Does Gentle Parenting Really Work?

Updated: March 3, 2022
Learn what "gentle parenting" is and the pros and cons of practicing gentle parenting with your kids
Gentle Parenting
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Being a parent is not always easy. But what can be easy is losing our tempers when we’re already stressed and parenthood pushes us over the edge. It’s no surprise then that the gentle parenting approach is making waves among newer millennial parents, influenced by the rise of gentle parenting content by TikTok super influencers, as well as the outright need to find an alternative to flying off the handle during these especially trying times.

With nearly 1 million followers, TikTok parenting influencer Marcela Collier uses her @highimpactclub platform to help parents learn a gentle approach to parenting that focuses on an evidence-based set of principles that encourages positive responses to their child’s behaviors. Breaking down inappropriate generational and cultural parenting, with an emphasis on her own Latino heritage, is just one of the ways she helps parents create positive discipline routines while avoiding techniques they may have learned during their own childhoods. Her supportive, yet entertaining bite-sized videos make jumping on the gentle parenting bandwagon a breeze.

@highimpactclub #gentleparenting #respectfulparenting #parentingwithunderstanding ♬ original sound - Marcela Collier

 

Of course, jumping on and staying on are two different things. We won’t say that there isn’t a learning curve, but with a little patience, this approach has helped parents at their breaking point restore peace in their families. Curious what this parenting phenomenon is all about? Read on to join the millennial masses!

Where Did Gentle Parenting Get its Start?

Coined by childcare expert and parenting author Sarah Ockwell-Smith in her book, The Gentle Parenting Book, gentle parenting began by her outward recognition of a child’s inability to control their behaviors as a normal part of child development. She has gone on to use the approach in her other books, including those on sleep and potty training, as well as in her workshops and coaching services.

What is Gentle Parenting?

What is Gentle Parenting

Gentle parenting describes a method of parenting that focuses on positive responses to children’s behavior. This might sound more like lenient parenting and it certainly has been widely criticized with similar parenting styles, but it’s actually a parenting approach deeply rooted in the following four principles: empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries.

The basic idea is that once parents can learn not to react negatively to every seemingly annoying or misbehavior that their child exhibits, the better prepared they are to understand that children have limited abilities to control their every action, and that responding with empathy and respect can reap much better results than yelling or punishments can. This doesn’t mean that there are no boundaries, rather the crossing of them is met with responses that are respectful of your and your child’s feelings and needs.

What are the Benefits of Gentle Parenting?

Gentle parenting has received its fair share of criticism, especially because of its misperception as being a form of attachment parenting. Attachment parenting promotes maximum parent-child closeness, both emotional and physical. Parents who choose this method are often seen as doing harm to their child by responding to their every need, not allowing a greater amount of independence, even when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

While Family Education believes that every family should make choices that are safest and work best for their families’ needs, we also acknowledge the benefit of certain aspects of attachment and gentle parenting. Even so, the two are not equivalent and should be recognized as two different parenting approaches.

Some benefits of gentle parenting are those that encourage children to learn how to understand their emotions, why certain behaviors are not allowed — rather than being hurt and confused by chastisement — why boundaries are important while learning indepence, and that they are loved and safe in the care of their parents. The positive parent-child relationship may be one of the most rewarding benefits of gentle parenting, fostering a lifelong bond and respect.

What Are Some Gentle Parenting Techniques?

Gentle Parenting Techniques

Gentle parenting techniques include:

  • Empathy and respect for parent/child's feeling
  • Setting of boundaries and expectations
  • Effective consequences
  • Emphasizes safety

Empathy and respect creates a calm environment for the whole family. When a child’s behavior is looked at through a lens of empathy, parents can better understand why their child acts in certain ways and learn to set realistic expectations based on the child’s cognitive abilities at any given age. Modeling empathy provides children the opportunity to learn to be empathetic towards others as well.

Using the response as a way to positively set expectations simultaneously allows for the setting of healthy boundaries that are meant to emphasize safety. When boundaries are crossed, instead of reacting with yelling and punishments, parents are encouraged to respond with effective discipline like timeouts that allow for self-reflection from the child, and can later lead to calm discussions about why the consequence occurred.

Gentle parenting defines effective discipline as consequences that help children understand the direct relationship between their behavior and what is actually expected of them, rather than simply feeling unloved or humiliated.

In this viral video, Collier shares an example of gentle parenting that she witnessed at a community event where a parent helped calm her child’s disappointment, preventing a big tantrum.

 

@highimpactclub #gentleparenting #respectfulparenting #parentingwithunderstanding ♬ original sound - Marcela Collier

She went on to say that a child was upset that their face paint was coming off with water and how the parent stepped in to explain that paints come off easily with water and would likely come off at bathtime, going on to offer that they take a picture of the face painting to be able to look back on it later. Instead of getting irritated with their child’s disappointment, the parent used the opportunity to set reasonable expectations and offer a solution that didn’t simply offer the child getting their way (a definite no-no in the gentle parenting world).

Gentle Parenting Criticism and Challenges

As with any new approach, patience and commitment are needed to achieve optimal results that many parents say come with gentle parenting. Challenges can arise and are experienced by both parents and children. Parents learning to remain calm and step back from reactive responses that go against the gentle parenting principle of responding in a way that is most beneficial to their child’s emotional well-being is a common challenge. While children are learning new boundaries and how to deal with expressing their emotions, they also experience frustrating adjustments at the onset of the new approach.

Finally, gentle parenting means being gentle on yourself too! Gently parented children will still cry, throw tantrums, or refuse to listen at times. And that’s totally okay! You’re not a bad or lazy parent for your approach.

While all parenting styles have their own benefits and drawbacks, we hope this helped you better understand what gentle parenting is, and the techniques that you can apply to your own family life. Every kid is different, so finding what works best for both you and your children means less conflicts and frustrations on both sides.