As you mature from a child into adulthood, you come to realize that most of our parents did the best they could, raising us with the tools and information they had at the time. But as many of us embark on our own parenting journeys or ponder whether it’s the right route for us to take, we now have new resources, healed trauma, and higher levels of self-awareness that can help us make informed decisions on how to parent our children.
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes the right frameworks and methods to approach parenting's most challenging moments. From breaking rules to the occasional public meltdown, one parenting style suggests that no matter the hiccup, the behavior of a child should be met with compassion, kindness, and empathy. And such is the case for gentle parenting.
Gentle parenting is a parenting style that prioritizes understanding over punishment. It’s a science-based approach to parenting that focuses on respecting, supporting, and empathizing with a child’s needs and feeling while promoting their emotional and social development. Gentle parenting emphasizes the importance of positive communication, active listening, and boundary setting in a collaborative and compassionate way, empowering children to embrace their autonomy within a safe and nurturing environment.
“You cannot be a gentle parent if you are not first a conscious parent,” says Lisa Jean-Francois, a parenting and mental health content creator, who refers to gentle parenting as an act of “conscious parenting.”
As a neurodivergent wife, and mother of two sons — one of which is neurodivergent as well, she first began implementing gentle parenting during the pandemic while spending more time at home with her children. During that time, she began to realize that the reactive parenting style she was implementing with her children was no longer productive. “I was sick of yelling and threatening,” she tells xoNecole. “I was frustrated with the way things weren’t operating in my household, and I was relying on threatening and spanking.” Soon she discovered a Facebook group called Decolonized Parenting that exposed her to other Black parents looking to explore different tools outside of spanking and hitting, along with the mindset shift that came with it.
She explains that implementing a gentle and conscious approach to parenting first requires a deep level of self-awareness. “You have to make a decision to examine yourself, what your triggers are, and understand that the way you were treated as a child wasn’t beneficial to you then or now as a grown-up,” she says.
If it’s hard to fathom what your childhood might have looked like with this type of parenting technique in place, there’s a deeper reason behind why that could be. While many of us grew up in strict households ran on the foundation of structure, harsh disciple, and “do as I say” recoils, we can see that much of how we were parented was the direct result of ongoing cycles of fear and trauma passed down from the generations before. An approach to discipline that was put in place to protect us from the anti-Black society we live in to shield us from irreversible harm.
Traditional parenting styles within the Black community have been deemed as “violent” but necessary for our ongoing safety and survival. However, many young parents are now considering gentle parenting as a revolutionary act of healing generational trauma, offering an alternative to corporal punishment.
Still, it’s an unlearning process that must first begin with the parent.
“It’s doing the work on yourself, regulating your emotions, and then responding to your children's needs without shame, threats, fear, punishments, hitting, or yelling,” Jean-Francois explains. “You don't have to be a child development expert, but you should have an understanding of it because one of the reasons adults are often reactive to the behaviors of our children is because they don't fully understand how a child’s brain processes information.” With new research available, parents are now able to explore alternative child disciple tactics that are age-appropriate and aim to teach, and not punish.
“People will respond to tantrums harshly because they believe that it's an act of disobedience or defiance. But in truth, children between the ages of one to three will have moments where they are emotionally dysregulated, and it's absolutely developmentally appropriate,” Jean-Francois says. “Once you have that understanding, you're able to then problem solve and not take your child’s behavior personally.”
But it’s important to note that gentle parenting is more than just about finding ways to tame the nature of a child. In fact, Jean-Francois has found that gentle parenting has revealed parts of her inner child that need care and reparenting. “There really isn't any aspect of the way I parent my children that resembles even remotely the way I was parented,” she says. “I had to understand that my child is not beneath me. I'm not an authority over my child; my child is their own person. My role is to operate as their guide.”
For parents who are looking to practice gentle parenting, Jean-Francois says that self-education is key. Patience and books like The Whole Brain Child have been essential tools in her journey, along with having grace with your child’s development — at every stage. “You're going to keep responding to your child’s behavior like it’s a personal attack, so you have to understand the way their brain operates,” she shares.
Since implementing conscious, gentle parenting, Jean-Francois has found that the greatest reward has come through the proof that her children respect her, over fearing her, and even at their young ages, can advocate for themselves.
“My oldest son was raised for six years without a conscious mom or conscious dad, so he still kind of carries some of those things. But I see the results in the way in which he communicates with me,” she says.
“If I talk to him with any bass in my voice, he’ll say to me, I don't like the way you're speaking to me. Can you lower your voice? I don't talk to you like that. Why are you talking to me like that? He'll check you,” she shares lightheartedly. “I can see he’s not going to be a victim the way I was a victim in so many ways in my life. If those two things are all I get out of this journey, I think I’ve done really well.
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Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images