Gentle parenting is an approach that has become popular in the last few years, but what exactly is it? This parenting style is based on the individuality of children, open communication and respect.

The basics of gentle parenting

Child-care expert and author Sarah Ockwell-Smith is credited with naming this approach and explains it in depth in “The Gentle Parenting Book.” Rather than harsh rules and punishments, Ockwell-Smith talks about the need for connection and building healthy relationships with kids that are less authoritarian.

She names the four key components of gentle parenting as respect, empathy, boundaries and understanding.



Your kids want to feel respected the same way adults do. Gentle parenting asks parents to take extra time when explaining rules to their kiddos and to listen to the child’s thoughts and ideas. Treat them the way you’d want to be treated because kids are people too.



It may be hard to remember what it was like to be a kid with big emotions, but it’s tough for your kids to know how to express those feelings. You’ve had years to practice, but they’re just starting out. Figuring out your child’s perspective on a situation can help them feel heard and keep them from lashing out.



Little ones need guidance when making choices. Boundaries can help them make the best of those choices. It’s even better if they can understand why they have to respect a boundary. They may not understand that eating candy for dinner will give them a stomachache, but if you explain it to them, it may be easier for them to follow through and obey the rule. The best boundaries are ones that they can follow!



It can feel like kids grow up at lightning speed, but it takes time for their brains to develop. They don’t have the same tools as adults to express their emotions or keep them under control. Gentle parenting asks parents to try and understand what their kids are expressing rather than turning to emotions like anger and frustration right away. Patience is key with gentle parenting.

More details on gentle parenting

When you’re setting expectations for your kids, gentle parenting encourages parents to keep them age-appropriate. A toddler isn’t going to understand time like an adult does, so getting angry at them for making the family late won’t be productive for anyone. By giving them the benefit of the doubt, gentle parenting tries to make relationships between kids and parents as understanding as possible.

It’s also important to remember that gentle parenting is not the same as “free range” parenting. Discipline is an important part of gentle parenting, especially when it’s paired with natural consequences instead of unrelated punishments. Parents also need to be disciplined to give their kids consistency and avoid snap reactions. Some critics argue that the approach is not strict enough, but the debate over which parenting approach is best is never-ending. Just do your best to find the approach that works for you!

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