Is Gentle Parenting “weak” parenting?

Parenting Approaches Series 1 of 4

Written by Mel Gutierrez, BSN, RN

Social media is abuzz with gentle parenting, but its name might fool you into thinking it’s something it’s not. While its name might make you think it’s a permissive style of parenting where children rule the house, it’s actually a type of authoritative parenting, the best style that’s for children’s long-term growth and development. What sets gentle parenting apart is the increased focus on a child’s emotions and how parents respond to the emotions, especially during stressful times.

This parenting style stresses the importance of showing empathy, respect, and understanding while keeping healthy firm boundaries. When their children are misbehaving these parents:

  • Figure out the emotions that a child is feeling
  • Name the feeling for the child, and explain how their behavior shows that’s the emotion they are feeling
  • Empathize with their feelings
  • Hold firm to the boundaries and rules

If we go back to the example of the toddler not wanting to wear their socks, the gentle parent:

  • Recognizes that this is how their child acts when they are frustrated
  • Discuss their child’s feelings and behavior
    • “I think that you are feeling frustrated, and it’s hard to feel frustrated! You are stomping your feet and saying no socks no! You really want to get to school right now! But we need to wear our socks so we don’t get ouchies from our shoes. Please put on your socks.”
  • If this does not result in the child putting on their socks, the boundary must be enforced while continuing to focus on the child’s emotions
    • “I see that you are so frustrated, I can help you, but if we need need to take extra time to help you get dressed, we won’t have time to watch three episodes of Bluey* after dinner, only two.”
  • If this does not result in the child putting on their socks, the consequence must be enforced while continuing to focus on the child’s emotions
    • “Remember we had to take extra time to get dressed this morning? We have time for two episodes tonight. You can play with your toys when we are done with Bluey. I can see you’re sad now, and it’s ok to feel sad when there isn’t as much time for fun things.”

Showing gentleness towards children even when they are in a storm of strong emotions helps model frustration tolerance and flexibility. It helps children develop an internal voice that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

But- this is hard work. In order for parents to be able to identify and empathize with the emotions of their children, they must first be able to do this task for themselves.

*- Bluey is an Australian children’s TV show. The creators studied child development before creating the show and is praised for its depiction of authoritative parenting with many elements of gentle parenting.

The El Paso Center for Children has several programs and access to numerous community resources to help navigate and cherish family time. For questions, please contact us at 915.307.8043 or

The written information comes from my registered nurse education and baccalaureate psychology education. It is only intended for educational purposes. The information written for this blog is not a substitution for professional medical advice or therapy services.