What Our Boomer Parents *Really* Think About the Gentle Parenting Tsunami

The grandparents chime in

Close-up of a toddler mid-tantrum.
AndyL/Getty Images

Sometimes, when my toddler morphs from sweet cherub into Linda Blair from The Exorcist because say, a sprig of parsley touched a single macaroni noodle, I wonder what my parents think of my very millennial gentle parenting style. Instead of yelling or punishing my daughter with a timeout, I try to remain calm and walk through her emotions. While there’s not a clinical definition of gentle parenting, its basic tenets, as Cara Goodwin, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist writes, are ones that most every child development expert would endorse. These include “respecting the child, taking the child’s perspective into account, empathizing with and validating the child, and building the parent-child bond through positive experiences.” Great in theory, but when I’m empathizing over a morsel of leafy herb, I feel like a laughingstock when I’m met with a “NO MAMA YOU DO NOT SPEAK TO ME!” or a “NO MAMA DO NOT TOUCH ME!” or, of late, a “NO DARA—I NEED SPACE.” Do my parents think I’m a total pushover, “letting my child walk all over me”? When I was growing up, my parents would pull the plate and tell me to get over it or go to my room. So, what do my boomer parents really think of the latest parenting trend? I asked a few baby boomers for their honest takes—and I was actually very surprised by their responses.  

1. The 'Gentleness’ Goes Both Ways 

The boomer: Judy, 69 
# of grandkids:

I love it. I watch you all do it, and I wish I had the same skills while I was raising my kids. Gentle parenting not only respects a child’s developmental stages, but it helps keep parents regulated. You can work through stressful situations without turning a switch and feeling horrible after. And if you do break down, you have the skills to repair. Most of us become parents and learn along the way. So I love that this school of thought takes into account that parents need to be gentle with themselves too—it’s so hard!” 

2. The Monkeys Are Running the Zoo 

The boomer: Roger, 73 
# of grandkids:

“I don’t consider myself a disciplinarian, but I've seen some wacky interactions. There was a lady whose young kid was getting hit by another, older boy. The mom told the older boy ‘we don’t hit people’ and then the older boy’s mom was furious...not with her child but with the other mom for telling her son not to hit! No consequences! Kids are gonna grow up being entitled and selfish if all their parents do is protect their emotions. I like the idea of staying calm, but come on. Where’s the parenting?” 

3. What’s Wrong with a Little ‘No’? 

The boomer: Andrea, 62 
# of grandkids:

“My daughter is a pediatric behavior therapist, so I trust her parenting instincts. That said...I struggle with why saying ‘no’ to her 3-year-old is off the table. She’d retort that they use ‘no’ sparingly or save it for truly unsafe things, but I think she could use it a bit more, set more boundaries. Again, I know she’d tell me that she’s saying ‘no’ in more subtle ways that don’t involve shouting, but sometimes shouting, ‘GET YOUR HANDS OFF THAT CHAINSAW’ gets the job done.” 

4. I’ll Show Ya Gentle... 

The boomer: Rhonda, 67 
# of grandkids:

“My grandchild was having a tantrum leaving the toy store, so I told my daughter to just leave him there, that will show him. The way my daughter reacted...I might as well have suggested spanking him in public. I think my take was much gentler.”  

5. Wish We Had Gentle Parenting 

The boomer: Kathy, 66 
# of grandkids: 2  

“I love the concept of gentle parenting. I wish I knew more about it when I was raising my kids. I think you are all great parents.” 

6. We Just Didn’t Have the Social Media Instructions 

The boomer: Bill, 70 
# of grandkids: 3  

“I’m always amazed at how my son and daughter-in-law keep their cool around all the meltdowns. We were not able to stay calm raising kids, we just weren’t. We didn’t know how to cope that way, and it wasn’t really taught. It was yelling, timeouts, and lots of ‘I’m taking away this or that.’ It’s not like we had social media telling us how to react to every single situation, for better or worse.” 

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Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...