Even in Adulthood, Be Your Own Gentle Parent


When I first stumbled across gentle parenting, I couldn’t help but scoff a little. Scrolling through endless videos of mothers learning to be empathetic and understanding with their children, it felt alien and worlds away from my own personal experience of growing up in an Asian household. Most of us might relate more to crying over your Mathematics homework while your parent wields a cane. I was all too familiar with “what works”. Disobedience is met with discipline. However, in the world of gentle parenting, I was merely asking for my needs to be met. That was novel and enlightening, and I’m not the only one who has been soothed by this new approach. Other than mothers, gentle parenting has earned an audience of teenagers and young adults who are learning about their childhood and wishing it was different. I realised that we have collectively moved on with our lives while carrying the same wounds from childhood. We continue to silence, criticise, and deny ourselves of our needs. Gentle parenting doesn’t have to be what could have been. By equipping yourself with the right mindset and skills, you can learn to be your own gentle parent.

Parents love us the way they can. It often isn’t perfect. Parenting is hard work, requiring an emotional maturity that is impossible to possess around the clock. While gentle parenting acknowledges the stress, it continues to strive for the ideal. Gentle parenting seeks to raise confident, independent and happy children through empathy, respect and understanding, as well as setting healthy boundaries. It might be easier to understand by seeing it in action. In the video, rather than punishing her child for biting her, the mother recognizes his needs, teaches him how to communicate them, offers him options to meet his needs and praises him for doing well. Gentle parenting is all about communication. Rather than taking a child’s negative action at face-value, parents look beyond to see what needs to be positively met. They are open to and make room for their children’s emotions. Essentially, children do not fall into the binary of being “good” or “bad”. External actions simply reflect their internal needs without conferring worth or value onto them as people.

Most of us are too quick to adopt a critical voice when it comes to ourselves in our adult lives. I am more than acquainted with the self-criticism and self-shaming I have picked up from my childhood as a mode of discipline to keep myself in check. It has resulted in my perfectionist tendencies, worsening the guilt and anxiety I feel every time I am “bad”. This is especially true for girls who “grow up” faster than boys as a result of socialisation. In reality, most of us struggle with boundary setting and end up giving more than we can afford to. That is where gentle parenting can kick in. We shouldn’t feel ashamed for choosing our individualised needs over collective expectations. Through gentle parenting, we can acknowledge and validate our identities, emotions, and decisions.

Gentle parenting is commonly mistaken for indulgent parenting. While both are nurturing and warm, indulgent parenting is reluctant to impose limits which is problematic. Gentle parenting doesn’t discipline by punishing, shaming, or embarrassing children. In fact, it is extremely productive in teaching them good decision-making as well as appropriate coping mechanisms in the long term, as seen in the video. Similarly, we can redirect our attention from past mistakes to future actions. When we spend less time on self-scrutiny through intrusive thoughts, we spend more time on self-improvement through concrete action. Gentle parenting could be much better for our health and wellbeing while pushing us to where we need to be.

Naturally, just as different parenting styles work for different children, gentle parenting may not always be the best approach. That said, I believe most of us can afford to be more gentle with ourselves.

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