The term “gentle parenting” is doing the rounds in the news and social media, and many people have conflicting opinions about it. Many people, however, are still confusing gentle parenting with permissive parenting. Both these parenting styles have a thin line between them, which may be easy to cross.

What is gentle parenting?

  • It is backed by research, leaning towards authoritative parenting.
  • It draws a clear boundary with your children that is helpful for their safety and well-being.
  • It involves resolving conflicts together by discussing the reason behind the set rules and boundaries.
  • It looks beyond punishments and consequences of bad behaviour and focuses more on the reason why the child is behaving a particular way.

What is permissive parenting?

  • Permissive parents have extremely low expectations from their children. They believe that their child is incapable of making better choices.
  • Permissive parenting gives all the control to the child and has inconsistent boundaries with them.
  • Parents do not impose any structure or schedule to their child’s life.
  • The emphasis is on the freedom of the child over their responsibility.

Let us investigate how both parenting styles differ from each other by looking at two scenarios and how each parenting method would deal with it.

Situation 1:
[A four-year-old is scribbling on the walls.]

A permissive parent would ask the child not to scribble on the wall, but if the child shows resistance, the parent will clean up the mess themselves.

A gentle parent would acknowledge that scribbling on the wall may be fun; however, it is not allowed in their family. The parent would ask the child to clean it up, offering help if needed. The parent would consistently show the child that they must use paper for coloring. They can also get creative by sticking a chart paper on the child’s room wall, where they can scribble and color.  This would let the child know that the parent understands their feeling and curiosity; however, they need to follow their family rules.

Situation 2:
[An eight-year-old is refusing to eat what is cooked for dinner.]

A permissive parent would empathize with the child and fix them a plate that the child wants to eat.

A gentle parent would acknowledge that their child might not like what is cooked that night, however, will not offer to replace the food. They would tell the child to eat as much as they feel like, but what is on the table is what they get.

How does each style of parenting affect the children, according to most research?

Effects of permissive parenting on children:

  • Under the permissive style of parenting, children generally tend to struggle more with making decisions. This is because they have hardly been exposed to guidelines or rules, which help develop problem-solving skills.
  • As adults, they struggle to create a balanced lifestyle for themselves. When there is no structure and routine in their childhood, they find it difficult to balance their daily routine as adults.
  • They tend to get stressed easily when presented with difficult situations. This is because they have been used to getting their way during childhood.
  • They hold a high self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Effects of gentle parenting on children:

  • Studies have shown that children who grow with the gentle parenting method have reduced childhood anxiety. This is because of the consistent support, empathy, and encouragement given to them by their parents.
  • Children develop healthier adult relationships as they mirror their own relationships with their parents. Since the children have grown up being respected, they give due respect to others. They also have a good judgement of relationships that are not healthy.
  • Children turn out to be more empathetic, high-achieving, and emotionally aware adults.
  • They maintain a strong bond with their parents, with healthy boundaries from both ends.

While gentle parenting seems to be the more popular and effective parenting style, according to research, it is not easy. It can be especially hard for those parents who have not been raised by this parenting style. Every parent’s natural response to different child-related situations is to repeat patterns from their own childhood. In these situations, pausing and reflecting on your reaction is helpful. Ask yourself:

  • Is my reaction a trigger response to my childhood?
  • Is it an auto-pilot response?
  • If you were in your child’s place, how would you want your parents to respond?

Practicing self-awareness is key to gentle and respectful parenting. There is no right or wrong way to parent, and it is completely understandable when parents feel overwhelmed with all the information. There are many days when we, as parents, do not react in an ideal way. However, if we practice self-awareness, we will know that it is maybe time to take a few minutes for ourselves. In the end, every parent knows how to parent their child the best.

Here’s a great read on Retro Parenting Advice that still hold up today!


Aamna graduated from York University in Canada with a degree in psychology. She is an accomplished SEO content creator by day and a mother of 2 beautiful daughters by night. She has over 5 years of dedicated content creation experience and is passionate about gender studies, diversity, inclusion and social justice.

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