Gentle Parenting Explained

Parenting styles are often debated and range from strict to laxer therapeutic and permissive parenting techniques. We don’t consciously choose our parenting style once we have kids. Usually, our choice of parenting styles is dependent on our personal experiences growing up. You either want to copy your parent’s unique parenting strengths or avoid what they did wrong.

Most parents don’t apply one parenting style. Instead, it’s a mix of several parenting styles to suit the scenario. And with the many parenting styles, it can be helpful to learn about them before deciding what works best for you. One of these parenting styles is gentle parenting, which emphasizes understanding and empathizing with your child, being respectful, and setting boundaries.


This parenting style emphasizes reflection. That is, you contemplate the compassion with which you treat your toddler. Read this beginner’s guide on gentle parenting to learn more and see if it’s a fit for you.

What Is Gentle Parenting?

The gentle parenting approach does not adhere to strict rules and advocates that you partner with your child to make decisions based on intrinsic willingness and choices instead of external pressures. According to Guide Post Montessori, This parenting approach demands that you know the habits you model for your child. It fosters compassion, is open to emotions, and embraces the child as a whole, capable human.

Parenting professional and author Sarah Ockwell-Smith introduced the concept in The Gentle Parenting Book, summing it up in three words: respect, empathy, and understanding.

Because of how the gently parented toddler is raised, she learns to understand and control her emotions because a parent or caregiver consistently affirms her feelings as real and important. The parent offers a model for maintaining one’s cool without offering apparent incentives for doing so.

So, the child becomes a kind, self-regulating, principled human because he wants to, not because he gets something in return. Gentle parenting moves away from a very dominant progressive technique known as “authoritative parenting,” which also allows favors emotional connection but for good and bad reinforcements. Authoritative parenting styles may use grounding and time-outs, which their gentler counterparts are against.

RELATED: Six Great Parenting Techniques For Infants Recommended By Expert

The Principles Of Gentle Parenting

According to Healthline, there are three Cs within gentle parenting, including connection, communication, and consistency. If you’re closely connected with your child, she’ll likely want to act in a way that impresses you. You also need to remember certain truths, including the fact that kids learn by watching us, and we need to treat them in a way that shows they are their own person and need to feel loved for who they are. Here are the basic principles of gentle parenting:

  • Empathy – Be aware of your toddler’s needs and feelings. Your child is maybe acting out or throwing a tantrum for a reason. Instead of getting pissed at them, be there with them and try to understand what they want or ask them if they can communicate. Make her feel that what matters to her matters to you too. Is your toddler crying at the mall because she’s sleepy or wants a snack? Very Well Family advises that you try to understand why she’s acting that way instead of getting angry or punishing them.’
  • Respect – We tend to forget so many times that our toddlers have their own feelings and likes, no matter how small they are. So, why not treat your child the same way you’d want to be treated. Speak to them as you’d like to be spoken to. For example, instead of cutting your child short when she speaks to you as you’re busy, make it clear that you’re busy but will be with her in a few minutes. Sit back and think, “Do I treat my baby the way I’d like to be treated?” If yes, that is gentle parenting. Understanding- We often get angry at our toddlers because we expect them to behave like us. That is, listen when we say no and fall in line. But it doesn’t work that way. Your child’s brain is still growing, meaning he can’t control his behavior the same way an adult would. Are your toddler’s expectations age-appropriate, or are you expecting too much? Your toddler isn’t having an outburst to spite you; maybe he’s just sleepy, hungry, or is trying to communicate something. Try explaining why he shouldn’t act that way and what to do instead.
  • Boundaries– It’s important to set boundaries for your toddler, but the easier the rules, the easier it is to remain consistent. For example, you can make it clear to your toddler that she has to stay warm when it’s snowing so that she doesn’t get sick.
  • Incentives and punishment-The gentle parenting approach doesn’t pay attention to rewards and punishment because providing incentives for good performance and for bad performance teaches the toddler to behave a certain way to get a reward or avoid being punished. The idea is to motivate the child from within.

How To Practice Gentle Parenting

Examples of modeling gentle parenting include:

  • Commenting on the action, instead of the person – For example, instead of telling your toddler that she is naughty, tell her that you don’t like it when she does a certain thing and to try something else instead. You’re empathizing by accepting everyone makes mistakes, but they do not define us.
  • Be kind to yourself to show your child to be compassionate about her own emotions. For example, if you say that you’re too tired and will take a hot bath and go to bed, it shows your child how to treat himself in a similar situation.
  • Reinforce positive actions – Instead of always saying no, focus on what you need to encourage. For example, instead of telling your toddler not to touch something, you can tell them that the item is just for staring at.
  • Invite your toddler to work as a team instead of making commands – Instead of telling him to wear his jacket, you can request that you both wear your jackets before going outside.

Is Gentle Parenting Effective?

Yes, it is. The one parenting style that has been proven effective is authoritative parenting, which is technically the same as gentle parenting. But if you’re looking for an easy fix, this won’t work because parenting does not work that way. It takes time and work. However, some parents misunderstand gentle parenting, assuming that you should be permissive and let your toddler get away with anything. But that isn’t the case.

Families have rules, boundaries, and well-planned routines. It takes time and effort, emotionally and physically, and you need to care for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll burn out. Also, this technique requires that you delve into your upbringing. You’ll have to understand why you behave in a certain way and work with what triggers you from your past. It’s some kind of self-directed therapy.

Sources: Guide Post Montessori, Healthline, Very Well Family

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