Something I have come to learn ever since I became a parent years ago, is there is always a new fad or phase when it comes to the “right” way to approach parenting.
One recent way that comes to mind is the term “gentle parenting,” but this one actually stuck out to me.
Is gentle parenting biblical? What does the Bible say about gentle parenting and how does this look as we live it out in our lives?
Ultimately, we want to raise our kids the way God has called and asked us to, and gentle parenting may be a way to do so!
What is Gentle Parenting?
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While it may seem like just another “buzz phrase style of parenting,” gentle parenting is a method that’s been around since the beginning of time and actually ties in so well to what God lays out for us as parents in His Word.
The official definition of gentle parenting from Very Well Family is…
“An evidence-based approach to raising children, gentle parenting focuses on empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries. Enforcing consistent boundaries and modeling respectful, compassionate behavior are cornerstones of gentle parenting.”
While some parenting approaches may make kids feel like they should be “seen and not heard”, gentle parenting is about teaching and allowing children to express themselves and their feelings in age-appropriate ways.
Basically, this parenting method is about building a strong bond with your young children, while also setting healthy boundaries, very similar to God and His relationship with us.
But most importantly, what does God say about it in His Word?? Let’s look…
What Does The Bible Say About Gentle Parenting?
When looking at gentle parenting from a biblical standpoint, there’s actually quite a bit to unpack!
Another way to look at gentle parenting is “grace-based parenting” or enforcing more positive than negative.
It’s more about encouraging your child in who they are as a creation in Christ, and the purpose God has called them to do by making the choices He desires for them.
We discipline our kids because we love them, and see the bigger picture for them. Just as God does for us!!
But there are specific ways to do this, and one of those requires US as parents to be setting the example and walking in the way we want them to as well.
Bible Verses About Gentle Parenting
The Bible has plenty of verses about parenting, and guiding us especially when we feel like we are struggling daily.
Here are some great examples of parenting mixed with gentleness from the Bible…
- “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 NIV
- “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Titus 2:7-8 NIV
- “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3 NIV
Notice what all of these Bible verses about gentle parenting have in common… a couple of things actually!
First, is to talk with your children with grace and gentleness, not exasperating them.
In those moments it’s so important to make sure we have been in the Word so we can respond with gentle, biblical responses and not out of anger – because we know that only makes things worse!
Also, God tells us that it is important to actually SET the example. Show them what a good and biblical response is to tough situations, and live that out for them.
We are to be examples for our children, and model that behavior, which is a huge part of gentle parenting.
Does Biblical Gentle Parenting Include Discipline?
Contrary to what some people may think, gentle parenting doesn’t mean it’s a free for all, or there are no consequences for their actions.
The Bible is clear that we DO have very real consequences for our actions, but when our kids are so little, they are still learning to express those BIG emotions.
When kids “misbehave”, it’s usually because of an unmet need. Instead of getting outwardly angry and yelling, we take a step back to assess the situation.
What about discipline?
Does this mean you let your child hit and kick you while you say, “It’s okay sweetie, I love you”??
No!! Gentle parenting isn’t about being a pushover or never saying “no” to your child.
There are HEALTHY boundaries set, but it’s focused more on getting to the heart issue rather than the behavior.
Ask these questions and try and figure out the reasoning behind the tantrum (sometimes there is no REAL reason, and that’s where us showing them love and grace comes in):
- Why are they acting out?
- Are they overstimluated? Tired? Anxious? Angry?
- What do they need?
- How can we help them get on the right track?
Doesn’t God do the same with us? Sin is the root issue of all of our “bad” behaviors, and that’s where He wants to help us and heal us.
God HATES sin. The punishment for sin is death and that did happen many times throughout the Old Testament.
But then, Jesus came and in this new covenant, His sacrifice puts us in right standing with God.
God still hates sin, but we have the option to repent from that sin, ask for forgiveness and receive new life because of what Jesus did on the cross.
So what happens when we (parents, not kids) DO respond out of anger??
Remember, no one is perfect! And God isn’t expecting perfection. He just wants a willing and open heart!
Simply apologize to your children, and show them that even adults mess up and we all need forgiveness. They aren’t the only ones who have to learn to apologize, but we have to humble ourselves as well!
We all need a Savior! Amen?!
I’ve also learned, it’s okay to take a mom time out – so if I need a minute to make sure I don’t respond in a way that I don’t desire to (yelling or raising my voice) then I will simply say, “Mommy needs a minute to pray so I can respond to you how God wants me to.”
That is perfectly okay to do and shows your children that God can handle our emotions, even as adults!!
5 Pracitcal Ways To Apply Biblical Gentle Parenting
Okay, now that we understand gentle biblical parenting a little more for our young kiddos, let’s look at some practical ways to apply this.
1. Spend Daily Time in Prayer
Before we can begin to try and be better parents, we have to make sure we are rooted and grounded in God’s Word.
Our goal in life isn’t to be the best parent ever – it’s to make sure we are showing others God’s love, sharing the Gospel, and making disciples.
So ultimately, God is calling us to raise these little people He entrusted to us, to one day do the same!!
It’s a much bigger picture than just being a great mom or wife, friend, etc.!
And gentle parenting is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re transitioning from other methods that you have previously used or even been taught yourself.
You want to make sure you are modeling the behaviors you expect from your children, and that starts with your morning routine and spending time in prayer and in the Word.
Pray with your spouse as well, to make sure you are both on the same page, have a united front, and be consistent. That is key!
2. Pray For Your Child’s Heart
Next, make sure you are spending time praying for your children, and ask that God would open their hearts to be receptive to Him.
Prayer is SO important and VERY powerful – we know it is because Jesus did, and we are supposed to be imitators of Him!
When we pray for our children and ask God to help us teach them, He will! His Word doesn’t return void.
3. Hear Your Children
Just the other day, my husband told me a sweet yet convicting story about him and our daughter (he gave me permission to share 😉 ).
She was trying to show him something, her rock collection I think, while he was stirring something on the stove.
He kept nodding and saying “mmhmm” after each time, and finally, at the end, she said…
“Daddy! Did you even hear me?”
He said he felt an immediate conviction in his heart.
Instead of lying, he looked at her, apologized, and said, “No sweetie, I’m sorry. You have my full attention, can you show me again?”
Sometimes we can get in the habit of just tuning our kids out, right? It’s tough sometimes especially if you have multiple people talking to you at once!!
Or we hear them, without actually listening to them.
We want to make sure we are listening to their hearts, just as our Father listens to our hearts – it may not always be pretty but we know God cares for us no matter what.
Our children want to know the same from us and will feel safe coming to us and talking to us as they grow older.
Because guess what? Those little rock collection stories become bigger… MUCH bigger issues.
Allow your child to have a voice and listen to them.
The more we continue to biblically affirm our kids, the louder their inner voice becomes over the world’s voice!
4. Give Choices
Something that is important and also can be super easy, is to allow our young children to make their own decisions (within reason).
During the toddler and preschool years, this may look like asking your child if they want apples or oranges for their snack.
Kids THRIVE when they feel like they have made a decision and like they have a “job” to do.
It was something that was tough for me when my daughter was younger, but once I finally started letting her decide more things, I could tell it helped her become more confident.
It was great!
Now that she is 5, I let her pick out a lot of things and am appreciative of her opinions and views!! 🙂
This didn’t mean letting her do whatever she wanted though. It was giving her “safe choices” within a realm of choices.
Wait, what? I’ll explain!
Some examples could be:
- Letting them choose between 3 pre-selected outfits (obviosuy you don’t want them to pick swimsuits in the winter!)
- Picking out which pair of shoes they want to wear
- Choosing between two different fruits for a snack
Rather than telling them, “you are wearing this and this is what you’re eating,” give them the choice to do so and help them become more independent!
This can also stem into other areas such as teaching them simple safety things. Not everything has to be a clear NO.
If your child makes the choice to run inside when they should be walking, you may say something like, “We use walking feet inside, but we can go outside and run!”
There are many phrases you can use that are more positive and empowering for your kiddos than saying “no running in the house!”
5. “Pick Your Battles”
I am sure you have heard this from so many other parents when giving advice, but it is SO true!
Ask yourself, is what your child is asking or wanting to do a sin? Will it harm themselves or others?
If not, then there may not be a real reason to say no.
With gentle biblical parenting, it’s not that the “battles” are completely eliminated, but they’re definitely minimized.
Are our kids always perfectly behaved? Of course not. Nobody’s children are perfect and there are no perfect parents.
But we can help avoid tantrums by simply letting them do things that may not be the most convenient for us, but in reality they don’t hurt a thing!!
For example, they want to paint a picture – you have time to do so but it’s a long process of getting it set up. It could be easy to say no, but what’s the reason?
I’m not going to lie, for me, it would be because I didn’t feel like cleaning up the mess!
But God has worked on my heart and allowed me to see those opportunities now to enjoy quality time together!!
We may have missed out on the blessing of some family fun simply because I could’ve said yes but didn’t because of convenience. 🙂
Biblical Gentle Parenting in the Real World
It looks like responding to them when they act out in a calm, yet firm manner, but showing them the biblical way to respond without losing your cool.
It is definitely much easier said than done, but with prayer and spending time with the Lord, we can allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in gentle parenting.
Here are 3 of my favorite books that have really helped me with my frustration and quick responses in parenting, but from a biblical perspective:
- Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart by: Tedd Tripp
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting
Gentle Biblical Parenting For Christian Parents
I pray that this has encouraged you, and that you feel ready and confident to face a new day in your parenting!
Remember, God loves your children more than you, and He will help you through the tough times and be there in the joyous times as well. 🙂
For more Christian parenting advice and tips for all stages of life, check out this list of EXCELLENT biblical parenting books (and MORE) here!