Gentle parenting vs. permissive parenting: Setting clear boundaries for a healthier family dynamic

Permissive parenting is when the parent neglects their own needs and boundaries, and does not get much involved in providing guidance to their child, usually in an attempt to avoid conflict. It’s like sailing without a compass, lacking consistency and structure.

On the flip side, gentle parenting is more like sailing together, with both parent and child steering the ship. At the heart of gentle parenting is a thoughtful consideration of values and boundaries that serve the whole family. It’s finding that sweet spot where everyone’s needs are met, while being aware of power dynamics and everyone’s capabilities, to build trust in the parent-child relationship.

How do we strike this balance?

  • Start with some soul-searching: Asking yourself what you need and why it matters lays the groundwork for creating a parenting style that feels right for you and your family.
  • Build trust with your kids: Spend time with them without having expectations. Simply listen with curiosity and wonder. Show interest in what they like. Respect their boundaries, don’t force them into connection. This takes time and consistency. 
  • Have empowering conversations: By opening up about your needs and making agreements together, instead of giving in or making demands, you can foster a relationship built on mutual respect and emotional safety. It’s all about having those honest conversations and finding creative solutions that work for everyone. If your kid is old enough, talk to them about what you’re trying to do, so they can feel empowered and get on board.

But let’s be real, the journey to gentle parenting isn’t always smooth sailing. Like many parents, I’ve had my fair share of challenges along the way, and did become permissive to avoid the coercive opposite. It took some trial and error, and a willingness to learn from mistakes, to find my groove. 

Gentle parenting isn’t about following a strict set of rules or letting anything go; it’s a mindset shift that prioritises the health of the relationship, with connection and understanding. 

Being a parent is hard. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the ups and downs of parenting, know that you’re not alone. Embracing the principles of gentle parenting isn’t about getting everything just right; it’s about making small, meaningful changes that work for you and your family. By learning and understanding each other’s experiences and staying open, we can navigate this journey together with our kids, one step at a time. Learn more about the 5 pillars of gentle parenting here to continue this journey.

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