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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Feature image by Srdjan Pav/ Getty Images
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!
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
Feature image courtesy
I'm all for any time I can use technology to make my life easier, especially while working. This is especially important when it comes to wellness since, for the most part, I'm typing away at a laptop either in my home office or surrounded by some sort of lush nature elements while abroad. Either way, wellness products can come in handy to add ease to my journey to prioritize wellness in all aspects of my life.
5 Wellness Gadgets You Need in Your Office
Here are a few cool wellness gadgets to check out and add to your wish lists for your office that address stress and pain relief and other convenient therapies:
Yes, another smartwatch. Upgrade that Fitbit you have with this watch. It not only tracks your heart rate and temperature, it records an ECG and analyzes blood oxygen levels, allowing you to be aware of signs of stress. You can also enjoy guided breathing sessions when you’re getting into danger mode with the Body Response feature.
Fitbit is a Google property, so the Fitbit app is compatible and has convenience features that are handy during your workouts. And yes, it has interchangeable bands for different colors. I’m more keen on the blue, but you can choose from colors including grey, cream, and black.
Light therapy has been trending in wellness and research has even found some mental health benefits. If you've been down in a winter-blues slump, this might be the wellness gadget to at least give a try. It’s a sleek, convenient option that replicates a sun-like hue, has multiple brightness settings, and you can tap to dim or brighten. It’s a great option that comes in a gold, white, or wooden tone, for your workspace when you need a boost on a dreary day.
This band was developed by neuroscientists and physicians, according to Apollo, and delivers vibrations, called “Apollo Vibes” to evoke feelings of calm and mental clarity. It differs from the usual smartwatch, which tracks your health and fitness, in that the vibrations are the main draw, working to help improve energy and focus and reduce stress.
Vibration therapies have also been shown, via research, to be beneficial for wellness, and while the jury is still out as to how comprehensive or scientifically sound the link between a vibrating band and stress reductions, again, it might be worth a try if you’re a big tech geek and you’re looking for something new to try.
It’s a cervical traction device that’s raved about by tens of thousands of reviewers for easeing neck pain, and promoting spine alignment, and some even said it helps with TMJ disorders (those painful jaw problems that disproportionately affect women, often amplified by stress-induced habits like teeth grinding.)
When you work at a desk, oftentimes you feel neck and back stiffness or pain, and with this device, you can easily carry it to work and lie down in your office space or, if you work in a small or shared space, try the break room.
Another hit (according to thousands of users), this desktop air purifier has a HEPA filter that is touted to capture up to 99.7% of particles. It has a built-in generator that “produces negative ions that bind to and neutralize airborne pollutants for a cleaner environment,” and can be powered with a USB or AC adapter.
Featured image by miniseries/Getty Images