Gentle Parenting FAQ

Love.

What is gentle parenting?

Gentle, positive, or peaceful parenting is a conscious shift away from the traditional authoritarian, from-the-top-down style of parenting, to one based on connection and mutual respect. L.R. Knost describes it beautifully as “guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It’s about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating.”

Is it the same thing as attachment parenting?

While I find that I’ve practiced many (most) of the tenets of attachment parenting, it isn’t my favorite label for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, much of what’s considered to be attachment parenting (co-sleeping, baby-wearing, regular-length breastfeeding, etc) pertains to babies and young children specifically, while gentle parenting encompasses all ages.  So while they may certainly overlap, I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say they’re the same thing.  Also, attachment parenting is often narrowly defined, leaving me feeling a bit unfairly pigeon-holed when referred to as an “Attachment Parenting Blogger.”  I never ask myself if what I’m about to say, do, or write is in line with attachment parenting.  I do however, ask myself if it’s respectful, and if it’s kind.

Is it the same thing as permissive parenting? 

NO!  It’s very much the opposite.   I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions about gentle parenting.  Permissive parenting is a very hands-off style of parenting, while gentle parenting is about the relationship and the respectful connection between parent and child.  For example, consider the following scenario and possible parental responses:

You just witnessed your child hitting another child in the head with a building block.

Authoritarian parent’s response:  “We don’t hit!”, followed by some type of punishment, such as a time-out, or – ironically enough – a spanking.

Gentle parent’s response:  Intervenes to stop the behavior, and protects the child being harmed.  “Oh that hurts the baby.  Let’s build with the blocks instead (or touch gently, or give high fives, or bang something safe together…)”

Permissive parent’s response:  Nothing

Don’t some kids need to be punished/Don’t different kids need different types of parenting?

I have four children, each one more different than the last.  They all have different personalities, different temperaments, and different ways of interacting with others.   But while I may relate and respond to each one in a unique way, my parenting STYLE of guiding, connecting, encouraging, and listening does not change;  nor would it need to.  Children respond to kindness, and they behave as well as they’re treated.  None of my children have ever “needed” to be punished, and they’re all kind, responsible, and self confident individuals.

Shouldn’t every family just parent the way that feels right to them?

Here’s the problem with that line of thinking:  A lot of people parent the way their own parents did, simply because that’s all they know.  A lot of people parent the way their church tells them to parent, simply because that’s all they know.  A lot of people parent with control, with rigidity, and with knee-jerk responses, simply because that’s all they all know.  Their heads are filled with old patterns, or with old, constantly replaying tapes from they were growing up…. tapes repeatedly telling them,  “You need to show your kids who’s in charge.”  “That’s the problem with kids today.”  “You were spanked and you turned out fine.”  Just because someone else – even your own parents – does it a certain way, it doesn’t make it right.  Standing behind a philosophy of, “This is my family, and I’ll parent how ever I please,” runs a very real risk of complacency, of not asking yourself WHY you make the decisions that you make, and of not seeking out other alternatives.  Once we know better, we can do better.

And yes, while parents technically have the “right” to parent with coercion, control, and physical punishment… that right should not, and does not, supersede a child’s basic human right to 1) feel safe in his own home, and 2) be treated with dignity and respect.

There’s so much talk about what gentle parents *don’t* do… but what DO you do when an issue comes up?   If there’s no time-outs or threatening or spanking, what is left?

I tend to problem-solve with my children the same way I would with my spouse or friend or any other adult whom I loved, and it usually starts with a whole bunch of questions.  Behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Why did it happen?  What’s going on?  What’s my responsibility?  How can I help?  I communicate with my kids, I listen to my kids, I empathize with my kids.   Say your 8 year old is suddenly lashing out, speaking rudely to the rest of the family, and picking fights with his siblings.  Sure, you could punish for that behavior.  But wouldn’t your child, and your relationship, and your entire family be better served if you find out why it’s happening so that it can be respectfully addressed?  Maybe he’s feeling disconnected from you and needs attention.  Maybe something’s going on with a friend.  Maybe he’s simply not getting enough sleep.  It’s amazing what you learn (not just about your kids, but about yourself!) when you look at challenges as simply problems to be solved together, rather than as behaviors that must simply be nipped in the bud immediately through harsh punishment.  Check here for some more specific steps you can take, and here for a list of ways to have a “time-in” when you need to get re-centered with your child.

How will they learn to respect you/authority/rules?

We teach people how to treat us.  Children, like most people, behave as well as they’re treated.  If we treat them with respect, that respect is returned.

We have no rules in our house, other than – if you’d like to call it a rule – the “golden” rule:  Do unto others.  Our kids treat us in a respectful manner because that’s how they’re treated.  As for rules outside the home?  None of them has ever had any problem following rules at church, at museums, at parks, at gymnastics, in Cub Scouts.  Because they’ve never had any arbitrary rules from which to rebel, they understand and respect the fact that sometimes rules are necessary, and that their participation at certain places is contingent upon those rules.

Do I think that they’d blindly follow someone simply because they’re an authority figure?  No, and I wouldn’t want them to.  What I want for them is the ability to measure everything against their own internal sense of what’s good and what’s right and what’s necessary and what’s fair…. and that’s exactly what they’ve developed.

How will they develop self-discipline?

There are two kinds of motivation:  intrinsic (internal), and extrinsic (external).  When parents employ traditional practices such as sticker charts, rewards and punishments, the type of motivation that they’re fostering is extrinsic.  Their children are learning to tie certain behavior to something external… either through the fear of punishment, or the promise of reward – both of which are essentially two sides of the same coin.  They’re not learning to do, or not do, something because it does or does not feel right… but because they’ve been trained to respond to something outside themselves.  Their sense of worth is in fact tied to that sticker chart, or that grade, or punishment.   When they grow up, one of two things is going to happen (and I’ve seen them both) They’re either going to 1) completely rebel against their own upbringing in possibly unhealthy ways, or 2) continue to seek that outside approval, whether it’s through their job, their relationships, their church… struggling to find their own sense of self-worth, and instead looking to others to provide it.

If you’re doing what you do for someone or something else, that is not self-discipline.

Self-discipline comes from intrinsic motivation… that is, you act because of your own sense of right and wrong, or because of your own feelings of accomplishment, or because of your own personal goals and aspirations.  When you parent without punishments and rewards, you’re allowing your children to develop their own intrinsic motivation.  Despite never having had required chores, my kids all help around the house.  Despite never having had required assignments, my kids all work hard to meet their own goals.  Despite never having had sticker charts to remind them, my kids all brush their teeth, say please and thank you, and get ready for appointments on time…

All because they have self-discipline.

Won’t they grow up narcissistic and spoiled?

It’s something I hear a lot:  “If they don’t hear the word, “no” often enough, they’re going to think the world revolves them.”  “Kids today are so entitled.”  Etc.   I have to say first of all, that the world will give us plenty of “no”s.  I feel zero need to arbitrarily supply them to my children just because I can.  Instead, I try to say “yes” as much as I possibly can… yes, sometimes with my money, but mostly with myself.  With my time, with my attention, and with experiences.  I give to my kids because I want to give, because I want to provide a life that is as full and as rich as interesting as I possibly can.  Because I know that kids who are happy and confident and fulfilled are in turn kind and giving towards others.  Because I know that love is an action, and that just sitting here and telling you that I love my kids is not enough.

I know people who would classify as narcissistic and/or spoiled, none of whom was parented gently.   I’m sure that like anything else, there are multiple causes for that sort of behavior.  I’m also sure that it is not caused by loving your kids too much, respecting your kids too much, or by saying “yes” to your kids too much.

Won’t the kids end up ruling the household?

One of the misconceptions about gentle parenting households is that they are “child centric.” While of course a house with a newborn/very young child is going to be more “child centric” (a newborn’s need to eat for example can, and should, trump his parent’s desire for uninterrupted sleep) as the kids get older, the house becomes more family centric, where everyone’s voices are heard, and everyone’s needs are met.  If a child truly IS running the house, there is an unbalance, and it is more likely to be a case of permissive parenting… NOT gentle parenting.

How will they learn to stay out of the street, or – insert other safety related concern here – if they’re not punished?

I heard someone tell a story once of a friend of his, and the ONE and only time he spanked his child.  The boy was about to reach for a highly venomous snake, and his father – seeing the need for immediate action – spanked him, presumably saving his life.  You could say that the spanking did what it was intended to do:  It got the boy’s attention, stopped him from reaching for the snake, and prevented him from getting bitten.  I don’t necessarily disagree, but I’d argue that ANY rapid response from the parent (an alarmed yell, quickly picking the child up and moving him out of harm’s way, etc) would have had the same effect.

All of us as parents have been given an internal instinct (and a strong one at that) to protect our kids.  No parent who is of sound mind is going to sit back and watch as their children step into oncoming traffic, touch a hot flame, or stick a fork in a live toaster.  We protect our kids, we help them learn about safety, we show them how to navigate potentially dangerous situations.  It’s just what parents naturally and instinctively do.  But it doesn’t have to involve punishments!  We watch, we re-direct, we explain, we give alternatives, we get them out of harm’s way.  We hold their hands when they’re little, we look both ways when we cross the street, and we model appropriate behavior.

As a result, kids learn.

I have four children who can attest to that fact.  Four children who don’t run with scissors, don’t cross in front of traffic, and don’t stick metal into electrical outlets…. all without ever having been punished.

How do you handle it when a child absolutely won’t listen, and the requested action is non-negotiable?

I have three separate but related answers to this question (which was probably the number one question I received when I recently asked for submissions on my Facebook page)

1.  First, having a good connected relationship with your child both helps decrease the incidence of such cases and keeps you better prepared to deal with them, to effectively listen to your child, and to put yourself in your child’s shoes.  The closer you are, the better equipped you’ll both be for when it happens in the future.  Finally, the more your child hears you say the word, “yes”, the more likely she’ll be to respect it when circumstances dictate that you have to give a genuine “no.”

2.  This never makes me popular, but I always have to ask, “Is it really non-negotiable?”  I think a lot of times people are afraid to think outside of the box, and come up with creative solutions that satisfy both parent and child.  Your child doesn’t want to stay in his room, but you don’t want to co-sleep.  Could he sleep on a mattress on your floor?  Your child doesn’t want to stay with a sitter, but you want to work out at the gym.  Could you work out at home while he naps?  There was a period of time with two of my kids when they hated (hated, hated) riding in the car as infants.  While a certain amount of car travel is unavoidable, a great deal is not.   We had a season where we really limited our time in the car.  We had more playdates at home, we split things like grocery shopping so we could go without kids, we didn’t go places when it wasn’t necessary.  It was a short season, and it kept everyone happy.  If it really IS non-negotiable (for example, you have to leave the park because you need to go to work or you’ll lose your job):

3) What I’ve done with my kids in the past is this:  Give them plenty of warning – 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, etc.  Stay calm and light… can’t stress that enough.  Breathe… can’t stress that enough either.  Tell them what needs to happen.  Give them a choice that leads to the same outcome.  (Example:  “We have to go to the car now.  Do you want me to give you a piggy-back ride, or do you want to race me?”)  And finally, if they still absolutely refuse to come, I empathize (“I know you’re having so much fun, and I’m sorry we have to go”) and then calmly pick them up and go.   That obviously wouldn’t work for bigger kids, but my own experience is that it wasn’t an issue once my kids were older.

What about the Bible verses that tell us not to spare the “rod”? 

I saved this one for last, because it literally hurts my heart to see so many well-meaning Christians (and I do believe that they’re well-meaning) who think that the Bible instructs them to parent harshly.  Indeed, I’ve endured some scathing criticisms from people telling me I need to read my Bible.  And here’s the thing:  I’ve read my Bible.  It’s a book about love, and about grace… more love and more grace than any of us can ever possibly understand.  It is NOT a book that instructs us to hit our children.  The “rod” scriptures are, in my opinion, the second most taken-out-of-context scriptures in the Bible.   But even if you were to take them at their word:  the rod referred to in those scriptures is the shepherd’s staff, used to guide and protect sheep, not hit them.  And I would say to anyone thinking I need to further study my Bible:

Where is the scripture that says that Jesus would hit (or spank, or swat, or pop) a child?  I posed that question on one of my posts over two years ago, and I’m still waiting for someone to take me up on it.  Show me the scripture.  Because from where I’m sitting, Jesus loved children, and was never anything but gentle, kind, and welcoming to any child he came in contact with.

Being a Christian means lots of things to lots of people, but to me it means to love and follow Christ which translates to love, kindness and respect for ALL people.  And what better place to start than with our own children?


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27 Responses to Gentle Parenting FAQ

  1. Parenting in despair!

    We started changing our parenting about 15 months ago, was very natural
    and gentle with them as babies (was an attachment parent but at the time
    had never heard the label) but was authoritarian with them as they got
    older, the eldest is nearly 6, we then have a 4 year old and a 19 month
    old (but we started on this path when she was 4 months so she’s only
    known gentle parenting). Now I did a lot of stuff that’s gentle but also
    used timeouts, toy confiscation and threats, they were last resorts but
    they were used. Also lots of praise in the form of “good boy” which no
    longer happens either.
    I have a question in regard of what to do when things are non negotiable, and I’m not meaning so much the examples you gave where alternatives can be thought about and worked out but more in the moment things, like today my 4 year old had enough of being out said he was tired and wanted to go home so whilst I was trying to explain that to the oldest child and negotiate something we could all be happy with he took off and was heading back to the car and I had already told him I needed to talk to his brother first and get my things before we could leave, he didn’t want to come back and rejoin us and nothing I said worked until finally I said I wouldn’t buy the ice cream I had promised them we would get on the way out.

    Whenever i read about peaceful/gentle/positive etc parenting there is always the answer that children will do what’s asked when necessary if you are connected and I get that and I’ve seen a huge change in my children already but what no one ever tells you is what on earth do you do whilst you are trying to change from one to the other. In the instances when they won’t listen to me and it is non negiotable then what? I don’t want to use the old methods I hate it when I hear them coming out my mouth but I’m at a loss in some instances as to what else to do and reading over and over again on various articles and blogs that when the connection is there they will just magically do it doesn’t help whilst I’m still trying to repair that connection. No one seems to be able to help with that bit, I quite often feel like I’m trying with everything I have but I’m missing some vital tool, the connection is probably not currently strong enough which means resorting to old methods which then in turn means the connection is yet again damaged and more repair work needs doing which makes the old methods get used again at the next instance and so on and so on, it’s terrible being trapped in a loop that I’m aware of but have no clue how to get out of

    I did later, once we were all home and rested apologise for the threat I had used but also explained the importance of him not taking off on his own in a busy park, but like I said about each time things like this happen is just another rift that needs repairing.

    • Kelly

      Amen! That’s been my EXACT question. All gentle parenting seems to talk out of an already connected situation. And rarely talks about when you have more than one child. I have three kids, aged three and under. There is a lot going on, I can’t spend huge chunks of time on one child’s behavior when I have a crying baby or a kid sitting on the potty waiting for a clean up. Ya know? Most of my day is multitasking and I wanna know how to repair the connection without neglecting all the things that must be done (meals, laundry, naps, nursing, diapers, etc.)

    • Heather

      The answer is empathy.
      You simply empathize with your son that you understand he is ready to leave and is tired, “I hear you”… Involve them in the leaving process. Let’s get the bags together, go get a family member rounded up to leave etc. And if after all of that he STILL went to the car when asked not to, I say things like “I’m disappointed that you went to the car without me when we were deciding to leave. I’m angry because it’s dangerous for you to be in a parking lot by yourself. Cars can’t always see you and could run you over and hurt you. We treat everyone in our family with respect and when you decided to leave on your own, you were only focused on your own needs instead of us all making the decision as a family.”

  2. Beautifully stated! I am only recently learning of “gentle patenting” but I love it because it describes so well my natural parenting style. Be loving, respectful, kind, flexible, honest, and honorable with your children, and watch how “discipline” becomes unnecessary. <3

  3. Wendy

    I like what you are saying. I need help! I have been parenting for 21 years but feel like I am a newbie! I have four children, aged 21, almost 19, 12 and 8. Our 8 year old was adopted at birth. I know all children are different, and should be approached as individuals, but to be honest I and everyone else in the family are at a loss on how to satisfy our 8 year old. She has never been able to play alone. As a toddler through her preschool years that was totally understandable. But as she got older I expected things would change as did with my other 3 children. She requires constant attention, one on one time to be content. If she is even asked to go find something to occupy herself alone, it is seen as a punishment and there will be tears. When you play a game with her it is very enjoyable she enjoys the moment fully but when it is over and you have to move on she flips out, whining complaining as if the fun time never happened. This goes on all day for everyone. I am a quiet, relfective person who enjoys reading, cooking and just enjoying the act of being out of doors and enjoying nature. Though I make an effort to meet her high energy need several times daily. I also sit with her and snuggle for her tv shows. My husband meets her high energy need from the moment he gets home until it is her bed time to the best of his abillity. If for some reason he can’t, like my 12 year old would like to spend time with him on one of her art projects, again there will be tears. She and I are polar opposites as far as personality, I know that, that doesn’t make her wrong or me wrong. My girl has my heart , I am always careful because I don’t EVER want her to feel like the “different” one because she is adopted, I just want to address the issue for what it is. I need sound loving, gentle advice!!

  4. Emparentingmom

    I *love* your blog and parenting philosophy! I started a blog mainly for the purpose of reminding myself of the values I want to have guide my parenting – empathy and empowement. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of rewards and punishments, but at the end of the day, they’re useless. Kids need respectful guides, not taskmasters. Our biggest challenge, though, has been school – for various reasons we are unable to homeschool at this point in our life, and trying to navigate the demands of the system has led to more power struggles with our son than anything else.

    I was also struck by what you wrote about extrinsic and intrisic motivation. So true!! Also backed up by research – giving kids prizes to color, for example, was actually shown to make them lose interest in a favorite past time: http://www.emparenting.com/reward-systems-for-kids/ And that’s the school dilemma right there, isn’t it? My son loves to learn about classical history and has become an expert on Rome and Greek mythology – but *hates* learning history in school. I have no doubt that school causes, in his case, a net *loss* of learning, and detracts from the energies and interest that he would otherwise have for all sorts of amazing things.

  5. Zhavon Shay Malone

    I think I love your blog. If not, I definitely love this post.

  6. Jenna

    Very eye opening and a technique I’d love to use. Can you start this, even if your child is 19 months? What would a gentle parenting technique be for a child that screams (very loudly) when eating out at the dinner table?

    • Of course, gentle parenting starts at birth. 🙂 Why’s the child screaming? Happy, excited screams? Bored screams? “I want to get out of here” screams?

    • Lana

      My son was like that. I would take him outside and explain people are trying to talk to each other and cannot hear when he’s screaming. I would ask if he could be quiet so we can stay, if not we can take our food home and he can scream there. But after a few times we decided to stop stop eating out until he was older. He liked to scream and it was for fun, nothing else. My daughter did it once when she was 2, she’s my oldest, and with her I grabbed her and ran out embarrassed. I left the restaurant without saying anything to her. She was very upset about it. I learned later from my husband that she was just upset the appetizers were gone. I also learned that talking to your children is a good thing. 🙂 Never had that issue again with her though.

  7. Jamileh

    What about when gentle parenting causes divorce?? I know a couple who are on the path to divorce because of this very thing.

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  11. Brandy

    Thank you for posting this Blog. Your writings about your parenting style are brilliantly simple. It should be natural to us all, but it’s not always. I am grateful to read your blog for daily motivation!
    Love, Brandy

  12. Nat

    Thank you for this post. I was very discouraged during one meeting at church when the parents talk about the need to smack their children to show who’s in charge or that mama means business. And also to use all sorts of rewards for potty training and other behavior issues, along with incessant praises (good girl/good boy for being able to blow bubbles in swimming lesson. How would blowing bubbles equal being a good girl/boy?!?). I felt very alone at that time because I don’t parent that way. I feel very encouraged today after reading this post. I’m very thankful that my husband and I are on the same page on parenting our son. It would be very hard to parent this way if the other parent isn’t on the same page.Both my husband and I have received totally different parenting styles than how we are parenting our son, we both have very sensitive hearts and felt a lot of hurt from how our parents (as well meaning as they were) treat us. That’s what brought us to how we approach our parenting, this was even before we learned about the terms attachment or gentle parenting.

  13. Jennifer

    I’m wondering why is praise not recommended in gentle parenting? I praise my toddler’s accomplishments and it honestly just comes out of me naturally. Like when she learns a word, says all her ABC’s or counts 1-10, we have formed the habit of cheering and clapping. Even when she makes a mistake, like skips a letter for example, I correct her in the moment by adding in the letter, and then at the end we still cheer and clap to praise her effort. I guess my praise is not conditional, so she knows that I am proud of her effort even if she messed up. Is it just conditional praise that is bad, or any praise at all?
    The only thing so far that seems bad is that she gets frustrated if she can’t figure something out. I am suspecting it’s because she wants the praise. For example, when she is trying to put shapes into their correct holes, she can’t get it to fit so she gets mad and throws the piece. I tell her it’s okay, she doesn’t need to get mad and she can just try again. I tell her it was good effort and she tried but I don’t want to clap and cheer because I don’t want her to think that throwing the piece was okay. If she puts the piece on the hole, and it rests there but doesn’t quite go in, I do a mini praise, like “alright, good try!” (Okay I guess that makes it somewhat conditional praise then.)
    So if praise is bad, should I stop now? I guess I have the same sort of dilemma that other people here have mentioned where they can’t figure out how to transition from old ways. And without praise, how can I encourage her to continue trying and learning?

    • Marian

      That’s a great question. I taught elementary school years ago and we were given an “All About Me” mandate. We were to have our students spend time dwelling on themselves in order to give them self-esteem. I re-coiled at the idea instinctively. Why? I thought about self-esteem. I wondered what ‘self-esteem’ was and if I really wanted to impart that to my kids. I wanted them to have confidence. I wanted them to feel the pride of accomplishment. I wanted them to learn to persevere through tough situations. I wanted them to know I would help, but they had to do it. I could not then and cannot now hand ‘self-esteem’ or confidence or resilience to my children. They have to live that. They have to struggle and see that they can do ‘it’, whatever that is. Developmentally appropriate challenges, reaching set goals, trying again after failure…that’s what develops character. So, our children need encouragement for their efforts and they need to learn to give thanks to God for their innate gifts. Our children need to learn it’s ok to seek help. But, if we rescue we are thwarting God’s work in them. They need to know they are not alone in their struggle. Parent, teacher, friend and especially God are always there to count on. They also need to know that hard work, perseverance, confidence are not spectacular accomplishments worthy of cheers and parades. Those are the qualities of a person of character. That is satisfaction enough. – So, I put a sign next to the wall clock in the classroom. The sign said, “Catch ’em being good.” When, they showed effort, kindness, self-control, resilience, I simply highlighted it with a glow of admiration, “Look Johnny, you didn’t interrupt once during that lesson. I’m impressed, that’s a real improvement and that’s not easy.” Versus, “You’re awesome!” I always protected their dignity, and many such comments were a whisper in a child’s ear. Our culture is so loud and boastful and I found when I whispered a little encouragement it was as if I could see their little spirit fill with oxygen. Repeated moments like that and they understand they are indeed capable, they can handle tough situations and hard emotions. – That’s how I understand the difference between praise and encouragement.

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  15. GD Star Ratingloading…nice. but i bet welfair pays for the needs.or parnes do.. house food. etc and school. i was a teen mom too. But i had to pay my own way thru school & provide. There was no help, ever a mdical card or food stamp or a parent to help. Yes i went to schoool. But kids weaken your teeth. leave stretch marks. ruin your boobs and then suck u dry till you have nothing else to give and they do this for yrs. If i could go back i would not have kids. i was a good mom , rocking chair mom & loving.GD Star Ratingloading…

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  17. Marian

    There are times in life when obedience is not up for debate. If I say jump, my children should say, “How high?” on the way up. That sounds authoritarian, but it’s love. One day they will be adults. And God will say, “Jump” or “Stop!” through his Word or their conscience. If they trust Him they avoid a lot of unnecessary pain and learn wisdom without heartbreak. Yes, critical thinking and recognizing integrity when choosing who to follow is vital. Those are conversations that are important to have with our kids. Yes, connection, empathy, validation, forgiveness all of it is central to parenting. But, the first lesson I taught my toddler is when mom says, “Stop” it is not a debate or a time for emotional connection. Respect and obedience are important and I caution young mother’s from abandoning all traditional attitudes. I taught my children good from evil. They reported evil and we addressed that together. But, if they disagreed with me or teacher a debate did not ensue. First, obedience. Excuses were not tolerated. Later, when the time was right for discussion we had open and shame free environments to talk. Time and place. Speaking with respect. These were continuously expected and modeled for my kids. I do not regret it. My now 26 year old daughter used to complain that I was too strict. I swatted her once when she was 2, for running out into a busy street. She always had to speak to everyone with respect. She had to do her homework, practice her piano and do her chores before she could play. She could never talk back. We were and are very close. Now she thanks me for demanding she behave with courteous words and respectful attitudes. I wish I had validated her more and listened better during her teen years, and that’s the take away. There is a balance. Don’t lose your mommy instincts trying to be a perfect mom. Get to know your kids and see them as people who must have resilience yes, but also self-control. My 26 year old daughter teaches first grade now. She’s strict too.

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  21. D.

    After reading this article I can’t help but see that gentle parenting has both truth and error mixed together. The truth being that we ought to parent in a spirit of love, which reflects mercy, grace, compassion and forgiveness. Yes, we should be open to listening to our children and allowing them space to share and as parents we could probably say “yes” more often, even if it feels like an inconvenience. I love the part about being connected with your children, which inevitably means you MUST spend time together and foster that relationship. I believe our children will thank us more for the time we spent with them than the great gadgets we bought them.

    But the error is that first the parent earns the child’s respect before the child is expected reciprocate. This is clearly not Biblical. The Bible has set an order, which states, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” So when I ask my child to have their shoes on and wait for me by the door, it is good and right for them to be expected to obey. This idea of negotiating with our child over when they want to listen and IF they feel like putting their shoes on is clearly the child manipulating the parent.

    I realize the Bible also addresses parents who “exasperate” their children by endless rules, too high of expectations and harsh tones. As parents we are to understand that our children struggle with sin every bit as much as we do and our job is to guide them into a role of obedience and submission to their authority. And yes, our job is to make their obedience as delightful as we can, but oftentimes this is clearly inevitable. Gentle parenting seems to assume that the child needs to control their own environment and the parent sits back and negotiates so that the child never gets their feelings hurt by being told no or that their attitude is not acceptable. Gentle parenting even seems to go so far as to avoid calling a child’s disobedience exactly what it is: DISOBEDIENCE (sin).

    This idea of making a joke out of our child’s rebellion and coming up with a fun game when they opt not to listen is nothing more than teaching your child how to manipulate every circumstance according to their time table. If I ask my 3 year old to clean up his toys (and he clearly understands my instruction) and he throws himself on the ground and yells “no,” the last thing that child needs is a fun little tickle and mommy coming up with a fun game to coax him to obey. He’s not old enough to have a super deep conversation about how he needs to respect his environment and respect others. He needs a short and sweet reminder: mommy said pick up your toys and you need to obey. This child needs to be corrected for his rebellion and redirected towards obedience. I fear we live in a culture that has Christians afraid of what people will think of us (we’re even afraid of what our own children will think of us) if we actually give our children consequences for their poor choices. What’s wrong with telling my 10 year old that because she did not clean up her room like I asked her to, that she will not be able to enjoy our ice cream outing? Instead of nag, she feels the natural consequences of opting not to listen. I’m sorry, but when our children grow up, they are going to find that missing out on ice cream was a pretty lax consequence. What do you tell your child who refuses to do their school work? That they can just get it done whenever THEY feel like? Do you see how that will play out in college?

    When my child has a job one day and is told to do A,B and C, it’s ridiculous to think that my child should be able to sit down and negotiate just how and when they feel like doing A, B and C. They should have learned at an early age to simply comply without arguing and negotiating. Our children are expected to obey first and then they are more than welcome to come back to us and express how they feel in a respectful way. If we train our kids to believe that we as parents have to earn their respect before they will obey, we are in essence teaching them that if they ever have a boss who they don’t particularity like, then they really don’t have to respect him since he didn’t EARN their respect. Pretty self-centered!

    There are so many more issues with gentle parenting that “gently” disguise themselves in a false idea of “all you need is love and respect.” It IS loving to set boundaries and expect first-time obedience. The result will be consequences, but that does not mean we cannot still extend forgiveness and acceptance. I can’t get over the fact that in gentle parenting consequences for wrong choices are seen as punishment. Really?

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