A relationship with your child based on empathy and mutual respect, also known as “gentle parenting,” can make them more confident, according to a popular childcare writer.

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, who wrote The Gentle Parenting Book, told CNBC over the phone that “gentle” parents understand their children’s abilities well, so expectations of their behavior are “age-appropriate”.

In other words, “gentle” parents do not expect their child to behave like an adult, but rather to empathize with their behavior. For example, if they misbehave, she said that a “gentle” parent would try to teach their child a better way to express their feelings rather than punishing them.

Ockwell-Smith stated that having children grow up in a home with less yelling and punishment has “a massive impact on their self-esteem”.

Calmer, more empathic parenting also had a neurologically positive effect on the development of the child’s amygdala, which is responsible for regulating emotions. Ockwell-Smith said research has shown that this part of their brains grows larger as children grow up in a “more supportive and caring” environment.

“So they have literally grown the part of their brain that is responsible for their emotions and calm when they are older,” said Ockwell-Smith.

For example, a study by a researcher at the University of Montreal published in March showed that “tough parenting practices” could actually stunt the growth of a child’s brain. A 2012 study by Washington University scientists of preschool children showed a “positive effect of early supportive parenting on healthy hippocampal development,” which is key to memory, learning, and stress modulation in the brain region.

‘Architects’ of a child’s life

Ockwell-Smith said research showed that raising children, especially during the first five years of their lives, is key to developing their self-esteem and future relationships with others.

A 2016 study by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University cited research that found that over a million new synapses or connections between neurons in the brain form every second during a child’s first few years of life. Later these connections are reduced, a process called circumcision, which preserves the connections that are “strengthened” by what they experience and learn. The authors of the paper therefore argued that positive experiences in those early years are key to creating a strong foundation for a child’s development.

In fact, Ockwell-Smith said that parents acted as “architects” in a child’s life, so there was “nothing more important” than the way they were raised in those early years.

She explained that there are three main styles of parenting: authoritarian, authoritarian (also known as “soft parenting”), and permissive.

In contrast to “soft upbringing”, the authoritarian approach could be classified as “old school” upbringing, she said. Parents who follow this approach typically demand respect from their child and are often punished for wrongdoing.

At the other end of the spectrum, “permissive” parents can be classified as those who have low expectations of their child and who lack discipline and guidance, according to a statement on the Ockwell-Smith website.

“Good headroom”

However, Ockwell-Smith said the most important thing for parents is to solve their own problems first before following advice on “soft parenting”.

She said, “We have to start with ourselves – so we have to think about it, what are my stressors? Why do I act the way I do? Why do I get so offended when my child says or does something? Am I a good role model? ‘”

She explained that this was important because a parent could do or say all the right things, but if they weren’t calm and quick-tempered, a child would still notice – “It’s not magic, it won’t work unless you’re in good headspace first. ”

This may mean working through their own childhood or adult problems, such as: B. the need to set boundaries with other adults.

This could mean, for example, that the “mental burden” of parenting is more evenly shared with a partner, Ockwell-Smith said.

However, she emphasized that it is also important for parents to express when they are “busy” and need a break.

She said that it wasn’t about following this advice to “always be perfect” and realizing that it is acceptable to make mistakes as parents, as it has also helped teach children what to do, when they make mistakes.