Gentle parenting is a parenting style that emphasizes empathy, respect, and boundaries. Raising kids is not easy, and there is a multitude of “parenting styles” to choose from, or just not label your parenting style at all! A parenting approach might work well for one family, and not work out at all for another – and that’s okay. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all perfect parenting style.
The benefits of gentle parenting are extensive, and one of the biggest benefits is that it forces parents to address some of their own emotions about how they were brought up, and causes them to practice more empathy, respect, and compassion when it comes to how they parent their own children. Parents might wonder if they’re raising their children the “right” way – but there truly is no such thing as a perfect parent!
As more research is done on early childhood development and adolescent development, healthcare professionals are in agreement that gentle parenting is a very beneficial way to help nurture a child’s mental health and emotional health, with long-lasting effects on creating positive parent-child relationships. Through emphasizing respect and boundaries, gentle parenting and respectful parenting can empower children to face stressful times with confidence and emotional intelligence.
Gentle parenting is a popular parenting approach.
Gentle parenting is becoming increasingly popular as it gains traction on social media. This positive parenting style teaches parents to go deeper than a child’s behavior, identifying the root cause of their feelings and choices. Gentle parenting encourages empathy, compassion, and a gentler approach to raising children, acknowledging the negative impact that harsh punishment has on kids over time. Gentler parenting methods are beneficial to both adults and children, as they learn to navigate their big feelings together.
Common gentle parenting techniques aren’t complicated.
The ultimate goal of gentle parenting is to raise kids that are confident, independent, and empowered to make their own decisions. Gentle parenting methods value empathy, respect, and understanding, as well as learning to set boundaries.
While traditional parenting methods focus on a system of rewards and punishments, gentle parenting focuses on improving a child’s development through their own self-awareness and understanding of their own feelings and behavior.
A gentle parenting approach does not offer rewards for good behavior and punishments (including time outs and spanking) for bad behavior. Instead, gentle parents focus on coaching their children, not coercing them.
For instance, if a child is throwing a tantrum in the middle of a task, a traditional parenting method might recommend scolding them or using time-outs as discipline. Parents might feel like they need to tell the child that they are not acting appropriately, and rush them through the task.
A gentle parenting approach would encourage the parents to shift the focus from the “wrong” behavior to taking a pause and meeting the child where they are at. Get on the child’s level, and calmly talk them through the scenario. Narrate the situation, set up clear guidelines for expectations, and state an age-appropriate consequence if the expectations are not met.
Gentle parenting emphasizes empathy and respect for a child’s feelings. When parents remain calm, their children will be more likely to calm down. By recognizing and labeling their emotions and feelings, you can help younger children navigate big emotions. Tricky situations tend to be more peaceful because expectations and boundaries are already in place.
Gentle parents do not respond out of anger and frustration like authoritative parenting. Instead, they promote regulated responses through their own personal self-control. They validate their child’s experience instead of trying to stifle it.
Gentle parenting teaches values such as setting boundaries, giving respect, and navigating big emotions.
Whether you have one child or four children, gentle parenting can be beneficial to all families. If parents are unfamiliar with this parenting approach, they can seek the assistance of a parenting coach, parenting expert, or consult a gentle parenting book for more information.
Gentle parenting can benefit older children as well.
Gentle parenting can be a motivational tool.
Gentle parenting is a very helpful approach when it comes to child-rearing in the younger years – but it can also be useful for older, school-aged children. Children learn by example and repetition, and the more empathy and respect they get from their parents, the more likely they are to exhibit these positive traits themselves as they grow and mature.
When parents focus only on correcting bad behavior, they miss out on the opportunity to act as a “parent coach” to their child, giving them useful strategies for navigating life. While it is completely normal for children to make mistakes and have big feelings, parents can come alongside them and help them through these tricky situations, not belittle them. Gentle parenting is about support.
Gentle parents help children work through difficult situations and choices.
Adults can help children work through tough situations by acknowledging the child’s feelings, and talking about positive behavior that might be used to navigate the situation. If your child, for instance, chooses not to do an important homework assignment, instead of getting angry and using discipline or a punishment, a gentle parenting approach might encourage a peaceful conversation with the child, acknowledging that they are upset, don’t want to do the assignment, but set a clear boundary and let them know it needs to be done and why it needs to be done. A gentle parent aims to help their child learn to be self-aware of their own behaviors.
Gentle parenting is just one parenting approach out of many great parenting styles – and it’s not without its issues.
Gentle parenting isn’t perfect – it is often more time-consuming than other parenting methods.
Gentle parenting requires two important things: a child that is self-aware enough to process their feelings and behavior, and a parent or caregiver that is patient enough to dedicate the time to understanding and empathizing with the child.
Although this is an evidenced-based approach and widely respected by parenting experts, gentle parenting can be tough for caregivers who work full time, a child who attends daycare for most of the day, or children that go to school or are cared for by other relatives. When the gentle parents aren’t heavily involved in a child’s daily life, it can be harder to incorporate gentle parenting techniques into their schedule.
Gentle techniques also often get confused with helicopter parenting, which is a parenting method that involves the parents shielding their child from harm at every turn, being heavily involved in their child’s life and solving problems for them. Gentle parenting focuses on helping the child learn to question, analyze, and process their feelings and behavior for themselves, without the need for parental intervention.
Gentle parenting requires parents to “unlearn” traditional parenting advice.
A major task for parents who practice gentle parenting is learning to recognize their own personal triggers when their child behaves badly.
It can be challenging for parents to adopt a new way of thinking when it comes to dealing with a crying baby, coaxing shy toddlers to practice positive social skills, or help their school-aged children learn to tell the truth and respect their peers. Parents must learn to take a step back, address their own triggers that stem from the way they were raised, and figure out how that impacts their parenting style with their children.
Breaking away from what is deemed “normal” parenting can be a challenge, especially for parents who were raised in a home that did not allow crying, tantrums, or other outbursts. It can be tough to practice gentle parenting when you were raised to suppress emotions instead of work through big feelings. However, gentle parenting helps caregivers learn how to set age appropriate boundaries and expectations with their children.
Gentle parenting might make parents seem like they lack boundaries.
Gentle parenting does not mean parenting without discipline – it means setting up healthy boundaries. Gentle parenting doesn’t mean that parents can let children run the household, making all the decisions and dictating the family’s mood and activities. Some parents might confuse gentle parenting with being overly friendly with kids, letting them make the rules.
Gentle parenting is all about setting up healthy boundaries, not giving kids more freedom to misbehave. It’s about understanding children and working together to form solutions instead of focusing on punishing behaviors.
This parenting strategy focuses on relational, empathy-based care and not good behavior out of fear of consequences. It is based on the idea that teaching kids positive traits and social skills when they are young sets them up for a lifetime of success as they navigate tricky situations.
Gentle parenting is an evidence-based approach that focuses on empathy and respect.
Gentle parenting is becoming increasingly popular, as information spreads rapidly throughout social media channels. Gentle parenting is not to be confused with permissive parenting; instead, it focuses on healthy boundaries, working through big feelings, supportive family relationships, and teaching children to feel empowered to tackle tough situations on their own.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.