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This ‘gentle parenting’ guru gives her tips for raising confident kids


According to one childcare expert, a close relationship built on mutual respect and empathy can help children feel more secure.  

Sarah Ockwell Smith, author of “The Gentle Parenting Book,” spoke to CNBC by telephone, saying that gentle parents are able to understand their children’s abilities and can set appropriate expectations for their behavior. 

According to her, gentle parents do not expect children act as adults. They just empathize. If they are unable to behave, she explained that “gentle” parents would try to help their child express their feelings better than to punish them. 

Ockwell Smith explained to me that children who grow up in homes with less punishment and shouting have a greater self-esteem. 

In terms of neurodevelopment, calmer and more compassionate parenting had a positive impact on a child’s amygdala. This is responsible for the brain’s emotional regulation. Ockwell Smith said research has shown that children learn more if they are raised in an environment that is supportive and nurturing.

Ockwell Smith stated, “So you have literally grown the portion of their brain that is responsible for their emotions” 

For example, studyThe University of Montreal published March’s findings, which were authored by a researcher. They found that harsh parenting could hinder the brain growth of children. 2012. studyWashington University researchers conducted research on preschool children and found that early support parenting had a positive effect on the development of healthy hippocampal function, which is crucial for learning, memory, and stress control.

The ‘Architects of the Child’s Life 

Ockwell Smith said research has shown that the way children are raised in their early childhood years is crucial for their future self-esteem, and their relationships with others. 

An 2016 paperHarvard University’s Center on the Developing Child cited research showing that more than a million neurons are connected in the brain every second of a child’s childhood. These connections become less important as they are pruned. This preserves the links that are “reinforced by” what children learn and experience. Therefore, the paper’s authors argued that children need to have positive experiences as early as possible in their development.  

Ockwell Smith stated that parents are the “architects of their child’s lives”, so it was important to consider how children were raised during these early years. 

She explained there are three types of parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative and a mix. authoritativePermissive (also called “gentle parenting”). 

The authoritarian approach, which is not “gentle parenting”, could be referred to as “old school parenting” she stated. This approach is often characterized by demanding respect and using punishments for children who behave badly. 

According to, the “permissive” parent is someone who has low expectations and provides little discipline or guidance. explanation on Ockwell-Smith’s website  

“Good headspace” 

Ockwell Smith said that parents should first work out their issues before seeking advice on “gentle parenting.” 

She said that “we have to start on ourselves — so we have to think about ‘what are my stressors? What is it that causes me to behave as I do? It triggers me when my child does or says something. “How can I model good behaviour?” 

She explained that this was important because a parent could be doing or saying all the right things but if they weren’t calm and were short-tempered, a child will still pick up on that — “it’s not magic, it won’t work unless you’re in a good headspace first.” 

It could be working with their parents to resolve issues, or a problem in adulthood such as needing boundaries and support from other adults. 

Ockwell Smith said that this could mean, for instance, sharing the parenting “mental burden” more evenly with a spouse. 

However, she stressed the importance of parents being able to let their children know when they’re “at capacity” so they can take time for themselves. 

It wasn’t about being perfect, she said. Instead it was about accepting mistakes and learning from them.