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Gentle Parenting is Not Anti-Spanking

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, babywearing son Jack.

Gentle parenting is PRO-gentle discipline.

Gentle parenting is not about what we don’t do. It’s about what we DO.

I recently overheard someone telling another person about gentle parenting. She said “we don’t spank, we don’t do leave our babies to cry.” I hear too much about what we don’t do as gentle parents. To me this misses the point entirely.

Gentle Parenting/attachment parenting/natural parenting/instinctual parenting—whatever you want to call it or however you relate to it—has gotten a very bad rap. We are seen as parents with a bunch of rules about what not to do. Anti-spanking, anti-Cry It Out, etc. This is actually not the case at all.

I am against all these things, very much, but it is not the foundation of my parenting philosophy. I do not parent my son based on a bunch of things I don’t want to do.

Gentle parenting promotes focusing on the relationship, the attachment, the bond starting from birth and continuing throughout a child’s life. It encourages building a genuine and respectful connection with our children. It encourages parents to connect to their instincts and respond to their babies. When a parent follows his/her instincts, spanking, Cry It Out and other detached parenting practices become obsolete. We don’t need them.

Gentle parenting is not reactionary. It is how parenting was intended to function since the beginning of time. Gentle parenting was not created in response to detached parenting and therefore does not base itself in the difference.

Detached parenting is new. It is the fad, the trend, the reaction.

It’s run its course. We know now it doesn’t work to build emotionally healthy and stable adults. It’s time for it to end and for us connect to our instincts.

Abby Theuring, MSW


  1. Ruffslitch says

    We just like our son and enjoy being with him. Everything else flows from that. He’s a good kid!

  2. It also drives me crazy when people talk about breastfeeding like it’s a new fad. It’s just the way babies have been fed FOR ALL TIME. (Side rant: When people say, “He’s using you as a pacifier!” I want to scream, “NO! Babies use pacifiers as a boob! The boob came first & the pacifier was created as a replacement.”)
    I have no problem with people using formula or pacifiers, but don’t look at me crazy because I don’t.

    • That’s what I’m talken about….

    • Exactly! I had a bit of trouble with nursing in the beginning, and probably wouldn’t have succeeded if I had encouraged my baby to use a pacifier instead of boob any time at all. My body needed the constant suckling to learn how to produce. With so many different things sabotaging breastfeeding relationships, why add another?

  3. It’s funny – when I’m asked to describe my parenting “style”, I realize that I lean more toward attached parenting. I’ve never thought of parenting as a something you can categorize – I just parent the best way that I know how. Sure, I yell (a bit too much for my taste, but I’m working on it), but natural term breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing and firm yet gentle discipline just kind of happened and have always felt right. It’s nice to read things like this. Thanks 🙂

  4. Very well stated!

  5. Holly Jean says

    I feel as though, when I first read the Badass Breastfeeder, I’d met a kindred spirit… and then for a few years, I had to bite my tongue to read what you were posting. Now I see that kindred spirit in this article, and I’m thankful to be able to say “I agree that you are speaking the truth in love.”

    My husband is always saying “if you define your discipline by what your children cannot do, you give them nowhere to go.”

    • I say the same thing! My kids are five (twins). Telling them to stop doing something without giving them an alternative – or suggesting that they find an alternative themselves – is futile and frustrating for them.

      • YES! Oh my gosh! Yes. I’m a first time mom, so things are still new and from the parenting the way you see it on TV and with other moms around me I tend to do things the way they do. But guess what?! A one year old doesn’t understand “no” or be moved to another place (he loves grabbing the mouse or keyboard when my husband is on the computer) and all my husband does is yell at him and say no, or plops him in a different place 2 feet from the computer. HELLOOOO. That won’t work with a one year old, it just wont. You have to distract him with toys, or a keyboard of his very own, or get on the floor and play with him. You have to find an alternative to whatever they are doing you don’t like. We are slowly but surely changing the way we parent, because some things don’t work. Spanking a one year old does NOT work, it makes them cry then you yell at them to not cry, which makes them cry more? Nope. Providing a happy, safe alternative where both baby and parent are calm WILL work. 🙂 Just my two cents on what we are doing lately with our parenting

  6. Micheline says

    I SOOOO agree with Sarah, I have heard that one A LOT! I love your posts, I share them with my friends. I don’t betray myself as perfect, but I love my son. We have an amazing bond and I will always do the best I know how and strive for great outcomes. I want to show him how beautiful this world can be, its one of the many reasons I wanted to have a child! 🙂 so much love and knowledge to share!

  7. Oooh, you got me. I saw this on FB and clicked through JUST to leave an outraged comment. “Gentle parenting IS TOO anti-spanking!” Then I read the post and calmed the hell down. Then I got to thinking.

    I don’t spank, yell, or use time-out and I got to thinking about that. It’s because I don’t HAVE to. I focus on preventing the issue rather than fixing it and it just so happens that when you do that, you don’t have to do the other stuff. Of course, it’s not easy because that means staying one step ahead of a toddler and there’s nothing harder, but it DOES work.

    Well done, chick. Well done.

  8. Laika Marasigan says

    Hi! Can I just say that it’s refreshing to read/ learn about your views on parenting. I’ve only started reading a couple of days now, and I find myself learning quite a lot already! This is great!

    Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve heard about Attachment Parenting or even Gentle parenting. However, it is not the first time I’ve heard about the practices. I’m Filipino. From the posts I’ve read, it seems they are pretty close to what we practice, at least most of the Filipinos I know. But I don’t think parenting styles should even be cultural, do you agree?

    I’ve recently been reprimanded by someone close to me for not sleep training (or not being able to successfully sleep train) my daughter who’s now 10 months old. She says it’s what pedias are advising all mothers in the US. She said I shouldn’t feed my daughter at night when she feels hungry coz she only thinks she’s hungry, and that she should sleep 8-10 hours straight without needing to feed. I am exclusively breastfeeding, btw. I don’t mind getting up (usually on scheduled hours) to feed her. I personally do not like the fact that I should let her cry it out until she gets tired or till she realizes she’s not hungry. Because she called my attention coz she is hungry.

    So maybe I should sleep train her, maybe it’s not necessary. I dunno. If I don’t, does that make me an ineffective mom? Am I doing things wrong or am I spoiling her? I know eventually, when she’s 18 months or so, she will not ask for milk anymore in the middle of the night. I’m sure she will eventually learn to sleep 10 straight hours.

  9. Katrina LaRose says

    Ok, don’t hate me, but, I thought the article was mediocre. It had a couple catchy lines, but, it was what I expected it to be.

    The comments, however. Wow, you guys got me good! I’ve never heard that phrase “when you define your discipline by what your children cannot do you give your child no where to go”. THAT. IS. AWESOME! It just makes so much sense. Like a light went off in my head. And that it’s futile and frustrating for the child when you tell them to stop without providing an alternative. These are the things I need. These are the things I’ll remember from now on. Not saying everything is going to change over night, but, this is a step in the right direction.

    I don’t classify myself as any type of
    parent. I try to do what is best and right for my child at all times. I nurse my toddler, cosleep (he’s actually snoring on me right now), wear him, etc. but, I only do this stuff because it feels right to me not because I want to “fit in” to a group. I do however have a short temper to the extent that when he’s yelling just for reaction, I do yell at him to stop. And the whole time I think to myself “this makes
    no sense, you’re yelling to try and make him stop yelling.” So, I am aware of
    my faults, it’s just soooo hard to break them sometimes! But, these comments were a great help in a step in the right direction! Thank you!!!

    • Bethany Adams says

      “These are the things I need.” Yes, this. I get so frustrated with gentle parenting articles because all they say is “follow your instincts.” Well, my instincts have thrown up their hands in frustration and run screaming from my 3 year old’s defiance. I need concrete examples of what to do in different scenarios.

  10. Good post about focusing on the positive aspects of gentle parenting, rather than a to-do/not to-do list. But I disagree about spanking being obsolete or that it is detached parenting. My instincts tell me to ensure my baby girl understands when something is definitely a “no-no.” She gets a “pop-pop” lightly on her hand when she does something that could harm her (e.g. messing with outlets). We cosleep, are still nursing at 19 months, and we don’t ever employ the cio method. I don’t believe that there’s a checklist to say I have to do all of the above or not do x, y, z to be a gentle/attached parent.

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