What Is Gentle Parenting? Tips on How to Be a Gentle Parent

What Is Gentle Parenting? Tips on How to Be a Gentle Parent

24 June 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

How nice does that sound: gentle parenting? When most of us think back to our childhood, we probably remember the times our parents were quite angry when we broke something or when we were disobedient. But do we remember those gentle moments when our parents whispered that they loved us or told us they were proud of us? Of course, we do, but sometimes it might take a bit longer to recall those sweeter memories.

What is gentle parenting? 

It is a parenting style that is based on the principle of responding to a child’s needs with empathy and understanding. Gentle parenting includes building a solid emotional bond with your child, creating a mutually respectful relationship, and fostering internal motivation instead of external expectations or pressures. According to Grady (2019), being a gentle parent encourages all children, especially shy toddlers, to interact socially and increases their confidence in these situations.

There are many different ways to be a gentle parent, but some key elements include: 

Nurturing your child’s emotional needs

This means being attuned to your child’s emotions and providing comfort and reassurance when needed. It also means listening to your child and respecting their feelings. 

As a therapist, I often remind my clients to validate all their emotions. We all experience feelings differently and with different intensities. We also feel different on different days. Some days we might feel a little more sensitive to our sibling’s friendly teasing, and other days we might join in the laughter. However we feel, we should validate our feelings at that point and in that situation. We also need to remind ourselves and our children that in addition to acknowledging our feelings, we need some coping strategies to help manage our emotional state.

For our children, we can ask them how they are feeling in different environments. We can label it as a “one” being very calm to a “three” being neutral and a “five” being overstimulated. We can also ask our children what they think they can do when they need a bit of energy (feeling a “one”), or some activities to do when they are feeling overwhelmed (a “five”). As an adult, I often do a “body scan” to help determine if I need a calming mindfulness activity or a short walk.

Handling conflict with patience and understanding

When conflicts arise, try to see things from your child’s perspective and look for effective solutions. As a gentle parent, try to avoid punishment as a consequence. A more constructive way could be a logical consequence. For example, if your house rule is that in order to have dessert you must eat at least half of your vegetables, and your child chooses not to eat any vegetables, the logical consequence is that they do not get dessert. 

Encouraging your child’s independence

Allow your child to explore and experiment within reasonable limits. Encourage them to try new things and to problem-solve on their own. 

A great way to encourage independence in children is to provide them with coping skills and access to these when and if required. You can try providing them access to the Moshi app and showing them the different meditations and stories and their purpose. The first few times, try it with them. Show your child how to self-regulate and then ask them to “find a story” for their specific mood. Click here for an example of a calming story.

Promoting positive behavior

Rather than focusing on negative behaviors, try to praise and encourage the positive things your child does. This will help them feel good about themselves and more likely repeat positive behaviors. We often say “No” more often than “That’s awesome”. See if you can get to a count of five positives in a day (or more, if possible).

We’re pretty confident that you are already a gentle parent. Thank you for everything you do for your family and child. There will be everlasting fruit that will grow from the seeds you are planting now.

Grady, J. S. (October 2019). Parental gentle encouragement promotes shy toddlers’ regulation in social contexts. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 186, 83–98.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental