How ‘gentle’ and ‘authoritative’ can work together


When it comes to raising children, some parents feel they need to commit to the same philosophy.

If you are a gentle or reactive parent, you are always validating your child’s emotions and minimizing the consequences. If you’re an authoritative parent, you set strict boundaries and focus on following established rules.

In fact, parenting works best if you mix styles, says Mona Delahooke, author of “Brain-Body Parenting: How to Stop Managing Behavior and Start Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids.”

“The hype around parenting styles has taken us away from the more relevant question: ‘What does my child need right now?'” says Delahooke, who is a child psychologist.

In some cases your child will need you to provide some emotional security, and other times they will need more rigid guidance.

“Kindness and firmness are not oil and water,” she says. “They can go together.”

How to be a “kind” and “authoritative” parent at the same time

No research is “complex” enough to answer the question, “Which parenting style is best?” said Delahooke.

Instead, parents should focus on meeting their child’s needs. More often than not, it will look like a mix of sweet, responsive, and overbearing parents.

“We don’t have to be harsh or cruel, but we can maintain those non-negotiable boundaries.” she says.

Let’s say your child breaks down because you and your co-parent go on a date without them. Here is how Delahooke would approach this situation:

  1. Help your child manage their emotions. “Instead of just walking away or scolding them for their reaction, you take a few minutes to ‘co-regulate’ and through your voice, facial expression and emotions show a gentle, caring approach,” says Delahooke.
  1. Learn to babysit. Sit down with the caregiver while you’re away and show them how to co-regulate after you’re gone.
  1. Go to your appointment. “It may take a few minutes longer, but it helped build the child’s resilience through a hybrid approach, and you still have to go to your appointment,” she says.

You can extrapolate these steps to a number of situations.

For example, you can understand that a child has trouble getting up in the morning by saying, “I know mornings are hard and you’re tired”, and in the same sentence express that not going to school n it’s just not an option.

“You can be tough, set boundaries and boundaries, and provide emotional security all at the same time,” she says.

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