Meet the mom who practices “gentle parenting” by barely ever saying no, rarely shouting and encouraging her child to “express not suppress” her emotions, even if she’s having a full-blown tantrum.
Namwila Mulwanda, 23, says she grew up in a “strict African household with authoritarian parents”.
She feels her upbringing impacted her mental health as there was an “expectation of blind obedience” from her parents and says she’s a “self-confessed ex-people pleaser”.
After studying A-Level psychology and with a background in law, Mulwanda became fascinated by child psychology and different parenting methods.
Before having their daughter, Nhyara, 17 months, Namwila and partner, Zephi, 23, decided they wanted to raise their children using a ‘gentle parenting’ style, which is a philosophy enforcing discipline and boundaries with kindness and respect.
Although it’s not always easy, the parents are already seeing the results as their tot flourishes into a happy and sociable little girl.
Mulwanda, a stay-at-home mom from Colchester, Essex in England, said: “I just want her to have the childhood I didn’t have.
“We incorporated gentle parenting from the onset, we allow her to express her emotions and want to instil her with confidence.
“It’s not simply letting your kids do what they want, it’s giving them room to understand the world with mutual respect, empathy and compassion,” she said.
The mom revealed that ‘gentle parents’ can still be firm and disciplined, yet there is a difference between discipline and punishment.
“There are certain things we would never do. We would never spank our daughter and we wouldn’t suppress the expression of emotion,” said Mulwanda.
Admittedly, the mom revealed it can be difficult to allow your child to express themselves when they are having a public tantrum as you can feel self-conscious.
She added: “If you suppress a child’s ability to feel, they could grow up unable to express their emotions in a healthy way.”
According to the parent, it’s better to work through their child’s feelings in a calm, collective manner as raised voices and shouting won’t get through to the child.
“Too much noise causes the brain to shut down, and children don’t hear the words properly,” Mulwanda added.
In moments Nhyara is emotional, her mom will work through patiently with her daughter what is causing her to be upset.
Mulwanda added: “When children are having tantrums, the logical side of their brain doesn’t work, and they’re led with the right, emotional side of their brain.
In these moments, Mulwanda will say: “Oh, let’s try and calm ourselves down”.
“I can see you’re upset right now, you’re upset because I’ve taken your ‘toy’ off you’ – she would then explain why she’d taken the toy off her daughter.
According to Mulwanda, “Everyone is human and can get frustrated and yell, but if you feel you’re going to lash out, it’s best to leave the room and explain you’re taking a breather.
“The basis of gentle parenting is just talking to your child from a place of respect and understanding and learning not to yell.
“If you do yell, you can apologise afterwards and show your accountability,” she said.
The progressive parents also want to teach Nhyara about consent and will ask how she wants to say goodbye to people and relatives.
“We will always ask if she wants a hug or if she wants a kiss, or if she simply wants to wave or say goodbye,” added Mulwanda.
The tot loves climbing and is a risk-taker, Mulwanda said: “She wants to jump and bounce off the sofa, so we say feet on the floor because it’s not safe.”
She says gentle parenting involves being intentional with your language and claims overusing words such as ‘stop’ and ‘no’ loses the desired effect.
As Nhyara is mixed race her mom is determined her daughter will be instilled with self-love as growing up she battled with her race and self-acceptance.
The mom also practices ‘targeted praise, and instead of simply saying ‘good job’, the parents choose to elaborate their compliments.
“For example, when she has scribbled something, I will say, ‘You really worked hard on that, I like the pattern,” Mulwanda said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love a ‘good job’, it’s just trying to be more intentional with your praise,” she added.
The mom said she has been accused of “raising a snowflake” but argues she’d rather raise a child instilled with self-confidence and the tools to take on the world.
“I know I can’t stop bad things happening in the world, but we want her to have the strength within her to take on the world and to share her light with the world,” Mulwanda said.
“You shouldn’t be harsh to your child to prepare them for a harsh world,” she said.
Fundamentals of gentle parenting
Only raise your voice and shout at children in situations where they are really unsafe.Don’t overuse the words ‘stop’ and ‘no’.Never spank or slap your child.Recite positive affirmations about their personality, for example, that they’re intelligent and strong.Encourage them to “feel their emotions” and overcome them, even if it means having a full-blown tantrum.Use targeted praise that focuses on a specific thing they have done well rather than a generalised ‘good job’.