How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (2023)

How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (1)What do you do when your child wants to quit?

Imagine that your 9 year old daughter greets you with a look of dread when you pick her up from swim practice. Her coach wants her to swim the 100 meter breaststroke in the upcoming meet.

In tears, she says, “Please, Mom. Please help me. I’m still going to be swimming when the other girls are getting out of the pool and the next heat is getting on the blocks. I’m really that slow.”

How can you provide emotional support while still encouraging her to not give up too easily? How do you even know whether she’s up for such a challenge?

Can you let go of control and trust her to make a good decision?

This is the real-life dilemma Brené Brown faced in her book Daring Greatly.

How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (2)Her heart ached for her daughter. She desperately wanted to spare her the possible humiliation. She also wanted her daughter to learn that her worthiness does not depend on winning or losing, and that both her parents would stand by her, no matter what. She came up with one of the most compassionate, courageous solutions I could have imagined.

She told her daughter that if the coach wanted her in the race, she’d have to do it, then she listened, really listened with an open heart.

Her daughter put her head down and sobbed. She even told her mother that she could scratch the event (not show up for that race). Rather than scold her or try to convince her, Brené empathized. “You can scratch that event. I’d probably consider that option too. But what if your goal for that race isn’t to win or even to get out of the water at the same time as the other girls? What if your goal is to show up and get wet?”

Editor’s Note: To be a gentler, yell-free parent click hereto get our mini-course How to Be a Positive Parent for FREE.

(Video) Why Indian Immigrants Become Rich and Raise Successful Kids

The Power of Unconditional Love

Do you love your kids unconditionally?

How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (3)Alfie Kohn in a New York Times article says,

“Most of us would protest that of course we love our children without any strings attached. But what counts is how things look from the perspective of the children – whether they feel just as loved when they mess up or fall short.”

Our children need our unconditional love and acceptance. But so often, parenting advice is to ignore, criticize, label, or punish behavior that we find unacceptable. Or to bribe, praise, or reward our kids in order to get them to do what we want.

We are steeped in a culture that believes that kids can only learn right from wrong if they are punished for their mistakes and rewarded for their accomplishments.

Even if we do these things out of love or concern for their well-being (and I know from my own experience that we often are actually acting out of fear, anger, or the desire to control), our kids can feel as if they are loved only when they do what we want.

I want something better for my daughter. I want her to know, to really feel that she is loved exactly as she is. I strive for this unconditional, no-strings-attached love. I fail at it all the time. But I come back, and keep reaching for connection each time.

Gentle Parenting: Feeling Loved and Growing up Strong

And it turns out, this same experience of being unconditionally loved plays a key role in helping kids develop traits such as empathy, resilience, grit, and responsibility.

Carl Rogers, who pioneered the client-centered approach to psychology writes, “We cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are.”

As parents, we can accept where our kids are, then help them move to the next stage.

(Video) Becoming A Father: What country to raise your children

How can we do this without controlling our kids through punishments and rewards?

  • Provide clear expectations: Children need parents to keep them safe, to help the household run efficiently, and to teach them behavior that is appropriate for their society. We can set clear expectations without labeling, demeaning, shaming, or threatening them. For example: “Hands are not for hitting.” “I don’t like being pushed.” “Dirty dishes go in the sink.”
  • Listen empathetically: Sometimes our kids get overwhelmed with negative feelings. They may be mad because they are not ready to leave the park, for example. In this case, what they need most is not someone telling them they need to stop crying. Crying is their very legitimate way of both expressing hurt and healing from it. Read Dr Laura Markam’s great example of how to empathetically stick with a limit your child does not happily accept.
  • How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (4)Find win-win solutions: In Parent Effectiveness Training, Thomas Gordon breaks down parent-child conflicts into three types: win-lose (parent gets his/her way and child feels angry, misunderstood, insecure, or disempowered), lose-win (child gets his/her way and parent often ends up feeling resentful, angry, confused, or out of control), or win-win (parent and child both agree on a solution; both are content with the outcome). When both “sides” know that their needs will be met and that they won’t be forced to do something they really don’t want to, everyone is freer to look for creative, cooperative solutions.

Life in the Real World

“Well, that sounds great, but how does it work in the real world?” you may be thinking. Or like many parents I have worked with, you may be worried thatgentle parenting mighthandicap your kids when they are out there in the Big Bad World.

The good news is that more and more research is coming in, and it all points to a parenting style that is involved, responsive, respects kids’ autonomy, and holds appropriate expectations on behavior. Brené modeled this perfectly in how she handled her daughter’s swim meet anxiety; she didn’t shame, coerce, or pressure her daughter, she respected her daughter’s feelings and empathized with her, and she reiterated her family’s values of showing up even when you’re scared.

Here are just a few of the ways that this type of gentle parenting helps kids develop the strength they need to take on the world.

When the Going Gets Tough

A single characteristic predicts the likelihood of graduating from high school, staying in a sales job, completing a college degree, surviving West Point’s hellish “Beast Barracks” freshman orientation, and flying through the Green Beret’s Special Forces Selection course.

Grit. The powerful combination of passion and perseverance that allows people to power through obstacles and setbacks to achieve their goals.

So what can a parent do to foster grit?

How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (5)In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth explains that to raise kids who have grit, parents need to be warm and respectful of their kids, and also hold high expectations for them. But it’s crucial that kids feel the support and believe that their parents think they can achieve the expectations. (And we’re right back to Alfie Kohn).

Secondly, parents need to model grit themselves. Do you have long-term goals? Do you pursue them with passion and perseverance? Do you talk about the process, both your successes and setbacks with your kids? If you answered yes, then you are increasing the odds that your child will also develop grit.

Thirdly, kids need practice doing difficult things. Angela’s family plays by the Hard Thing Rule: each person picks something that requires daily, deliberate practice and commits to it until there is a natural stopping point (the end of the course or season, reaching a certain goal, etc.) This takes care of the “high expectations” part.

(Video) House Calls With Dr. Phil

To get the “warm and respectful” part, everybody gets to choose their own Hard Thing. When kids want to quit, their parentsempathize with them, let them take responsibility for how they want to approach the goal, and cheer them on, whether they succeed or fail.

Brené took this a step further by allowing her daughter to decide for herself whether it was worth “staying in the game.”

Building Character

How do we help our kids develop good character traits such as empathy, honesty, responsibility, and patience?

I have a friend who tells me of how she would walk around the house and clean up messes that her husband had left behind. Frustrated, she would sigh “Oh Peter!”

One day, her toddler dropped her stuffed bunny behind the sofa. “Oh Peter!” she cried. With horror, she realized that her toddler thought “Oh Peter” was an expletive.

Like my friend, we’ve all experienced how children are hardwired to mimic the people around them, and especially their parents, siblings, and other caretakers. Therefore, one of the most important character lessons to give our kids is us behaving in the same way we want them to.

This modeling is one of the 5 parental characteristics that are important for developing kids’ moral behaviour, as described by Dr. Marvin W. Berkowitz, professor of Character Education and Co-Director of the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

  • Modeling:acting in the way you want your kids to act. If you want kids to be respectful, be respectful to them and to other people. It also extends to how you talk about events in your own life.
  • Induction: explaining why we act in a certain way/have certain rules. Instead of just saying, “No throwing balls in the house,” we explain, “We don’t throw the ball in the house because there are too many fragile things that might break if the ball hits them.”
  • Nurture and support: showing empathy for a child’s feelings and taking their desires into account. These lead to the child developing a sense of their own worth, and by extension, the worth of other people
  • High, but realistic expectations: knowing what a child is capable of, and providing enough support, guidance, or instruction for them to get to the next level
  • Democratic decision-making and discussion: allowing kids an equal voice in decision-making helps them take other people’s needs into account, reason about what is fair, and practice conflict resolution. As a bonus, kids (and adults, too!) are more likely to comply with decisions that they have had a hand in shaping.

Teaching Responsibility

Do your kids do chores? Do you use a reward system to motivate them? Or do you withdraw privileges or dock their allowance if they don’t perform?

Here are just a few of the effects of punishing kids:

  • Increased lying
  • Less in control of their emotions (so more likely to misbehave)
  • Decreased empathy toward other people
  • Less likely to respect parents and accept their influence

And rewards are not any better. They diminish our internal motivation for tasks we already enjoy and make us feel manipulated.

(Video) Dax - "To Be A Man" (Official Music Video)

Is there a better way?

How to Be a Gentle Parent Who Raises Tough Kids That Can Take On the World - A Fine Parent (6)In Parent Effectiveness Training (one of my all-time favorite parenting books), Thomas Gordon outlines his No-Lose Method for resolving conflicts about things like chores, curfews, and allowances. This method eliminates power struggles, develops kids’ thinking skills, requires less enforcement from parents, and helps kids practice being responsible. The key is to find a solution that is acceptable to both of you.

  1. Identify the problem:including any concerns that either you or your child have.
  2. Generate possible solutions:Come up with as many possible solutions as possible. Don’t criticize or judge any of them just yet. Just collect as many as possible (writing them down is definitely recommended!)
  3. Evaluate the possible solutions: Eliminate any that don’t work for you or your child. Which one seems to be the best? Can we combine any of the solutions? Resist the temptation to steer your child to “your” solution.
  4. Decide on the best solution: Make sure that the solution is one that you BOTH can live with. No one should feel bad about the decision, or as if they are being forced into something they really don’t want to do.
  5. Implement the solution: This is the time to nail down all the details. Who will do what? When does it need to be finished? What’s our quality benchmark? Do we need to do anything else before we can implement the solution?
  6. Evaluate how it worked: Did you reach your desired result? Are you and your child BOTH still happy with the solution? Does anything need to be tweaked?

(Here’s a theoretical example and a personal example of the No-Lose Method in action)

Kids who grow up with this type of conflict resolutionget the opportunity to make decisions and see the effects of those decisions on themselves and other people. They learn to make good choices not because they have been forced to, but because they develop their own inner standards.

How would Brené’s daughter have reacted had Brené forbidden her to scratch the event? She might have gone through with it, but she would have resented her mom and her coach. Or she might have scratched anyway, maybe to avoid the humiliation, or maybe even just to prove that she could.

Instead, she was free to make the choice herself. And she chose to show up.

It was no Hollywood-underdog-success-story. She finished last, getting out of the water well after the other girls did. She learned that her parents were there for her. And she learned something about herself. “That was pretty bad, but I did it. I showed up and I got wet. I was brave.”

There’s a girl who can take on the world!

The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents

For our quick-action today,here are a few contemplation questions:

  • Think back on a time when your parents used punishments or rewards to get you to act a certain way. How did you feel about it?
  • Which trait — grit, character or responsibility — seems hardest to accomplish with gentle parenting? What are some of the other traits that you struggle to teach using gentle parenting?
  • As a gentle parent, how do you handle other people’s criticism that your kids are not going to be able to face the real world?
  • What was your gut reaction to Brené’s essentially giving her daughter permission to bow out of a difficult event? Where do you find it difficult to let go of control and trust your kids to make a good decision?

The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents

This one’s all about modeling.

(Video) Six Tips for Raising Teenagers

Commit to gentle parenting as your one Hard Thing to try. Set a daily goal and decide on a minimum commitment period. Share your commitment with your family. When it gets hard, let your kids see your struggle. Share your mini-successes and setbacks with them. Work with them to figure out solutions through tough times.

It’s not going to be easy, but I guarantee you, it will be well worth it!


How do you gentle parent a difficult child? ›

How to Handle a Difficult Child: 6 Helpful Tips for Parents
  1. Understand the root cause of the behavior. Children do not just misbehave because they want to be difficult. ...
  2. Establish boundaries. ...
  3. Stay calm. ...
  4. Make sure your child feels heard. ...
  5. Reward good behavior when possible. ...
  6. Take time to explain.
May 25, 2021

How can I be a good gentle parent? ›

7 Key Gentle Parenting Tips
  1. Put empathy first. Remember your kids aren't robots that can just follow orders. ...
  2. Set age-appropriate boundaries. ...
  3. Add reasons to your boundaries. ...
  4. Be flexible. ...
  5. Use your words. ...
  6. Help them learn from their mistakes. ...
  7. Connect with your kids.
Jul 20, 2022

What are the 5 positive parenting skills? ›

Being a parent comes with its share of challenges and woes. The 5 positive parenting skills are to be encouraging, be responsive, set the example, set boundaries, and be interactive.

What is the best way to handle a difficult child? ›

How to handle difficult behaviour
  1. Do what feels right. What you do has to be right for your child, yourself and the family. ...
  2. Do not give up. Once you've decided to do something, continue to do it. ...
  3. Be consistent. ...
  4. Try not to overreact. ...
  5. Talk to your child. ...
  6. Be positive about the good things. ...
  7. Offer rewards. ...
  8. Avoid smacking.

What are the three C's of gentle parenting? ›

Parenting: The 3 C's – Consistency, Care, Communication.

What are the 4 pillars of gentle parenting? ›

This parenting philosophy is built on 4 basic pillars: empathy, respect, understanding, and healthy boundaries and focuses on improving a child's self-awareness and understanding of their own behavior.

What do psychologists say about gentle parenting? ›

Gentle parenting, when applied correctly, can: help children develop confidence, independence, self-esteem, and strong emotion regulation skills. reduce power struggles between a parent and child. improve relationships between family members at home.

What are the 5 C's of parenting? ›

They are what I call the 5 C's of ADHD parenting: self-Control, Compassion, Collaboration, Consistency and Celebration. By using these tools, you can reduce your stress, create peace in your family and increase cooperation and love all around.

What is the golden rule of parenting? ›

The main thing you can do is apply The Golden Rule of Parenting. Always be the kind of person you want your kids to be. So, if you want your kids to be respectful, considerate, and honest, you have to be respectful, considerate, and honest.

What is the most positive parenting style? ›

Why experts agree authoritative parenting is the most effective style. Studies have found that authoritative parents are more likely to raise confident kids who achieve academic success, have better social skills and are more capable at problem-solving.

How do you raise a child with a strong personality? ›

Parenting Strategies On How To Raise A Strong Willed Child
  1. Give your child space to learn. So how to parent a strong willed child? ...
  2. Attending to your Child's behavior. A good teacher praises good behavior and corrects negative behavior. ...
  3. Reward your Child. ...
  4. Pick Your Battles. ...
  5. Positive Parenting.
Jul 24, 2022

How do you set boundaries with strong willed children? ›

In addition to using clear messages, you should also be clear with your actions to apply consequences when your rules aren't followed. Consequences are important because they 'teach your strong-willed child to tune back into your words, take them seriously, and cooperate more often.

How do you discipline a child without yelling or hitting? ›

Below are ten alternatives to spanking that you might find helpful.
  1. Give choices. A choice gives some control back to the child on the parents' terms. ...
  2. Take a timeout. ...
  3. Get someone else involved. ...
  4. Teach them what you expect. ...
  5. Recognize their positive behaviors. ...
  6. Timeout. ...
  7. Consequence. ...
  8. Pick your battles.

What is depleted mother syndrome? ›

We're depleted Over time, mothers become physically, emotionally and mentally drained of nutrients, strength and vitality. Psychologist Rick Hanson coined the phrase “depleted mother syndrome” and emphasizes how important it is to regain the strength we need to be there for ourselves and to manage our care-giving role.

What are the characteristics of a difficult child? ›

Difficult temperament describes children who are characterized by negative mood, withdrawal, low adaptability, high intensity, and low regularity (Thomas, Chess, Birch, Hertzig & Korn, 1963).

Is it OK to yell at kids? ›

You might think that yelling at your kids can solve a problem in the moment or can prevent them from behaving badly in the future. But research shows that it could actually be creating more issues in the long run. Yelling can actually makes your child's behavior even worse.

What is the toughest age for a child? ›

These findings may seem surprising if you've never had an 8-year-old, but there are some reasons a child's eighth year can be especially challenging from a parent's perspective. Eight-year-olds can be stubborn, slamming doors and rolling their eyes, in their attempts to establish their independence and individuality.

What age is the most difficult for kids? ›

Forget the terrible twos and prepare for the hateful eights ‒ parents have named age 8 as the most difficult age to parent, according to new research. Eight being the troublesome year likely comes as a surprise to many parents, especially since parents polled found age 6 to be easier than they expected.

Why is gentle parenting so hard? ›

"Gentle parenting takes more time and dedication because it is an investment in validating your child's feelings, setting healthy boundaries, making consequences that are logical to the situation, and being responsive to the situation and your child without being permissive and letting the child set the rules."

What is peaceful parenting style? ›

Peaceful parenting is similar to authoritative parenting. Peaceful parents focus on creating harmony within their home by keeping both parents and children happy, and they do so while creating rules to keep everyone safe, healthy, and developing.

What are the four basic parenting styles? ›

The four main parenting styles — permissive, authoritative, neglectful and authoritarian — used in child psychology today are based on the work of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, and Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin.

How do you react when a child hits you? ›

If your child hits you and continues to do so even after you've asked them to stop, calmly tell them that you're going to walk away because you won't tolerate being hit. Tell them you'll be happy to spend time with them again when they stop hitting you.

What forms of discipline is gentle parenting? ›

10 healthy discipline strategies that work
  • Show and tell. Teach children right from wrong with calm words and actions. ...
  • Set limits. ...
  • Give consequences. ...
  • Hear them out. ...
  • Give them your attention. ...
  • Catch them being good. ...
  • Know when not to respond. ...
  • Be prepared for trouble.
Nov 5, 2018

What is the difference between gentle parenting and peaceful parenting? ›

Gentle Versus Peaceful Parenting

Gentle and peaceful parenting have similarities in their approaches, with one distinct difference: Peaceful parenting centers around the parent working on themselves first, while gentle parenting focuses more on communication patterns and habits.

What are the long term results of gentle parenting? ›

What are the long-term effects of gentle parenting? Children who are exposed to gentle parenting are less likely to have anxiety or low confidence and are less likely suffer from substance abuse, Ockwell-Smith said.

What are consequences in gentle parenting? ›

Natural consequences are the closest thing that Gentle Parenting has to punishments. Instead of creating a punishment (which doesn't work) the parent will allow the natural consequence (what automatically happens as a cause and effect of the child's behaviour) to be used to teach the child to do that right thing.

What is an interesting fact about gentle parenting? ›

Research suggests that gentle parenting may reduce the risk for anxiety. In fact, one study found that this approach "may promote regulated responses in social contexts" in shy toddlers. Improved parent-child bond. Another study found that gentle parenting may improve the relationship between parents and children.

What is ABC parenting? ›

ABC Parenting, alongside local community stakeholders, agencies, and home visitors, and families, disseminates a parenting program, the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC), to build resilience in families and communities for infants and toddlers between birth and 4 years of age.

What is the 5 to 1 rule parenting? ›

The 5:1 Ratio

John Gottman founded the notion that stable relationships require a ratio of at least five to one positive interactions during a conflict as compared to negative interactions. Conflicts occur in any relationship including parents and children. Kids will push boundaries on friends, school, and curfews.

What is the ABC model of parenting? ›

Children move through behaviors in three stages: Antecedent (before), Behavior (during), and Consequences (afterward). Children can change their behaviors during any of these stages but the approach is the same. The lessons on Smarter Parenting are designed to help in all stages of child behaviors.

What is the number one rule in parenting? ›

Parents wanting to help their children grow to be loving and responsible adults can do no better than to remember the Parenting Golden Rule: "Treat your child as you would like to be treated if you were in the same position." It's simple, straightforward, and effective.

What is rule 34 parent and child? ›

If a parent fails to appear after being duly served or if appearing fails to claim any rights to the child, the court may enter an order terminating the parent's rights with reference to the child.

What are the 3 basic golden rules? ›

Take a look at the three main rules of accounting: Debit the receiver and credit the giver. Debit what comes in and credit what goes out. Debit expenses and losses, credit income and gains.

What is the hardest parenting style? ›

Psychologists and experts agree that kids with an uninvolved or neglectful parent generally have the most negative outcomes. A neglectful mother is not simply a parent who gives a child more freedom or less face-time. Negligent parents neglect their other duties as parents, too.

What is the strictest form of parenting? ›

Authoritarian parenting is an extremely strict parenting style. It places high expectations on children with little responsiveness. As an authoritarian parent, you focus more on obedience, discipline, control rather than nurturing your child.

Which parenting style is the most consistently negative outcomes? ›

2003). An authoritarian parenting style has consistently been associated with negative developmental outcomes, such as aggression, delinquent behaviors, somatic complaints, depersonalisation and anxiety (e.g., Hoeve et al. 2008; Steinberg et al. 1994; Williams et al.

How do you gentle parent a child who doesn't listen? ›

Discipline: Top Do's and Don'ts When Your Kids Won't Listen
  1. Don't view discipline as punishment. Discipline may feel as though you're punishing your kids. ...
  2. Do find opportunities for praise. ...
  3. Do set limits and keep them. ...
  4. Do be specific. ...
  5. You're their parent, not their buddy.
Apr 1, 2021

What is the gentle parent approach? ›

Gentle parenting is an evidence-based approach to raising happy, confident children. This parenting style is composed of four main elements—empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries—and focuses on fostering the qualities you want in your child by being compassionate and enforcing consistent boundaries.

What are signs of a disrespectful child? ›

Disrespect from children and teens can be shown in a variety of ways - the most common being backtalk, complaining, arguing, attitude, or just plain ignoring.

Is there a way to discipline a child who won't listen? ›

The Do's of Disciplining a Child Who Won't Listen

Use consistent, logical consequences. Kids need to know what to expect when they don't listen. Listen to your child's feelings and ask them kindly rather than in anger what's going on. Acknowledge their side, and you can still follow through with a consequence.

How can I control my anger when my child doesn't listen? ›

Leave the room and go somewhere quiet to calm down. You could also go for a walk, take a warm shower or listen to calming music. If your child is doing something that makes you angry, count to 10 before you react. Try to find positive rather than negative words.

What are the three R's of gentle parenting? ›

At the risk of seeming glib, I'd like to talk about Three R's of Parenting: Rules, Relationship and Respect.

What is the best parenting style? ›

The parenting style that is best for children is the supportive style. It's a style where you are warm and loving and you're affectionate but you also create structure and boundaries for your children, and you guide their behaviour.


1. Raising Plant Based and Vegan Children in China with Lindsey Fine
(Whole Food Plant Based Mama)
2. A Cure for Toxic Parenting and How to Stop the Cycle, Rabbi Shais Taub # 107
(Coach Menachem Bernfeld)
3. My Brother Almost Died (18 Times...)
4. Stuart Hogg on how Social Media Abuse Triggered His Retirement! | RugbyPass Offload EP 73
5. Theybies: letting young children choose their own gender | 60 Minutes Australia
(60 Minutes Australia)
6. Where have all the GOOD MEN gone?: the consequences of raising nice boys


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Lilliana Bartoletti

Last Updated: 07/21/2023

Views: 6065

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (73 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Lilliana Bartoletti

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 58866 Tricia Spurs, North Melvinberg, HI 91346-3774

Phone: +50616620367928

Job: Real-Estate Liaison

Hobby: Graffiti, Astronomy, Handball, Magic, Origami, Fashion, Foreign language learning

Introduction: My name is Lilliana Bartoletti, I am a adventurous, pleasant, shiny, beautiful, handsome, zealous, tasty person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.