Why We Choose the Gentle Parenting Approach


woman holding baby at dusk. gentle parenting. des moines momImagine this: you just had a really stressful day at work. You get home and proceed to vent and express your frustrations to your partner. Your partner then scolds you for being so dramatic and orders you to your room until you can calm down.

HOW RUDE, right?!

One of the main concepts of gentle parenting is that we treat our kids how we want to be treated. We most likely would not be very happy if our partner treated us like this, so why would we react in the same way when our kids express big emotions to us? This is one of the examples that drew me to this approach in the first place. 

As a mental health therapist, the gentle parenting approach most aligns with my own beliefs as a parent. It is a wonderful combination of being trauma-informed and being developmentally appropriate that promotes healthy emotional and social wellbeing in children. 

What is gentle parenting?

When it comes to people’s perspectives about gentle parenting, I’ve heard it all- from saying we are going to raise a snowflake or spoiling our kids, to not having any rules or boundaries.

What we have taken from the gentle parenting approach are some main themes- respect, empathy, understanding, and connection.

For our family, gentle parenting is about partnering with your child to problem-solve together and looking at the why of behavior (behavior always, always tells us a story) and addressing from there, the root, rather than the behavior itself. 

Firm boundaries and rules are actually a HUGE part of gentle parenting. It’s just how you go about enforcing them that might look and feel a little different. 

It’s also about regulating our own emotions as adults. If we have a hard time regulating our own emotions, how can we expect our children to be able to do it?

Gentle parenting also takes into account your child’s unique abilities and developmental age. Are your expectations too high, etc. are all factors to consider.

In more traditional styles of parenting, the focus can be on control and punishment. With gentle parenting, there are firm rules and boundaries while also allowing for natural consequences and developing intrinsic motivation.

With gentle parenting the focus is more on being a coach and guiding children vs. controlling their behavior 

Connection before correction

The idea with this is that relationships are EVERYTHING. I firmly believe this is true for every human being. We have to establish a connection FIRST before anyone is going to listen to what we have to say. Here’s an example. If your child is starting to get upset about a rule or boundary you have enforced, a way to connect first is to validate their feelings. “You feel sad we have to leave the park, I get that, it’s hard to leave when we’re having so much fun!” Then continue to say, “We have to leave the park now, we can come back tomorrow.” 

Gentle parenting closely aligns with positive and attachment parenting. It also really does a great job at developing emotional language by identifying feelings, offering alternative ways to cope with them, and validating how our kids are feeling. EVERY feeling is ok! 

What I’ve Learned 

It’s been a ride and it’s ongoing. I have to continually practice, apologize, and turn to resources. This kind of parenting doesn’t necessarily come naturally. 

Practicing gentle parenting doesn’t mean I’m a perfect parent. I get frustrated and lose my cool. I also yell but I’ve learned my triggers and have reflected on past experiences in childhood that may affect my own ability to regulate my emotions. 

Now I frequently check in with my expectations of my kids. Sometimes, for example, I have to remind myself my middle child is only 8. I can find myself expecting her to do things her older sister does.

EVERY emotion is ok. Sometimes we have the urge to fix it for our kids. Gentle parenting for me, has made me be ok with not being ok, and letting my kids know it’s ok too. It’s not my job to protect them from hurts or “bad” feelings. Instead, I’m there to help ride it out with them. 

It’s been humbling to take a different approach. Instead of me being over them and directing them, I stand with them and we figure out the tough stuff together. They’re involved in hard discussions when something isn’t going right.

Throughout the years, I’ve heard a few specific examples that really showed me that this approach was what I wanted to try, the first was in the opening paragraph. The second was a quote that said something similar to the effect that when we’ve sent our smaller aged children to their bedrooms, alone, when they expressed big emotions, when they are teenagers, we wonder why they go to their room and won’t talk to us when they’re upset when that is what we’ve taught them to do, all along. The third is this quote by Rebecca Eanes,

“So often, children are punished for being human. THey are not allowed to have grumpy days, bad moods, or bad attitudes. Yet, we as adults, have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.”

And the fourth is that when one day, when my kids are teens, and inevitably make a mistake or something bad happens, I want them to run toward me, not away from me. 

Gentle Parenting Resources 

I’ve found the following resources incredibly helpful: 

BigLittleFeelings on instagram

Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel

API of Central Iowa Facebook page (this is a local attachment parenting group, but again gentle parenting greatly aligns with this approach too with some differences)

Dr. Laura Markham author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here