What Is Gentle Parenting: The Pros and Cons

By: Corrina Horne

Updated July 29, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

Parenting titles aren't new. New parenting experts have created names for their particular brand of parenting, and new parenting styles will continue to emerge. Although there are countless options for parents and countless types of parenting to choose from, there are a few that stand out above the rest. One of these styles is gentle parenting. Gentle parenting relies on boundaries, empathy, understanding, and respect. This article will discuss gentle parenting, its pros, and its cons.

What Is Gentle Parenting?

Gentle parenting holidays

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Gentle parenting is identified by the "gentle parents" and their way of parenting. A gentle parent is a parent who adheres to a set of standards collectively grouped, equipped with official guidelines or may subscribe to gentle parenting intuitively, and without outside guidance. Using the tenets as a guideline, gentle parents are encouraged to interact with their children in a way that promotes independence, expression, and feelings of comfort and safety, while keeping peace and allowing everyone space and freedom to feel what they are feeling without judgment, correction, or reprimand.

What Are the Core Tenets of Gentle Parenting?

The four tenets of gentle parenting include empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries. Families can use each of these practices to create a gentle home and a loving, supportive dynamic among family members. Using each of these practices in isolation is useful, but it is the combination of all four that truly creates such a household.

Parents who use gentle parenting make sure children are offered empathy through acknowledging their feelings, using mirrors to make sure their children feel heard, and only engaging in a particular behavior if they would feel accepted and heard if someone were to engage in that behavior with them. Essentially, the golden rule reigns supreme in gentle parenting: treat others the way you want to be treated.

  • Empathy

Empathy is the first and most important part of gentle parenting. Children's feelings and experiences are all too often dismissed, minimized, or ignored altogether, leaving them feeling as though they do not matter, and their voices will not be heard.

  • Respect

The second tenet of being a gentle parent is respect. Respect should be mutually respected between children and their caretakers; children should not be expected to respect caretakers in a vacuum, and caretakers should monitor themselves to make sure they are engaging their children in a manner that is respectful and uplifting, rather than condescending or dismissive. The simplest way to incorporate respect in a parent-child relationship is to listen to a child when they speak the truth and to ask questions first, then react. If a child hits another child, for instance, gentle parenting urges you to identify why the hit occurred in the first place, before deciding how to move forward.

  • Understanding

The third tenet is understanding. Offering to understand your child and yourself relives a lot of tension, resentment, and confusion for both you and your child. When children feel heard and understood, as in gentle parenting, they are far more likely to come to their parents in times of crisis and are far more willing to listen and adhere to their caretakers' rules. Focusing on how families communicate, how children are encouraged to communicate, and the expectations put forth. One of the most vital aspects of this type of parenting is educating yourself on the typical developmental expectations for children and not expecting children to behave in a way that is too advanced or emotionally mature for their development.

  • Boundaries

The fourth and final key is setting boundaries. Unlike permissive parenting, which is relaxed about boundaries, or uninvolved parenting, which doesn't offer boundaries at all, gentle parenting urges caretakers to set boundaries that foster a healthy, loving, and stable environment. Boundaries will differ from family to family, but usually involve elements of communication, expectations, and behavior.

gentle parenting father playing with daughter

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Gentle Versus Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting, rather than gentle parenting, is a model that focuses on cultivating a relationship much closer to that of friendship within the parent-child bond, rather than a more authoritative one. This type of relationship focuses a lot of effort on creating understanding and empathy between parents and children but does not place as much emphasis on creating boundaries, enforcing rules, or creating careful rules and guidelines for children. In contrast with gentle parenting, which strongly encourages all of these. Children are given rules and regulations but are allowed to speak, protest, and discuss those rules and regulations with their parents.

Gentle Versus Peaceful Parenting

Gentle and peaceful parenting are quite similar in their approaches, with one distinct difference: peaceful parenting focuses primarily on relationship dynamics, while gentle parenting focuses more on communication patterns and habits. The two can coexist, even though their frameworks come from different angles, as both prioritize kindness, empathy, and consideration in parent-child relationships.

Peaceful parenting believes in first taking care of habits that are not conducive to helpful caretaking, then moving on to implementing those strategies in interactions with their children. Peaceful parenting urges caretakers to cultivate a sense of calm in everyday life, then take those same principles and apply to them to the difficult moments. Gentle parenting, on the other hand, encourages a whole-family approach, suggesting that all cogs in the family machine work together to create a different dynamic, rather than relying primarily on the parents.

Pros Of Gentle Parenting

Gentle parenting can create a healthier, more empathic dynamic within a family, easing many of the tensions and resentments that tend to pile up between caretakers and children. Parents create strong boundaries to help children feel a sense of safety and comfort, but also give children space to express their feelings, wants, and needs, and may adapt to choose behaviors and rules that better serve everyone. This type of adaptability is an important skill to develop in childhood and into adulthood, as being able to adapt to change is an important part of successfully navigating the ups and downs of adulthood.

Gentle parenting can help parents gain a sense of control, as they can recognize that their children's emotional states are not theirs to manipulate, encourage, or discourage; instead, they are there as sounding boards and guides.
Children, too, can feel as though they are free to navigate their own emotions and feel their feelings without being stifled but also get to enjoy the comforting presence of a strong authority figure, and the comfort of strictly adhered to guidelines and boundaries. Gentle parenting is also useful for its ability to help the children and parents both feel a sense of control over their lives while maintaining the comfort of a loving, secure parental presence.

Cons Of Gentle Parenting

This style of raising children has been criticized as being too lenient or being to close to attachment parenting, the style from which it was originally derived. Although it does seek to distance itself somewhat from attachment to that parenting philosophy, it does encourage some of the suggestions of attachment parenting but does not consider these precepts a requirement to engage in gentle parenting.

Gentle parenting is sometimes thought of as teaching parents to relay wooden, canned responses in reaction to children's accomplishments, such as "You look like you're having fun. Did you enjoy drawing your picture?" instead of offering a simple, "Whoa! What a beautiful picture!" Opponents suggest that using such awkward-sounding, unnatural phrasing could impede children's ability to effectively and naturally speak to others.

Gentle parenting: Dad cooks with his daughter

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Why Use Gentle Parenting?

Proponents of this style suggest that raising a child using gentle parenting is ideal and that children will grow up more confident, capable creatures as a result of the principles of gentle parenting, and everyone will more thoroughly enjoy familial relationships when they are cultivated within this framework, as they allow everyone involved to have and express their unique perspectives, ideas, and experiences.

The transition to gentle parenting can initially be rocky for everyone, and families might require some help in beginning the transition. A therapist can help families develop new routines and habits while ironing out any familial issues that are keeping old habits in place, or a therapist can help individuals work on personal concerns that are impeding progress. Parenting in any situation is difficult, but implementing an entirely new family philosophy can feel like an insurmountable obstacle at times. Enlisting help can make all the difference in the world.

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