What is Gentle Parenting and How is it Different from Other Parenting Styles?

Dr. Bennett explains where gently parenting comes from and how this approach focuses on a child’s development for their age.

By Dr. Kimberley Bennett



about the doc

Dr. Kimberley Bennett has a Doctorate in Child, Adolescent and Educational Psychology.  She has been a Registered Psychologist for 10 years. When not at her practice, she is a mother to two beautiful children. Her eldest was the inspiration behind The Psychologist’s Child. Becoming a mother taught her more than any of her professional trainings to date. Her highly sensitive son guided her down the gentle parenting path which has aligned so seamlessly with the theory and research that she studied and practiced throughout her Psychology career.

Dr. Bennett has a particular interest in Child Development, Attachment Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Infant Mental Health, Positive & Gentle parenting.


You can find more of Dr. Bennett’s work on her website www.thepsychologistschild.com

I’ve never really understood parenting “style” or “techniques” but I hear about them a lot more now that I have a preschooler. I’m hearing the term “gentle parenting” more and more. How does gentle parenting work?

There are a LOT of categories of parenting these days aren’t there?

Gentle, respectful, positive, and conscious… to name a few.

The term “Gentle Parenting” was coined by British Author Sarah Ockwell Smith.

But really, most of these parenting “styles” (including gentle parenting) stem from the evidence-based “authoritative parenting” approach. Within the literature, authoritative parenting, which is respectful, compassionate, and involves consistent boundaries is associated with the best outcomes for children. From the research, we know that children need caregivers who parent in ways that are high in nurture and high in structure! That’s what makes this style of parenting differ from harsher stricter approaches (the nurturing piece) and from more permissive styles (the boundaries piece).

Gentle parenting (or authoritative parenting) is also mindful of a child’s developmental stage and acknowledges that children are operating from a developmentally immature brain.

It recognizes that societal expectations for children are not always developmentally appropriate. It teaches parents that their role in “disciplining” their child, is best achieved by supporting them to learn from adult guidance. Rather than punishing a child for their behavior, a gentle parent seeks to understand why the child is behaving in a particular way by noticing the need beneath the behavior. This style of parenting nurtures brain development because it provides the child’s brain with multiple opportunities to learn about appropriate behavior.

I am a parent educator, and my approach is informed by the literature around authoritative parenting. For me, this “gentle” approach not only benefits our child’s neurodevelopment but also nurtures our relationship with our child. It is an approach based on the connection that allows children to reach their individual potential.


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