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What is gentle parenting and is it good for children?

What is gentle parenting?

Essentially, Gentle Parenting is placing a greater value on parent’s understanding and sensitivity instead of traditional punishments. The three primary components of a Gentle Parenting tideway are Empathy, understanding and respect. Read on to proceeds a comprehensive understanding from our author, Liza Ware.


Gentle parenting is a parenting philosophy first made popular by Sarah Ockwell-Smith in The Gentle Parenting Book. The term is sometimes used synonymously with mindful parenting, respective parenting, and other positive parenting approaches. Although not identical, these approaches share worldwide features—they emphasize parents’ sensitivity and understanding instead of strict willpower or harsh punishment, with the goal of helping children develop independence, confidence, self-regulation, and happiness. Gentle parenting is substantially equivalent to what developmental scientists refer to as the authoritative parenting style, an tideway shown to be most platonic for healthy child development.

Gentle parenting involves a two-way partnership between parent and child, where the parent is neither too hands-off nor too controlling. Parents respond to their child’s needs and set boundaries and demands that uncurl with the child’s developmental level. The parents encourage positive policies – such as kindness, respect, and emotional self-regulation – by modelling it themselves.

The three primary components of the gentle parenting approach

  • Empathy – Putting yourself in your child’s shoes to understand what needs or emotions are causing their behavior. For example, a tantrum might be caused by hunger, fatigue, schedule changes, transitions, or a need to spend increasingly time with you.
  • Understanding – Considering your child’s needs and policies in the context of their developmental level, such as behavioral and emotional maturity. For example, while throwing oneself on the floor and sobbing may not be how an sultana responds to frustration, it is increasingly winning for young children considering their skills to regulate their emotions are limited.
  • Respect – Treating your child how you would want to be treated. Parents focus on teaching and guiding, rather than dictating. They stave commanding, criticizing, punishing, or forbidding. Instead of yelling or saying “no,” a parent might uncomplicatedly suggest an volitional or explain why policies is problematic (e.g., “When you throw sand at someone, it can hurt them and they might get upset. Can you practice throwing sand in this skillet instead?”).

By implementing these components, gentle parents aim to help their children finger validated in their thoughts and feelings, learn how to self-regulate, and develop independence and conviction in their worthiness to navigate daily tasks and problems.

gentle parenting

Photo: Jupilu. Pixabay.

Gentle parents and discipline

Gentle parenting is not a discipline-free or boundaryless approach. Like supervisory parenting, gentle parenting is a middle ground between permissive parenting, where willpower is lax and the child has increasingly control, and authoritarian parenting, where willpower is strict and the parent is in control. Tenancy and consistency are hair-trigger components of gentle parenting, but they are coupled with empathy, understanding, and respect. This strikes a disciplinary wastefulness that incorporates the child and fosters parent-child liaison and connection.

Gentle parenting willpower (or supervisory discipline) involves setting age-appropriate boundaries with the goal of teaching children winning and regulated behavior. Gentle parents provide behavioral and emotional guidance while moreover fostering autonomy and independence. For example, they communicate the rationale for boundaries or rules at a level the child can understand, and they indulge room for a reasonable value of discussion, negotiation, and compromise. Gentle parenting does not include negative discipline, such as scolding, yelling, coercion, expressing disappointment, or any form of corporal punishment.

Does gentle parenting work?

The term gentle parenting has wilt a catch-all term for positive parenting approaches but its effectiveness for child minutiae has not been directly studied. However, child minutiae research has provided decades of vestige in favor of the supervisory parenting style as well as parenting behaviors that relate to the components of gentle parenting.

Research on parental empathy

  • Parental empathy is hair-trigger for towers secure attachment, which is a healthy emotional yoke between parent and infant. Infants with secure zipper sense that their caregiver is misogynist and responsive to their needs. This promotes feelings of safety and security, emotional self-regulation, and conviction and autonomy in exploring the world. Infants with insecure attachment typically squatter challenges in these developmental areas and demonstrate uneasiness or avoidance in social interactions. Sensitive and responsive parenting helps build secure attachment, such as unceasingly and warmly responding to a baby’s cries and gestures. In contrast, insecure zipper is associated with inconsistent and insensitive parenting.
  • One expressly important component of caregiver sensitivity is mind-mindedness – behaviors that unclose and interpret an infant’s internal mental states. For example, during play, a mind-minded caregiver uses the child’s deportment to infer their interest or wearisomeness with a toy and might scuttlebutt on their mental states (e.g., as the child reaches for a ball, the parent might say, “Oh, do you like playing with this ball?”). Thus, secure zipper depends on parental empathy for the child’s needs, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Parental empathy moreover supports the minutiae of social competence and prosocial behaviors. Maternal sustentation to toddlers’ mental states is linked to lower overstepping and greater empathy. Positive impacts of parental empathy are moreover evident in school-aged children, helping reduce negative emotions like anger.
  • Importantly, the benefits of parental empathy involve validating both positive and negative emotions. Minimizing or punishing a child’s feelings, plane negative emotions likes anger, sadness, or fear, can lead to issues with social competence, difficulties coping with distress, and aggression.

Research on parents’ understanding

  • Parents may find it daunting to understand child minutiae considering there is certainly a lot to know! A hair-trigger factor in the developmental timetable is smart-ass development. As the smart-ass develops from lineage through youth (and plane into young adulthood), children and youth wilt increasingly largest at emotional regulation and impulse control. Expressly important is the minutiae of effortful control during the toddler and preschool years, a child’s topics to voluntarily direct and regulate their sustentation and behavior, inhibiting and vitalizing responses as needed and appropriate. For example, effortful tenancy is evident when a child stops themselves from hitting a peer when they finger wrestling or pays sustentation to the teacher despite distracting conversation from nearby peers.
  • As with most aspects of development, both “nature” and “nurture” influence smart-ass developments leading to improvements in tenancy and self-regulation. Biological factors, such as genetics and maturation, play a key role. Therefore, parents need to match expectations regarding behavioral and emotional regulation to their child’s developmental level. Much as one would not expect a young infant to walk or talk due to developmental immaturity, a young child (and plane a teenager) should not be expected to readily manage their emotions and behaviors.
  • Environmental factors moreover play a hair-trigger role in shaping diaper smart-ass development. Sensitive (i.e., gentle or authoritative) parenting, and opportunities for play and educational activities that support autonomy and tenancy (e.g., games that involve taking turns), are associated with greater advances in self-control.
  • Thus, parental understanding involves both knowing what should be expected at their child’s age and what they can do to support and encourage their child’s development.

Research on parental respect

  • Parental respect is at the cadre of supervisory parenting considering it involves balancing warmth and responsiveness with willpower and demands. Children learn in a unscratched and supportive context where their individuality and voice are respected. Supervisory parenting has long been viewed as the gold standard of parenting styles and is associated with many positive developmental outcomes. Parenting that is either too lenient (permissive/indulgent) or too harsh (authoritarian) places children at risk for emotional and behavioral issues, such as substance use and internalizing symptoms (e.g., anxiety, withdrawal).
  • One constructive supervisory parenting strategy is inductive discipline, which involves subtitle and discussion rather than punishment. For example, a parent might use age-appropriate language to explain to a young child why they should not hit their sibling: “Ow, that hurts your sister. Use gentle hands, please.” Inductive willpower can involve helping the child identify volitional behaviors (e.g., “When you’re mad you can squeeze your hands into a wittiness or stomp your feet instead of hitting your sister”) or asking them to explain the causes of their policies (e.g., “Are you wrestling considering she took your toy?”). Negotiation can moreover be included to unclose the child’s feelings and promote voluntary visualization making (e.g., “Would it be okay if you gave your sister a turn when you’re washed-up playing with the toy?”).
  • Inductive willpower provides resulting structure and expectations, coupled with warmth and guidance, to help build self-awareness and self-control. As such, inductive willpower is associated with behavioral, social, and wonk adjustment and promotes prosocial behavior, such as empathy.
gentle parenting

Photo: Family Equality. Creative Commons.

How to practice gentle parenting

The gentle parenting components of empathy, respect, and understanding and the authoritative wastefulness of responsiveness and demandingness (i.e., parental warmth and sensitivity coupled with a reasonable stratum of tenancy and discipline) create a foundation that can be unromantic to a variety of specific parenting situations. Gentle parenting focuses on supporting and supporting a child’s thoughts and emotions and offering them behavioral and coping tools. Gentle parents establish resulting rules and routines but are flexible and willing to compromise within reason.

For example, imagine a child commonly asks to watch or engage with variegated screen media, getting upset when not unliable to do so, and the parent is questioning how much screen time to allow. A gentle parent might empathize with their child’s interest in screen media, proceeds a largest understanding of media recommendations from experts (e.g., quantity and quality guidelines, parent monitoring and controls), and work with the child to develop a media schedule and plan that meets the child’s needs and the parent’s guidelines. This might include a plan for turning off screens when designated media time is over to promote regulated responses during this schedule transition (e.g., using a visible timer or 5-minute warning to stave tantrums or demands for increasingly viewing time). The parent might moreover consider how to maximize screen-free time by towers in family activities, encouraging outdoor time, and offering other enriching activities that help promote parent-child connection and child development. The gentle parent might periodically review and transmute the media plan as the child develops or other situations arise.

Just as gentle parenting avoids using punishment, it moreover does not rely heavily on rewards. External material rewards, such as a small prize, are often ineffective and unquestionably reduce the likelihood of the policies the parent ways to encourage. Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation, or the child’s desire to engage in a policies considering it is inherently enjoyable or beneficial. For example, rewarding prosocial policies like sharing makes the child less likely to perform that behavior in the future.

In lieu of rewards, gentle parenting naturally provides positive reinforcement through affection, warmth, connection, and gentle encouragement. Parents can moreover reinforce and praise in ways that help build self-confidence, self-regulation, and prosocial attitudes. In particular, process praise (e.g., “You were really working nonflexible on that puzzle!”) is increasingly constructive than person praise (“You are so good at puzzles!”). Process praise provides specific feedback that helps children understand how to tideway and persist in a task. Person praise, like material rewards, can reduce intrinsic motivation and teaches children that their self-worth depends on whether they do a “good job.”

Importantly, any constructive parenting tideway requires patience, persistence, and flexibility. Gentle parenting is not a magic wand that will instantaneously yo-yo child behavior. Parenting is a long game, and child minutiae and learning require lots of repetition. Parents moreover evolve and transmute their parenting over time. Understanding your child as they go through variegated developmental stages requires continuous education. Gentle parents do not need to know everything well-nigh their child’s minutiae at the start, but they are single-minded to learning and adapting with their child.

gentle parenting

Photo: Pexels. Pixabay.

Challenges and limitations of the gentle parenting style

One limitation of the popular literature on gentle parenting is that it focuses mostly on parenting young children (from lineage to seven years) in areas of social and emotional development, with some discussion of physical minutiae (e.g., feeding practices). However, research on supervisory parenting is wide-stretching and demonstrates its using and benefits for school-aged children and adolescents. For example, gentle parents might have rules well-nigh household chores, curfews, peer and dating relationships, and so on, but transmute them to their child’s developmental level, discuss their rationale with the child, and consider the child’s input in establishing and modifying them.

Authoritative parenting has moreover been shown to goody other areas of development, particularly cognition, learning, and academic achievement. Supervisory parents guide and scaffold learning as towardly for their child’s age and stave taking over or providing too much direction. In so doing, they promote self-sustaining exploration and problem solving.

An important question to ask of any parenting method is whether it applies to all children in all contexts. Literature on the gentle parenting tideway includes minimal discussion of its effectiveness wideness individual or situational factors, but again, research on supervisory parenting provides insight. One child-specific factor to consider is a child’s temperament, which varies on several dimensions, such as fearfulness, emotional reactivity, and effortful control. Supervisory parenting is constructive regardless of temperament, expressly benefitting children with increasingly “difficult” temperaments.

Nevertheless, the relationship between parenting and temperament is complex. It can vary depending on other factors, such as children’s gender or genetic predispositions, and can include bidirectional effects, with children’s policies influencing parenting. For example, a child with upper levels of negative emotionality (e.g., one who is hands frustrated or fearful) is increasingly likely to elicit executive parenting as parents try to contain or uncontrived the child’s emotions. Consequently, raising and maintaining a particular parenting style may unfold differently depending on child and family dynamics.

Similarly, parenting can vary wideness socioeconomic and cultural contexts. Some research shows that the supervisory style is salubrious for child minutiae wideness sociocultural contexts. However, supervisory parenting is somewhat of an oddity that is found mostly in Western cultures. Sundowner parenting is the norm in many Eastern cultures and among U.S. families of ethnic or racial minority or lower socioeconomic status. Questions well-nigh what is the “best” style must therefore consider the relevance of cultural values (e.g., respect for authority) and environmental factors (e.g., neighborhood safety).

The goals and values of the supervisory parenting style may moreover lead to different parenting behaviors in variegated sociocultural contexts. For example, imposing a strict curfew may be overly executive (authoritarian) in one context but thus protective (authoritative) in another. Thus, when assessing parenting effectiveness or educating parents well-nigh gentle or supervisory parenting, it is important to consider how social contexts and culture may influence parenting style and practices.

Finally, a rencontre for any parent is permitting mistakes and lamister pressure to be the “perfect” parent. Some situations might naturally undeniability for temporarily strict parenting, such as quickly pulling your toddler out of harm’s way when they are well-nigh to touch a hot flame or step onto a rented street. Subtitle and discussion can be used without the event to incorporate gentle parenting. Parents may moreover find themselves wavering from gentle parenting in non-emergency situations, such as without a stressful day. Instead of seeing this as faulty parenting, it can be viewed as an opportunity to reassess and transmute as needed. The parent may need to practice self-care to reduce stress, identify opportunities for co-parenting, or locate educational resources to learn increasingly well-nigh their child’s behaviors and needs at their current age and transmute parenting as appropriate. Just as your child is developing, indulge yourself the room to develop as a parent and unclose that parenting is a skill that can be honed over time.

gentle parenting

Photo: Phinehas Adams. Unsplash.


Ample research supports the benefits of supervisory parenting and gentle parenting methods. However, parenting is complex, and a parent’s style and how they wield that style may differ depending on factors specific to the individual child or situation. Work in this zone is still ongoing as researchers protract to ask new questions and reap spare knowledge well-nigh parenting. Like the researcher who continues to uncover new information, gentle and supervisory parents are guided by a cadre style but protract to learn and transmute as their child develops and variegated situations upspring withal their parenting journey.

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