Gentle Parenting

Dealing With Pitfalls Of Gentle Parenting   


I have often recommended gentleness in raising children but there is such a thing as going overboard even if you have the best of intentions. For example, I read recently about the case of a parent who was trying to explain everything in detail to her 3-year-old each time the toddler became upset. This parent read that one aspect of gentle parenting is emotional validation, where you must always address the emotions behind a misbehaviour, by having a conversation with the child.

One can imagine the level of exhaustion that the parent experienced just to fulfil the gentle parent role. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to explain everything every time something goes wrong. You cannot expect to reason with a 3-year-old like a 7-year-old; the child is not ready yet.

Gentle parenting requires firm boundaries and a clear structure. Firm boundaries and clear structure are essential components of raising children no matter which parenting style you prefer, as they provide a sense of security and guidance while helping children understand expectations and consequences. Here are some age-appropriate examples of firm boundaries and a clear structure:

Examples of Boundaries And Clear Structure For Younger Kids

Mealtime Rules (Ages 2-5):

Establish clear mealtime rules, such as sitting at the table during meals, using utensils properly, and not playing with food. Firmly enforce these rules by gently reminding the child to follow them and providing consequences, such as a warning if they continue to misbehave. But don’t turn mealtime into a lecture. Mind your expectations. A toddler will not behave like a 5-year-old.

Bedtime Routine (Ages 3-6):

Create a consistent bedtime routine with firm boundaries, such as a set bedtime, brushing teeth, prayer and reading a bedtime story. Enforce these boundaries by calmly redirecting the child back to bed if they try to delay bedtime or get out of bed.

Screen Time Limits (Ages 5-8):

Set firm limits on screen time usage, such as specific time limits per day or designated screen-free times, such as during meals or before bedtime. Clearly communicate the rules around screen time and enforce them by setting up parental controls or using a timer to monitor usage.

Playground Safety (Ages 2-7):

Establish firm rules for playground behaviour, such as taking turns on equipment, using equipment properly, and not pushing or shoving other children. Clearly communicate these rules to the child before visiting the playground and enforce them by reminding the child to follow the rules and intervening if necessary to prevent unsafe behaviour.

Homework Routine (Ages 6-10):

Create a structured homework routine with firm boundaries, such as a designated homework area, specific homework time each day, and clear expectations for completing assignments. Clearly communicate the homework routine to the child and enforce it by providing support and guidance during homework time.

Examples of Boundaries And Clear Structure For Teenagers

Yes, teenagers need boundaries and clear rules too.

Respectful Communication:

This is a top priority. Establish rules for respectful communication within the family, including listening without interrupting, speaking calmly and respectfully, and resolving conflicts peacefully.

 Household Chores:

Assign age-appropriate household chores and clearly communicate the expectations for completing them, such as washing dishes, doing laundry, or cleaning their room.

Academic Expectations:

Set clear expectations for academic performance such as completing homework assignments on time, and studying regularly. Emphasise more on effort, less on results.

In each of these examples, firm boundaries and clear structure help children understand expectations, feel secure, and learn important life skills such as self-discipline and responsibility. It’s important for parents to be consistent in enforcing boundaries and structure while also providing love, support, and positive reinforcement.

Never saying “No” has nothing to do with gentle parenting. Saying a firm “No” is part of gentle parenting when the situation calls for it. So is raising your voice. There are and will be situations when you must raise your voice or change the tone of your voice to send the message that your child has done something wrong and needs to be corrected.

Example: If a 3-year-old is about to cross a street and a car is approaching, you must yell to avoid an accident.

Example: If your 4-year-old son bites another child because he wants the toy car the other child is playing with, you’re not going to smile sweetly and say, “Please don’t bite.” This is the moment when you need to give a command. The word “Please” is not appropriate here. What the boy needs is a scolding straight away for deliberately hurting another child. It isn’t realistic nor achievable to always try to explain things in detail for the sake of emotional validation without taking into account your child’s age and maturity.

A parent can potentially be too gentle to the point of being permissive when raising children, depending on the context and the manner in which this gentleness is expressed. While being gentle and nurturing is generally positive, there are instances where excessive gentleness or lack of boundaries can lead to challenges in a child’s development. Here are a few considerations:

Lack of Discipline:

Excessive gentleness without clear boundaries or consequences can result in children not learning important lessons about responsibility, accountability, and self-discipline. This can lead to behavioural issues or difficulties in following rules and guidelines both at home and in other settings.


Being overly gentle may lead to overprotection, where children are shielded from challenges, failures, or conflicts. While it’s natural for parents to want to protect their children, shielding them from every difficulty can hinder their ability to develop resilience, problem-solving skills and independence.

Failure to Set Limits:

Gentle parenting should still involve setting appropriate limits and boundaries to ensure children understand acceptable behaviour and consequences for inappropriate actions. Without these boundaries, children may struggle with understanding social norms and appropriate behaviour in different contexts.

Delayed Emotional Development:

Overly gentle parenting may inadvertently hinder a child’s emotional development by not allowing them to experience and learn to cope with a range of emotions, including frustration, disappointment, and anger. This can lead to difficulties in managing emotions effectively later in life.


Excessive gentleness can potentially foster dependency in children, where they may rely heavily on parental support and guidance for even minor tasks or decisions. This can impede their ability to develop autonomy and self-confidence.

As parents, we must strike a balance between gentleness and firmness. Every child is different; finding the right balance may require adjustments based on individual needs and circumstances. Recognize that every child has a unique temperament, this equilibrium demands nuanced adjustments to cater to individual needs and circumstances. It’s a delicate interplay where empathy meets authority to foster an environment of mutual respect and growth. Finding a balance not only nurtures children’s emotional development but also equips them with vital life skills, preparing them to navigate the complexities of the world with confidence and resilience.

Featured image by lisa runnels



About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 536 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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