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Keith and I are flippant about threatening wanton violence on Alfie. It may sometimes come across that we believe what we say but in fact it is our version of scream therapy.

I have a bit of a confession to make though, for my part it is also a thinly veiled disguise for the crushing inadequacy I feel as a mother.

At the start of this year, Alfie was invited to a birthday party. I really wanted him to go because he had earned a treat after the upheaval of a new baby and a sick mother. I was terrified though, I still wasn't quite right, it was also the first time I had dealt with both children on my own in public.

I will spare you the specific details of the car crash that followed: Suffice to say Alfie got over excited with a toddler and pulled him over, I couldn't reach him quickly enough and I ended up getting bawled out in front of a room full of people by a very angry mother.

In truth, it was the single most crushing moment of my life and it took every ounce of my strength to hold steady, talk quietly to Alfie about why his behaviour wasn't appropriate and remove him gently from the play area to calm down. What I wanted to do was burst into tears, grab my kids and run.

In truth I felt like I had failed myself, my son, and the other child involved. 

I still feel it now, and the memory of that day means that I feel physically sick every time Alfie interacts with another child. The tension of not knowing whether I will get to him before he does something innately toddlerish just destroys any enjoyment I might otherwise feel. Any time we get through a social gathering without incident I find myself holding back the tears of relief.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well it’s not because I want your sympathy; more that I want to reflect on how hard it is to believe in the way you are parenting when another parent calls you out.

I never want to parent in fear – and I mean that in both senses. I don’t want my child to obey me because they are scared of me, and I don’t want to ask my child to obey me because I am fearful of others.

When I was pregnant with Alfie I went to see some family and in the toilet was hung a frame amongst many others with a simple quote:
“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.” Mohandas K. Gandhi
That quote hit me between the eyes with its utter truth, but what continues to challenge me as a mother is the definition of violence. I find it easy not to beat seven shades out of my children, but being honest, I sometimes forget that words can be just as violent.

Being a gentle parent isn't just about being able to stand and say "look, I didn't hit my child", it's about being able to say "I led my child to a good place through my example, not by force".

And despite the many parenting evils directed at me by social media, one of the things it blesses me with is access to my "tribe". I find so much wisdom and love amongst virtual strangers who believe that I do that you can't remove Toddler DoOm by force of action or word.

What I am working hardest on at the moment is to change the intent of everything I do with Alfie from punishment to enforcing limits. Rebecca Eanes from Positive Parents describes the difference well:
"Punishment is retaliation. The intention of punishment is to make the child feel bad ... it does not teach alternatives. Enforcing limits can and should be done with kindness and empathy ... their dignities intact"
Their dignities intact. What an amazing concept, to be able to guide your child without crushing them, to help them make choices rather than bitch slapping them into line.

I'm sure I fail about a hundred times a day to be a gentle parent, in part because I'm barely half a step in front on the learning curve that we are all going through, and in part because I'm doing this despite having a very Mediterranean personality which lends itself well to noise and energy rather than quiet and thoughtfulness.

When we get it right though I feel the difference like the sun coming through the clouds. I see my son thinking about his actions, not falling prostrate in regret, but thinking about them, and sometimes taking a different road.

I can't ask for much more.

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