While you’ve probably heard the term “gentle parenting” much more in recent years, there are countless misconceptions about what this parenting approach entails. It goes by several names (including conscious parenting, respectful parenting, peaceful parenting, and authoritative parenting) but the premise is the same.
The gentle parenting style is rooted in showing empathy and respect for your child and can start at birth. The actions you take throughout your child’s life are intended to help them become more emotionally intelligent and self-aware, while also establishing a healthy parent-child relationship. It’s less about raising subservient children and more about creating a peaceful, forgiving environment for them to learn and grow.
Children’s behavior can be challenging, and if you haven’t had enough practice, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume that gentle parenting is impractical or ineffective. Once you get past these myths and start consistently applying the strategies to your life, you might be surprised to learn that you were misguided.
Myth #1: Children Always Get Their Way
Gentle parenting often gets confused with permissive parenting, but they are not the same.
Permissive parenting is basically when kids run the show. Adults have almost no control and limits are not clearly stated to the children.
With gentle parenting, boundaries are established and clear expectations for a child’s behavior are reinforced. Parents and children work toward cooperation and mutual understanding. A child’s voice is heard, but they are not the sole decision-makers.
Myth #2: Children Aren’t Disciplined
I interpret discipline to mean that a child understands that rules exist, and are guided to abide by them, which is valued in gentle parenting.
Even with rules, it’s normal for humans to make mistakes and in gentle parenting, we embrace natural, predictable consequences and opportunities to try again. Children are not spanked, hit, yelled at, put in timeout, shamed, or forced to suffer in any way for their errors.
For example, when my youngest daughter was four, she asked to eat off a “grown-up” plate. She got distracted, dropped the plate on the floor, and it broke. She instantly burst into tears. Instead of yelling or banishing her to a corner, we identified that she was feeling sad and disappointed. Then she helped me sweep up the pieces and we practiced using a plate carefully together.
In gentle parenting, whatever happens as a result of the child’s behavior needs to make sense, and children are given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
Myth #3: You Always Have to be Patient
Parenting is extremely hard and you are absolutely allowed to be angry, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, and sad. It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to be patient 100% of the time. The key to gentle parenting is to model the emotional regulation you expect of your kids. How should they respond with they’re distressed? Be an example of the way you want them to communicate their unhappiness.
In my conversations with other parents, their biggest challenge is that they feel inclined to yell at their kids. My advice would be first to apologize to your children if it does happen and second, find another outlet for your displeasure that doesn’t impact them negatively.
Myth #4: Gentle Parenting Isn’t Effective
Effectiveness depends on your goals. If you want to foster individual autonomy and self-respect and cultivate a healthy attachment between you and your child, I enthusiastically recommend gentle parenting.
At the end of the day, only you know the parenting style that brings you and your family the most happiness. Every home is different, but hopefully, you’ll continue learning about gentle parenting and find elements that fit your circumstances.
If you’re looking for more resources and role models who present solutions for real-life parenting challenges, these are my favorite Instagram accounts:
If you enjoy reading, here are a few highly rated titles related to gentle parenting:
- Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids by Hunter Clarke-Fields
- The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) by Philippa Perry
- The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
- No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
What has your experience with gentle parenting been like?