When I talk about gentle parenting, many young parents ask me if gentle parenting spoils kids. After all, shouldn’t parents be strict and disciplinarians? Can’t parental love be mixed with some control?
Let’s try to understand this from our own experiences. Whenever I’ve had discussions on people’s experiences with their strict parents, so many of my friends & clients have shared horrible incidents that happened in their childhood but they also made these statements.
“My mom hit me regularly. But she loved me.”
“My parent stripped me & made me stand outside the house for something I did. But they still loved me”
“My parent made me starve at times, but they really loved me.”
I know a lot of us to think love is combined with hurting & hitting and punishments. That’s exactly why a lot of people in today’s generation, who were raised by authoritarian or toxic parents, get into similar relationships with their lovers or married partners as well – because the abuse was normalized in their families.
More often than not, all the hitting and thrashing is followed up with a hug, a kiss, and a regretful statement that it was all for your good and it was because they loved you.
Let’s clarify and please etch this into your memory
Love doesn’t hurt.
Love will not abuse.
Love does not punish.
Love will not manipulate.
Love won’t make you feel unsafe
Love won’t make you feel unworthy.
Love will not disrespect.
Love doesn’t traumatize.
Love doesn’t control.
We have to stop normalizing abuse in parenting, not just so parents treat children better, but for people to understand the difference between genuine love and control. This enables them to get into the right kind of relationships, where they have a better understanding of red flags. They know with confidence that their safety, respect, and growth are what matter and they needn’t go along with whatever disturbs their peace and happiness.
The hard truth about being brought up in an abusive environment is that your subconscious gets programmed such that, you equate the abuse to love and care. When forming an adult relationship with a partner or a spouse, this can be on both sides of the coin – the abuser and the abused. The abuser believes that gaining control is a path to lasting love while the person on the receiving end too doesn’t see it as a red flag, because it has been so normalized in their childhood.
Healing your inner child
If you were a child who was abused, hit, or tormented, I wish to tell you this.
-You didn’t have to be whacked for someone to show you, love.
-You didn’t have to be punished just because you were being a child and doing normal child stuff.
-You didn’t have to live in fear in your own house where ideally you had to feel safe and cared for.
-You didn’t deserve any of that.
You deserve all the love in the world, and NOT controlling love, but free love. Free love that doesn’t pull you down and hold you tight. Free love lets you fly and helps you connect with the right kind of people.
Here’s wishing that everyone out there finds genuine connections and secure relationships, despite the horrible or passive-aggressive childhood or adolescence, a lot of us had.
Love cannot and should not control.
Love must feel free. Remember that!
About the Writer
Swati Jagdish is a Lactation Counselor, a Sexuality Health Educator, and the Managing Trustee of the Coimbatore parenting network. She advocates for gentle and open parenting and has some interesting conversations on topics that are often considered taboo.
Instagram id – mayas_amma