Raising Babies & Toddlers
What’s the Difference Between Gentle Parenting and Permissive Parenting?
Gentle Parenting and Permissive Parenting are not the same!
For many who grew up on harsh, authoritarian style parenting, gentle parenting looks more like permissive parenting. The lack of screaming, yelling, threatening, name-calling, and “because I said so!” confuses them. “You’re being too soft! You should have screamed at them!” is the usual critique from more traditional parents. But being gentle in parenting does not mean being permissive. There are differences.
Gentle Parenting does not mean “letting kids get away with it”.
It appears that discipline is often synonymous with “violent or aggressive retribution” and that finding someone who calmly deals with the problem is so confusing. But being calm does not mean “forgiveness” nor does it mean “permissiveness”. It means making sure emotions don’t interfere with solving the problem. Being calm also means diverting more energy to correct the misbehavior rather than screaming and calling our kids “stupid” (“bobo” or “tanga”) out of reactive rage.
The focus of the discipline is different.
Perhaps the most confusing part of gentle parenting is how those who practice it discipline their kids. “So how do you discipline kids when you’re being all soft?” or “You’re coddling them!” are the common arguments from parents who prefer an authoritarian approach. Grounding is still a thing but there’s always a process to explain to the misbehaving child why they’re being punished. Time-outs don’t start and end with “You sit there!”. It’s more of, “Hey, what’s going on?” It promotes problem-solving.
For example, your toddler wants a teddy bear but, you don’t want to buy it. The toddler will then start screaming and howling all sorts of things. Here’s the difference between the three parents:
Permissive Parent: “Sige na nga, bilin ko na yung teddy bear. Wag ka na umiyak.”/ “Oh, alright. I’ll buy you the teddy bear but please stop crying.”
Authoritarian Parent: “Sige, iyak ka lalo! Bahala ka diyan! Iwan na lang kita dito!” / “Go ahead! Cry some more! I don’t care! I can just leave you here!”
Authoritative Parent / Gentle Parenting: “Bakit gusto mo yung teddy bear? Ano mayroon?” / “What makes you want the teddy bear so much? What does it have?”
The first two focus on the crying spree the toddler has whereas Gentle Parenting goes straight to the source of the problem which is the wanting of the teddy bear.
Doesn’t it baby them?
A lot of authoritarian and traditional parents believe that gentle parenting makes their kids “soft”, rationalizing that they need to teach their kids early on that “the world is a cruel place”. Hence, the use of yelling, name-calling, and reinforcement of “parent infallibility” (where parents are never wrong). But the thing about authoritarian parenting is that the only thing it teaches them to recognize is “power”. Rage is power, volume is power. The louder one yells, the more powerful they are.
Whereas Gentle Parenting teaches, “Knowledge and empathy are power”. The more one understands the issue, the faster things get done.
A helpful way to stick to Gentle Parenting
It’s hard to change parenting styles when one didn’t grow up with a good model for the opposing style. But one helpful way to stick to Gentle Parenting is to know that the object and the feeling are correlated. Addressing both at the same time shows the child that there is someone listening and who understands. Doing so also helps the child develop better ways to address their negative emotions when they see someone who tries to piece it together rather than just go for a quick fix.