What Is Gentle Parenting? A Beginner’s Guide

Mom and son embracing on dock at lake

Gentle parenting has been getting a lot of attention lately, thanks to viral videos on Instagram and TikTok. In many of the 30 to 60-second cuts, parents describe the benefits of parenting style, prioritizing the child’s emotional needs of the child and a calmer method of discipline over traditional, more authoritarian styles.

Maggie Nick, MSW, therapist and founder of Parenting with Perspectacles, tells POPSUGAR that although gentle parenting is often misinterpreted as letting your children run over you, “it’s the biggest misconception.” Many people think that because soft parenting “advise against strict discipline,” children will be entitled or spoiled. But, says Nick, that is simply not the case.

“Meeting children’s emotional needs helps them feel safe and secure, not entitled and spoiled,” she says. “And punishments are terrible teachers. It is entirely possible, and not so difficult, to hold children accountable for their behavior, to teach them about the impact of their actions while feeling loved and supported.”

If this sounds like your kids or future kids could benefit from gentle parenting, here’s what you need to know about the method, what it looks like and how to apply it in real life.

What is gentle parenting?

Gentle parenting – or softer parenting, as Nick calls it – is an overarching term for a parenting approach aimed at “acknowledging and providing for the needs of children in a gentler, more respectful way without compromising traditional, authoritarian style” discipline and punishments. ” says Nick. The soft parenting framework at Parenting With Perspectacles, for example, focuses on raising children “who feel seen and loved” and “teaching parents how to allow children to have their big feelings while setting and holding strong boundaries.” Through this framework, parents are taught how to maintain boundaries with their children without the use of traditional disciplinary methods (think: time-out, a “naughty chair”, pack punches, “Go to your room!”, Etc.).

What are the benefits of gentle parenting?

“There are so many benefits to gentle parenting,” Nick says, including a deeper, more understanding relationship between you and your child – one that prioritizes their acceptance and value over judgment or punishment. Nick notes that children are not the only ones who benefit from parenting style – here is a list of benefits she attributes to gentle parenting:

  • Parents feel more connected to them child or teenager, even during crashes.
  • Parents feel more confident in their parentingbecause they have the tools to move through the most messy parts of parenting next to them child instead of engaging in power struggles and the inevitable “us vs. them” stance.
  • Children learn that they deserve love even when they are struggling.
  • Children feel more comfortable coming to their parents with “big feelings”, knowing that their parents will not get upset right away.

What does gentle parenting look like?

Gentle parenting focuses primarily on acknowledging the existence of great feelings and making them happen to the little ones in your life. As a result, gentle parenting often requires some learning from the parents’ side: “Most of us have grown up to bottle up our feelings,” Nick says.

“When I learned that my child’s crashes were the way they released stress and big feelings and not something I needed to manage, control or shut down, it allowed me to be less overwhelmed and less activated. to feel. “

Allowing your child to inflate can feel tempting or like something to close. Why? “Because parts of us want to protect our child from how our parent would have reacted to ‘disrespectful’ or ‘dramatic’ behavior,” says Nick. She emphasizes how important it is to give yourself time and space to learn and learn what it really means to be a gentle parent and to give yourself time to “build a tolerance for the great feelings we have”. had to print. “

Once you’ve done that, you can shift your perspective from the headline of “I can’t stand my child right now” to “My child needs my help right now.”

“When I learned that my child’s crashes were the way they released stress and big feelings and not something I needed to manage, control or shut down, it allowed me to be less overwhelmed and less activated. to feel, “says Nick. “Collapsions have gone from the most overwhelming, alluring part of parenting to this profound opportunity to show my child that I love all of them. Even when they’re at what might feel like their ‘worst’, I’m not going anywhere, they are do not let me down or disappoint me, and they have nothing to be ashamed of. ”

Part of the shift in perspective includes the way you respond to your child’s great feelings, including the language you use to “discipline” them. When kids are struggling, Nick recommends using the Magic 9: “I see you. I love you. I love you.” Those nine words are meant to help your child feel safe, seen, safe and loved – even during the most difficult or messy moments. Instead of saying, “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed,” she recommends saying, “I’m not going to let you do this. I see you struggling, I have you. Yes, there can have a consequence, and yes, I love you. “

“If we want our children to be able to love themselves when they are struggling, then we need to show them that they deserve love when they are struggling,” Nick says.

That said, the parenting style you choose should be the one that best suits your family’s needs. If it’s gentle parenting, great! But if it is not, it is also right. It’s important that you choose a style and approach that actually works for your family, not just the one that a confident stranger on TikTok tells you to go with.

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