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Why Gentle Parenting Is Important for Black Kids


Black kids around the world have similar parenting experiences. That of being verbally shut down, emotionally neglected, and not being seen. This parenting style has led to generational trauma manifested through emotionally distant parents and kids, mental health issues, and distrust. 

That said, the new generation of African American parents is changing the narrative. They recognize the damage inflicted on them and don’t want to transfer it to their kids. Welcome to the age of gentle parenting. Before we look at why it’s important for black kids, let’s first understand what gentle parenting means.

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What Is Gentle Parenting?   

Why Gentle Parenting Is Important for Black Kids
A man and a woman with their child. Photo by Greta Hoffman, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gentle parenting is a style that takes into consideration the thoughts and feelings of both the child and its caregiver. The pillars that support it include empathy, understanding, boundaries, and respect. The effect of it is the creation of a reciprocal relationship between the child and the parent.

This type of parenting will fall under the lenient category. Under it, it’s thought the child will develop a secure attachment which means that your child comes from a healthy environment. 

As Ms Jessica Winter notes in an article on Research Gate that was published in the New Yorker:

“The theory goes that the gentle parented child recognises and controls their emotions because the caregiver affirms them. This leads to prosocial qualities and self-regulation.”

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Why Is Gentle Parenting Important?

1. Emotional openness

Gentle parenting promotes vulnerability between the child and their parents. As a result, they are able to open up to them and share their fears, worries, and insecurities because they know they’ll be heard. It allows them to learn how to recognize. process and speak about their emotions.

2. Development of Trust Between Parent and Child 

One of the downsides of black parenting in the previous generation was the mistrust it bred between kids and their caregivers. Due to the hardlines and, at times, arbitrary rules kids lived by, they weren’t allowed to do anything outside the rules. 

On the other hand, gentle parenting encourages children to explore while still abiding by the rules. This lets the parents relax as they know they’ll follow the rules. It makes kids feel trusted.

3. Setting Boundaries

One of the biggest challenges of black parenting is the lack of boundaries between parents and children. Parents feel like they own you and thus should know everything you’re up to. This continues even in your adult life and it can be suffocating.

Gentle parenting realizes that kids are autonomous. As such, parents should give them space to deal with their own issues. If they’d like to take part in certain aspects of their lives, they shouldn’t bulldoze their way in. Instead, show curiosity. If a child isn’t willing to talk, threats or blackmail aren’t the way to go. Let them know that you’ll be there when they are ready.

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4. Understanding Your Child

Why Gentle Parenting Is Important for Black Kids
A mother talking to her kid. Photo by Barbara Olsen licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gone are the days when kids were beaten because Jane got an A and they didn’t. This approach assumed everyone was the same because they attended the same school. 

Another classic demonstration was when a young kid was expected to know what to do in any given situation. This style of parenting expected kids to behave like adults when they were just kids.

Understanding your child means being curious about them and recognizing their seasons, behavior, strengths, and weaknesses. It doesn’t assume that you already know them and thus expect them to fall in line with a pre-programmed disposition. 

5. It’s a Foundation for a Respectful Relationship

Traditional black parenting demands kids to be respectful to their parents when many black parents don’t extend any respect toward their kids. They set the rules, don’t follow them, and don’t want to be held accountable. Most of the time, they instill fear and confuse that with respect.

Gentle parenting encourages parents to not only make the rules but also follow the rules. You do as you say, don’t preach water, then drink wine. This way, you will earn their respect, and that’s more long-lasting. If they only fear you, they’ll distance themselves from you once they’re adults. 

6. Leeds to Empathy

More often than not, black parenting considers the parent’s feelings. How they’re hurt, the shame they feel, and how much it’ll cost them to repair the damage. The child’s feelings aren’t taken into account. The conclusion is almost always drawn to indiscipline. 

Gentle parenting calls for the examination of a child’s behavior. At times, kids misbehave because it’s the only way they’ve learned how to get their parent’s attention. Therefore, getting to the bottom of this helps deal with their issues decisively. 

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What Gentle Parenting Isn’t 

Some parents might be reluctant to switch from a strict parenting style to gentle parenting as they deem it permissive. They fear it might lead to a lack of discipline in their kids, or they might lose control over them. 

Contrary to that opinion, gentle parenting is about setting clear boundaries and communicating them with your child firmly but in a way that acknowledges the child’s age-appropriate responses. 

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Is Gentle Parenting Effective?

While gentle parenting is recommended because of the benefits in the sections above, it’s not a one-size fits all approach. Every parent needs to know their child and use the appropriate style that works. That said, gentle parenting leads to an emotionally healthier child.

Now that you’ve read about gentle parenting, is this a parenting style you’ll consider using on your kids? 

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