How To Do Gentle Parenting Without Pandering

Gentle parenting: it’s one of those marmite things – you either love it or hate it. Some people are drawn to the laid back, forgiving approach; and others are horrified at the lack of traditional discipline.

The problem is, both of these camps have missed the point completely.

Gentle parents come from all walks of life and all levels of strictness. There are gentle parents who breastfeed, bottle feed, use a sling, use a pram, watch from a distance or helicopter!

However you want to parent, you can incorporate gentle parenting into it because gentle parenting is an attitude, rather than a checklist of parenting rules.

gentle parenting techniques - child climbing a tree outside

What is gentle parenting?

Gentle parenting simply means that whenever mum and dad make decisions, those choices are

“made out of respect and empathy for their children, as well as themselves…”

The Gentle Parenting Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Gentle parenting is the belief that children are worthy of respect and should be treated the way that an adult would wish to be treated.

That’s not to say that they should be trusted with the level of responsibility or independence of an adult. But children can be offered these things in an age-appropriate way.

Sometimes we run our households like a dictatorship, barking orders at our children instead of asking for their opinion. We fall into the trap of lying to our children to manipulate them into doing what we want (I’m looking at you, Elf on the Shelf!). There may be times when we tower over our children to intimidate them or make fun of them in front of others

All of this stuff is disrespectful and, ultimately, unkind.

what is gentle parenting - child holding a buttercup flower to mother

Every human has feelings. Every human wants to know they are safe and loved. Every human wants to have a say in what they do and where they go.

Sometimes, we grown-ups forget that children are humans too.

We expect them to be happy every day, even though we know that our own emotions dip and dive. We get annoyed when they ate something yesterday but won’t today, even though we have days when we just don’t fancy eating something we usually like. We brush over their friendship troubles, even though we know that fall outs can be really upsetting.

The aim of gentle parenting is to employ empathy and put ourselves in our children’s shoes before making decisions.

gentle parenting and respectful parenting - child balancing on a beam

Gentle parenting doesn’t mean pandering

But lots of people have taken this idea and interpreted it as “I must not upset my child”. They are so worried about making their child unhappy that they give up their position of authority and let their kids rule the roost.

Nope! That’s not it!

Gentle parents still need to create and enforce boundaries because that’s how children learn what’s expected of them. It’s our responsibility to nurture our children into kind, capable adults and that means holding fast to the principles that are important to us. We have to let our kids know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour by creating rules and sticking to them.

But discipline must be carried out respectfully.

Did you know that the root word for “discipline” is discipulus which is the latin word for “pupil”? This is because discipline is about guiding and training rather than punishing or belittling.

We all love our kids but sometimes we don’t treat them in a loving way. Gentle parents work hard to consciously love their kids with every action and every word. They try to be consistent in their approach as this reassures children and gives them a sense of security. The relationship is child-centred with the parents seeking to understand their children and the underlying causes of behaviour.

How to do gentle parenting - child walking on stepping stones

Gentle parenting in practise

Gentle parenting is still relatively new – it’s probably not the way you were raised – so you may be wondering how on earth you can enforce rules without employing punishments. Well here are a few quick thoughts to get you started.

Gentle parenting discipline should be:

Pre-warned – if your child is misbehaving, point out what you would like them to be doing instead. Explain that this is a warning and let them know what will happen if they continue

Beneficial instead of vengefulchoose things like moving them away from the situation – this will break the cycle of behaviour and give them time to think. Hurting someone (physically or emotionally) is never respectful

Enforced – if your child continues to misbehave then set the discipline in motion (and don’t be tempted to back down even if they plead – it helps children learn that their choices have consequences)

Calmly deployed – try to remain calm and collected so that you can deal with the situation objectively – your child deserves to be dealt with fairly, not dependent on how emotional you are

Explained – explain to your child what they did wrong and why you needed to intervene with discipline. Then tell them what should have happened instead

Appropriate – before you issue your warning, think carefully about the consequence you are going to issue; remember – small offences only need small consequences

The end of the story – once the consequence has been completed, move on – your child has made amends and it doesn’t need raking over anymore


Is this definition of gentle parenting what you expected? Would you describe yourself as a “gentle parent”? Do you parent the same way as your parents did or have you made some updates? I’d love to hear your thoughts so let me know in the comments section below.

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  1. 2
    The SEN Resources Blog

    Great post, so relatable and also to teaching styles too. Completely agree. Parenting should involve respect and kindness as they are the values we are wanting to instil in our own children- so we need to model it! #blogcrush

  2. 5

    This is how I’d like to parent and most of the time this is how I do it but I sometimes become a shouty Mum and hate myself for it. My Mum was very strict and we just did what we were told, I’m not sure even now how she managed it! #blogcrush

    • 6
      Lucy At Home

      Oh I think we all resort to shouty mum at times – it’s human nature. There’s a follow up post coming soon on this because if you look at the gentle parenting definition in this post, it includes making decisions out of respect and empathy for the PARENTS too so we need to take into account that some days we are able to do more than others and that’s okay too. X

  3. 7

    Nice post and explained in a practical way. It can be difficult to show love in those situations but kids generally respond so well when you do.

  4. 10
    Sara @ Magical Mama Blog

    Fabulous well educated post! Parenting is different for every parent and child. No two families are alike and therefore there is no foolproof way of doing things but this idea can be used in so many situations. This is great inspiration as we’re settling into the “terrible twos” at our house.

  5. 11

    What a fabulously well written post. My husband and I have always found that our beliefs fall into the gentle parent category. I loved hearing explained in such a educated and simple way. Thank you! #BlogCrush

  6. 12
    Mother of 3

    What a wonderful post! I found that it took me awhile to embrace gentle parenting and while it may just have been my kids ages when I turned to a more gentle and relaxed approach I did find that I had far fewer tantrums, attitudes, and obstinate behaviors coming from my boys. #blogcrush

  7. 14
    Liberty Henwick

    This came naturally to me too and you are right in that I wasn’t raised this way. I wonder whether this style of parenting is also linked up to one’s personality style? I’m sure people who generally struggle with empathy would also struggle to be gentle parents. I love how you go in to the definition of discipline – it’s so important and yet has almost become an unspoken word now as trends have swung over to the opposite extreme of permissive and child centred parenting, which is equally as damaging as dictatorial parenting. We have so much to learn don’t we! #blogcrush

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