### Christian Parenting Experts Debate Over Critique of ‘Gentle Parenting’ Approach

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Assistant Editor, Thursday, February 01, 2024Twitter

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Is the concept of “gentle parenting” in alignment with biblical principles?

This question has sparked a debate between a writer from The Gospel Coalition and Christian advocates of this increasingly popular parenting approach. The discussion sheds light on the evolving dialogue surrounding discipline, love, and theological interpretation in the realm of child-rearing.

Bernard M. Howard, a pastor at Grace Church in Birmingham, Alabama, critiqued the gentle parenting philosophy in an article for The Gospel Coalition. This approach aims to foster confident, independent, and joyful children through empathy, respect, understanding, and the establishment of healthy boundaries, as defined by the Cleveland Clinic.

While acknowledging the positive intentions of gentle parenting, Howard raised concerns about two core aspects that he views as conflicting with biblical teachings. Firstly, he challenged the belief that children’s behavioral challenges stem solely from external factors and can be addressed through emotional validation without the necessity of punishment. Secondly, he disputed the notion that rewards and punishments are ineffective in addressing the root causes of behaviors.

Howard argued that gentle parenting fails to recognize the inherent sinful nature of humanity as depicted in Scripture and neglects the role of punishment in instilling godly discipline. He emphasized the importance of administering corrective discipline, rooted in love, to convey the gravity of wrongdoing and guide children towards righteousness.

In response, David Erickson, co-founder of Flourishing Homes & Families alongside his wife Amanda, offered a counterargument on Instagram. Erickson, a former pastor and seminary theology professor, criticized Howard’s portrayal of gentle parenting as permissive and highlighted the distinction between this approach and authoritative parenting, which combines guidance with empathy.

Erickson contended that the essence of gentle parenting’s compatibility with Christianity lies in its reflection of Christ’s character and teachings on love, forgiveness, and redemption. He also criticized Howard’s narrow interpretation of biblical terms related to discipline, cautioning against potentially misleading understandings of Scripture.

The debate surrounding “gentle parenting” underscores broader discussions within the Christian community regarding discipline, biblical interpretations, and their application to modern parenting practices. Recent studies indicate a decline in the prevalence of spanking among U.S. parents, reflecting evolving perspectives on child discipline.

As the conversation continues, it prompts reflection on the evolving landscape of parenting methodologies within the context of faith and biblical teachings.