9 Real-World Applications of Gentle Parenting Strategies

We’ve all been there – you’ve overslept, and now you only have an hour to wake the family, get everyone dressed, and hustle out the door. In such moments of urgency, you might try a conventional approach: “OK, put your shoes on, please,” you’d say to your child. However, if met with refusal, this situation often escalates to yelling and threats of confiscating their favorite toy. Yet, even if this gets everyone ready and out the door, it’s likely to leave you feeling like a terrible parent. Such instances call for the real-world applications of gentle parenting strategies, which offer a more empathetic approach to managing these challenging situations.

If this sounds like a situation you’ve been in before, don’t worry. With all the tips out there, it can be hard to decide what to do next. If you want to treat your child with more care, you might want to try gentle parenting.

The parenting style based on facts uses advice and choices instead of demands and punishment. It sets goals for children and helps them get ready to do well. Shari D. Cameron, head of school at BASIS Independent Brooklyn Lower, says, “The idea is to approach that relationship with respect and empathy, giving kids the tools they’ll need to deal with their feelings as they grow up.” “How you react to them will determine your relationship with them in a few years.”

Donna Whittaker, VP of curriculum and education at Big Blue Marble Academy, says, “Children will be able to use what they’ve learned in the real world and have good social and emotional skills as adults.”

If you want to know how to use gentle parenting in your life, here are nine common situations and how to respond to each.

1. Getting ready to leave.

You’ve packed seven different kinds of snacks and are ready to go. But you still need to get out of the house and into the car.

Whittaker says that you should prepare your child ahead of time. She says that children often stop doing things they shouldn’t when they know what is expected of them. You can say, “In a few minutes, we’ll be leaving to go to the store. Now is the time to put your shoes on so you can leave.” She says that “little” is usually easier for young children to understand than a certain amount of time.

Cameron suggests putting a bag by the door where your child can put something special they want to bring. Tell them to pack up their personal belongings and prepare to leave when it’s time.

2. It’s time to shut down the screens.

Stopping computer time can be a hard change. The key is to make sure everyone knows what to expect before you start. Talk about how long it will last and what will happen when it’s over.

Cameron suggests giving your child a timer that he or she can set by himself or herself. Give them a choice of what to do after the time is up. Say something like, “Once your device is connected to the charger, you can play with your dinosaurs.”

3. Your child goes missing in public.

It can be stressful to take kids to a place with a lot of people. According to Whittaker, it’s best to leave people in a position to succeed by knowing what they can anticipate from you. You can say, “We are going to the store. It’s important for your safety that you stay close to me.”

Cameron adds that when you’re out and about, be sure to praise them for being good. Say something like, “You’re staying close to me to keep yourself safe. I knew you’d be able to do it!” These kinds of comments let kids know you’re paying attention and make them feel good.

If your child starts to walk away or leave your local area, get down on their level and tell them calmly what you want from them. Cameron says, “We react because we’re scared, but yelling at and threatening a child will scare them more than teach them.” “We don’t want to pass on our own fears to our children. Instead, we want to teach them why something is important.”

4. Leaving a park or play date.

Part of being a parent is having to decide when the fun is over, and it’s time to leave. It’s not always easy to do that, though. Again, talk about what you expect ahead of time. Discuss the activities they could engage in and remind them that they must immediately cease all play when told to leave.

Whittaker says that if your child has trouble with changes, you should consider how they feel. I know it’s tough to pack up and go when you’re having a good time, but we need to get going. Tell them it’s OK to feel this way and that you understand because you hate leaving the party too.

5. Coming in from outside play.

Do you feel pressured to get your kids cleaned up, fed, and in bed at a reasonable hour when it’s time to go inside after playing? You’re not alone. Keep your own standards low, and don’t give your children too many things to do at once. They are easily confused, so keep the instructions easy. Say something like, “It’s time to go inside and clean up.”

Add a new direction once that is done. “It’s time for dinner and then bath time.” It might help to end your instructions with something fun, like, “First, we’ll take a bath, and then I’ll read you a book.” What book are you interested in reading?”

6. Your child wants to go to the store and buy something.

Many parents argue with their kids about what they should or shouldn’t buy when they go to the store. Cameron tells you not to let shame get the best of you when you are out in public. She says, “Your top priority is to make sure your child learns how to handle the situation.” “Teach them how to say how they feel and how to say what they want to say. Letting them know you heard what they want is fine, but you need their help choosing something else right now. Don’t lose your cool; if you can, try to give them something to do.

7. Not taking the time to eat.

Routines are a great way to help your child understand what to expect. When it’s time for dinner, it’s a great time to start a pattern.

Cameron suggests telling your child why it’s important to eat at mealtimes. Tell them it’s time for everyone to get together and talk. But make it fun too! Inquire as to the highlight of their day. Don’t forget to tell them yours as well. This will help you get to know your child better.

Letting your child help is another way to make mealtimes more fun. Ask them to help plan meals and make them or to help clean up afterward. Try not to have too much power over this process. It will give them something to do around the house and help them become more independent.

8. Not paying attention while playing in water.

Parents can get stressed out when their kids play with water. Make sure to review the rules and remind yourself of them every time you are near water.

Cameron says that if your child does something wrong, you should tell them they’ll have to take a break if they keep being dangerous. She also says that following through is important when it comes to safety rules and their effects. You may need to distance your child from the action until they can show you that they are safe.

9. Hard to get used to going to bed.

Bedtime is hard for many parents. Everyone is tired, but you still have to put the kids to bed and hope to have a few minutes to yourself before you go to sleep.

Cameron says that “routine predictability is the key.” Getting your kids used to bedtime is easier if they have a normal routine. Suppose you can, keep it the same every night.

Whittaker says that you should keep reminding your child of the bedtime process until they are used to it. You could say, “First, you’ll brush your teeth. Then, we’re going to read a book. Finally, you’re going to kiss me goodnight and go to sleep.” Use the same method every night. Whittaker says that the goal is for your child to be able to follow the process without any help from you. She also says that easy picture instructions can be helpful for some kids.


No parenting style is perfect, and every child is different, so gentle parenting might not always work. But if you want to try it, remember always to tell your child you care about their feelings. Give them choices, and make a big deal out of things that go well. And always know that you can try again the next time.

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