make. The reality is that gentle parents have lots of different forms of communication that are influenced by age, culture, language, upbringing, and the like. Plus, some of us (like me) who tend toward anger, use whispering as a way to regulate ourselves and draw our children in so that they can hear us and so that we won’t yell. Getting quiet is a great way to be heard when energies are high.
My advice to anyone who wants to know how they should speak to their kids as a gentle parent is to be yourself. Be natural. Speak to your kids the way you speak to anyone else. Gentle parenting is not performative. It is intentional. We aren’t “acting” a certain way. We are working toward being conscious, responsive, connected people in a world that views conscious, responsive, connectedness as weak and foolish. It’s hard.
I have never baby-talked my kids. I usually speak to them the same way I speak to their father and other adults in my life. But, there are times when I whisper. And, there are times when I use soft, low, rhythmic sounds to help my kids ward off an impending meltdown. We can use our voices in ways that benefit our children while still being true to ourselves.
You know what that means, though. If you naturally speak in soft, singsong tones, you’re still doing it right. Live true, friends.