If you’ve spent any time on social media, you know that gentle parenting (also dubbed authoritative parenting) is the gold standard when it comes to raising happy and healthy children who are well-equipped to handle future challenges. A bit like Goldilocks, this style of child-rearing is considered to be the perfect middle ground between authoritarian parenting (where the focus is on obedience and punishment) and permissive parenting (a style with a lot of warmth but few rules).
Here’s how gentle parenting might play out in practice: Your oldest child hits their sibling. Instead of shouting at them or asking them why they did that, a gentle parenting approach would be to say something like: “It’s OK to be frustrated with Timmy. It’s not OK to hit. I’m going to move you over here to keep your brother safe.” The parent might then think about identifying the underlying feelings and unmet needs relating to this behavior (maybe your kid is jealous because you’ve been giving Timmy more attention today) and act accordingly (like spending more quality time with your eldest). Proponents of this philosophy swear that by teaching children rather than punishing, you are fostering positive growth and development—all while minimizing tantrums.
With a promise like that, is it any wonder that the technique is trending on social media? Just a quick search on TikTok reveals thousands of videos with 1.2 billion views offering advice, tips and real-life examples of this seemingly sensical parenting method.
And it’s not just influencers and vloggers touting its benefits; research confirms that this style of parenting works. Per this study in the European Online Journal of Natural and Social Sciences, for example, scientists found that authoritative parents help foster independence, while also teaching responsibility and good choice-making.