What is Gentle Parenting (& How to do it!)

Are you constantly wondering if you are doing this whole mom thing right?

me too, Me Too!

There are so many different styles of parenting. Gentle Parenting is just another one on the list.

It isn’t the easiest of the group either, but as you start to incorporate it into your parenting – you will feel so much better (& so will your kids!).

It’s a win-win.

What is Gentle Parenting?

Before we talk about gentle parenting, let’s talk about the four most commonly known types of parenting styles (& no I’m not talking about helicopter parents – although they do fall into one of these types). 

The Four Types of Parenting Styles

1. Authoritarian or Disciplinarian

These types of parents tend to give a ton of demands && expectations to their children, with very little in return.

It’s all about the parent, and the parent knows best.

Children with Authoritarian parents can do well because they were raised to follow rules and be better than those around them.

On the other hand, children of authoritarian parents often rebel and make bad choices later in life. Children may grow up to dislike their parents

2. Permissive or Indulgent

Permissive parents are much more loving and welcoming than authoritarian parents.

However, permissive parents don’t hold their children to any standards and allow them to do what they want. This is problematic, especially when kids are young.

Children with permissive parents love their parents, but can sometimes treat them as a friend instead of a parent. 

3. Uninvolved

These parents provide the basic necessities for their children, but don’t show love or interest.

Children of uninvolved parents don’t feel important and tend to have more disruptive behaviors.

They also have a much greater chance of substance abuse.

Because kids of uninvolved parents practically raise themselves – they can grow up to be business leaders and entrepreneurs. 

4. Authoritative

Authoritative parents show their children love and support while having high expectations and ensuring their child does well.

These children have the greatest outcomes in life and tend to be more self-reliant and successful.

Authoritative parents are strict; but loveable. Their kids do what is asked of them because they want to; not because they are forced to.

These types of parents set limits for their children and help them make good decisions on their own. This is the parenting style that is most favored by most psychologists and parent experts. 

Gentle Parenting

Now, let’s get back to the original question. What is Gentle parenting? 

According to Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a parenting expert:

“Gentle Parenting is a scientific, evidence-based, approach to raising confident and happy children. It is a parenting ethos characterized by the following four tenets: Empathy, Respect, Understanding, and Boundaries.”

Not surprisingly, gentle parenting is Authoritative parenting.

Gentle parenting is just another term to describe this type of parenting using an easier to understand word “gentle”.

I like to say it’s gentle but strict.

This is how I would describe my own parenting style. I have strict limits, but I’m going to expect Jolene to meet these in her own way and on her own time. 

I’ll step in when I need to, but let her make her mistakes as she goes. I’ll be there when she falls, and show her how to get back up.

I won’t hold her to an impossible standard (authoritarian) but I also won’t ignore her (uninvolved).

I most definitely won’t allow her to do whatever the heck she wants (permissive). 

Does gentle parenting work? 

Yes. Of course, it does. According to this study, authoritative parenting was associated with greater behavioral adherence and less difficulty with stress.

This was a study done on kids with diabetes, who already have a ton of stress in their lives.

According to the study, kids with parents who practice a gentle (or authoritative) parenting approach were less stressed overall.

Their family life was better. This is just one among many recommendations for this type of parenting. 

5 tips to get started with Gentle Parenting? 

Say “Yes” instead of “No” 

This is straight from one of my favorite parenting books, Love and Logic.

Don’t be permissive, and give your child what they want, but when your child asks for something – answer with “Yes, after you do blank”.

For example,

“Mommy, can I have chocolate?” – “Sure baby, after you take your nap.”

You aren’t saying no, but they must do what you need them to do first. Of course, this doesn’t work for everything.

“Mommy, can I run in the road?” – absolutely not! OR “Sure baby, as soon as you’re 18”

Try to spin any of your usual “no’s” into a “Yes”. 

Use Time-in instead of Time-out

Have your child spend time in their room to calm down. I have a detailed Gentle parenting time-in routine here.

Magic 1-2-3 is a great gentle parenting technique that helps in my house.

Use consequences with compassion

When you do have to give a consequence, make sure they know that you don’t really enjoy it.

Talk to them about why the consequence had to be given && offer ways to avoid it next time because it’s no fun. 

Offer choices

Offer multiple choices that you are okay with, so that you child can choose.

Children have such little control of their lives, if we can give them any – we should.

Treat your child with respect

You can’t expect your child to respect you or anyone else around him, if you don’t model this behavior.

Your child can make decisions, and if it’s an acceptable choice – let them.

They should be able to make mistakes and learn from them.

Don’t give them advice unless they ask. Even if you know it’s not going to work – let them figure that out on their own (you never know, they may just make it work!). 

Positive Discipline? 

Okay, so if I can’t spank my child what should I do? Natural Consequences.

If there is a consequence that happens naturally then you don’t need to give an additional consequence.

For example, Jolene acted out at her gymnastics class. We had to get out of there as fast as possible, she didn’t get to say good-bye to her friend.

This was a natural consequence. I talked to her about how it was really sad that she didn’t get to say good-bye, but we had to leave due to her behavior.

I ended with, “hopefully, you’ll be able to say good-bye next week!” 

If a natural consequence doesn’t work, use time-in or time-away.

Once your child comes out of time-in, let them know that you missed them & go on with your day.

Don’t continue to badger them or make them apologize.

Another option would be to talk with your child and come up with a consequence together.

Honestly, kids can come up with some great consequences. 

Make sure you talk to your child about the consequences of the choices that were made.

A gentle parent wants their child to learn from those choices. It’s not about a quick – GET THEM TO STOP! We want them to choose better forever. 

Acknowledge feelings. The book, How to talk so Little Kids will Listen is great for this. It gives plenty of actual methods to talk to a child and get through to them. 

Gentle Parenting Books

Want to learn more about gentle parenting? Here are some of the best books to get started!

  1. Parenting with Love and Logic
  2. Magic 1-2-3
  3. How to talk so Little Kids will Listen (also available for older kids)
  4. The Gentle Parenting Book
  5. Peaceful Parenting Book – Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
  6. The Gentle Discipline Book

What do you think about Gentle Parenting?

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  2. Katie | Chit Chat With Katie May 26, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Love these suggestions. I don’t have kids but while reading immediately thought of my sister. My little nephew is a year and a half and my sister is gentle parenting but probably doesn’t even know it! I’ll have to share with her your book recommendations!

    1. Josephine May 26, 2020 at 2:26 pm

      That’s great to hear! She sounds like a great mommy!

    2. Surabhi May 27, 2020 at 4:13 am

      I definitely follow gentle parenting. I love the idea of time in and time away. Will try to keep my calm next time.

      1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 9:07 am

        Funny you mention this. I’ve been calling it time-out time for awhile; and I recently switched to calling it “time-in” but that didn’t sound right either. Now I call it “taking a break” – “JJ, you need to take a break” && I take her to her room. It sounds better than timeout!

        xo. Josephine

  3. Mimi May 26, 2020 at 9:28 am

    They sound like amazing tips, I can definitely see them working a lot better than harsh punishments

    1. Josephine May 26, 2020 at 2:26 pm

      They definitely do! Thank You!

  4. Marta May 26, 2020 at 9:37 am

    I learned very early in my parenting “career” to always look for ways to say yes instead of automatically defaulting to “no”. Not spoiling, but not crushing their hopes and dreams, either.

    1. Josephine May 26, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      Yes! Anything that we say “Yes” to is something we are okay with! It’s just about offering choices. Such a great gentle parenting technique!

  5. Tana May 26, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    I loved this informational post! I’m an elementary school counselor and I feel like gentle parenting embodies all of the same skills and qualities I have in that role and brings them into the world of parenting. That being said, it’s SO much harder as a parent! 😊

    1. Josephine May 26, 2020 at 2:24 pm

      Thank You! I’m a teacher and use these every day at work too! Gentle Parenting works on all kids!

  6. Amber Myers May 26, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    I’ll check these out. I do some gentle parenting when I can, but I admit, I do yell if no one listens to me. It gets attention fast!

    1. Josephine May 26, 2020 at 2:24 pm

      Oh, I am there with you mamma! I use gentle parenting most of the time; but I too yell!

  7. Natalie May 27, 2020 at 5:07 am

    Although I’m not a parent yet these are tips I’m keeping in mind for the near future!

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Natalie, thank you! Yes – they will be super helpful to you one day!

      xo. Josephine

  8. Jen @ Jenron Designs May 27, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Wow it is interesting to read this as an adult, it is spot on the money my husband had uninvolved parents which did lead to his success but he was never disruptive, he learned to fly under the radar. I had authoritative which did make me a bit of a rebel but also drove me to be successful and self reliant. I see the merit in these styles.

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 9:05 am

      Hello Jen,
      I love parenting styles && how they connect with who we are today! I’m so glad he came out of that situation better! That’s great to hear!


  9. Tisha May 27, 2020 at 8:47 am

    I sometimes have to remind myself to do more gentle parenting. My one yr old is into everything it gets frustrating sometimes!

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 9:04 am

      Hi Tisha!
      I hear you! I’m super guilty of losing my cool – but I always try to bring it back around to gentle parenting. We all make mistakes && I knwo I always feel bad after I’ve yelled at her. They are ALOT though!

  10. Elizabeth May 27, 2020 at 10:53 am

    This is all so informative. Thank you for taking the time to gather these resources and make all these suggestions. My husband and I are going to become foster parents this year and the best approach with kids in the system is gentle parenting. I will be saving this post for later to take advantage of the books you listed.

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 5:30 pm

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Thank you for considering foster care! My undergrad is in Sociology, and I worked with foster parents before becoming a teacher 5 years ago. It’s not an easy thing to do – but we need loving people like you for these kids that need someone. I have the utmost respect for foster parents! You’ll love it!

      xo. Josephine

  11. Kari May 27, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Learning to offer specific and strategic choices has been a lifesaver! I always like her to feel in control but within good boundaries!

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      Kari, Yes! Kids like to feel a little bit in control && we are teaching them to make good choices!

  12. Meredith May 27, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    When I read the title of the post I was certain it was going to be more about permissive parenting than it is. I think it’s so important to tailor our parenting to our specific families but I do agree with most of the approach here! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Meredith,
      OH man, I am NOT about permissive parenting at all! LOL – JJ does not get to do anything she wants to do. She does what I want her to do, but thinks she’s doing what she wants. Haha. I give choices that I like. When there’s a problem, she knows it – but we talk about it versus me screaming at her and just telling her no. I like to think of gentle parenting as Strict as heck; but also Super Lovable!

  13. Jasmine May 27, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    My parents were the authoritarian type, I try and use gentle parenting for the most part but I’m not gonna lie sometimes it goes out the window. It’s all a learning process.

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 5:26 pm

      Jasmine, I couldn’t agree more! Gentle parenting isn’t the easiest method that’s for sure!

  14. Kimberly K Croisant May 27, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    It’s so hard sometimes, no wait, most of the time, to “gentle” parent. We are grandparents raising our grandson as our own and we most certainly started out this way, but have noticed he doesn’t listen well to it. We’ve had to get downright ugly to him so he will listen and take us seriously. Parenting is hard – at any age!!

    1. Josephine May 27, 2020 at 5:25 pm

      I agree! Nothing about being a parent is easy && sometimes you do have to be a little bit harder on them!

  15. Faith @ ForMommiesByMommy May 28, 2020 at 12:43 am

    I’ve read about positive parenting but I find it so hard to implement them. Yet, I know that there are many ways that I can still improve my parenting. Thanks so much for sharing these helpful tips and resources!

    1. Josephine May 28, 2020 at 9:08 am

      I agree, it’s not as easy as it sounds!

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