How I Became a Gentle Parent - Imperfect Homemaker

How I Became a Gentle Parent

I remember that day so clearly.

I was cleaning the kitchen, and I was in no-nonsense, let’s-get-this-done mode.

My plans were quickly derailed, though, when someone bumped into the 5-year-old. As soon as I heard it I thought, “Oh no, here we go.” This particular child was very sensitive, and I knew from past experience that getting bumped would be a huge deal to them.

I was formulating how I would quickly shut down their cries so I wouldn’t have to stop cleaning. It would have sounded something like, “You’re fine. You’re not hurt. We're not going to cry about this.” I wouldn’t have taken time to stoop to my child’s level, to really see them, and to comfort them in their distress. That would have been too inconvenient and would have taken too much of my time. Why, anyway, did they need comforting when they had literally barely even been bumped? What they really needed was to toughen up.

But before the words could come out of my mouth, the whisper of the Holy Spirit reminded me that “The fruit of the Spirit is…gentleness.” The message came so clearly that it took my breath away.

As soon as I recovered from the jolt, I turned around and instead of offering an admonition to my child to stop crying, I stooped down and hugged them. “I’m sorry you got bumped,” I said. 

My child didn’t need me to shut them down. They didn’t need my admonition to toughen up. They needed my gentleness.

I don’t remember how the rest of the conversation went. I imagine that if I had a video where I could replay the rest of the interaction I’d still do some things differently. I had a lot to learn about child development, how the nervous system works, and how some people have a more sensitive system than others. I'd never read anything about connected parenting, or how to ensure my children perceive on a cellular level that they are safe and loved.

But the fact that I didn’t know any of those things is evidence to me of just how important it is for parents to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, who leads us to a posture of gentleness.

Could I have parented with more understanding if I’d had more knowledge? Yes, I could have. But I didn’t know. And there are still things I don't know and mistakes I still make. Now that I have teenagers, I'm entering more new territory, and while I do my best to understand my children as they progress into young adulthood, I am not omniscient, and I will undoubtedly mess up.

While I believe that as parents it is wise to learn as much evidence-based information about child development as we can, my ability to be a gentle parent does not hinge on whether I read all the right books. Parenting content is widely varied and often conflicting, and I cannot expect the information I consume to be infallible.

But what I can do is what I did on that day in the kitchen. I can listen to the Spirit’s voice reminding me to be gentle and patient, humble and kind.


Gentleness is the opposite of harsh and demanding. Gentleness gives a soft answer. Gentleness does not lay heavy burdens on my child and express anger or disappointment when my child doesn’t meet my expectations. That is not the way God loves any of us. He loves us unconditionally. Yes, he instructs and teaches us. Yes, he corrects us when we’re out of line. Yet he is not angry or disappointed with his children. He does not coerce us into behavior modification; rather, his desire for relationship with us draws us into desiring relationship with him in return.


As a spirit-controlled parent, I also have the power to exhibit patience toward my children. I can give them room to make mistakes and wait patiently while they go through the process of learning new things. I can repeat the same things over and over, knowing that learning requires repetition. I can remember that God gives wisdom to his children without rebuking them for what they don't know, and do the same for my own children.


The Holy Spirit also gives me the power to be a humble parent by acknowledging that there is a lot I don’t know and being willing to learn, both from my children and from others. I can admit when I have said or done something hurtful to my children and give a genuine apology for it. I can accept the reality that, just as my children don’t always get things right, neither do I. I’m not in a privileged position of being understanding about my parenting shortcomings while refusing to be understanding toward my children on their “childing” shortcomings.


As children of God, we ought to treat others the way we would want to be treated, and that includes our children. I wish for others to allow me space to make mistakes – I must also allow my children space to make mistakes. I wish for others to understand that sometimes I’m tired or overwhelmed or sad or have a reason to feel irritated – I must also understand that sometimes my children are tired, overwhelmed, sad, and have reasons to feel irritated. It is possible to act righteously in the midst of those very real and normal feelings. Teaching my children to respond rightly to difficult circumstances does not need to include shutting their feelings down and making them feel like they’re wrong for having them.  

In conclusion, I'd like to point out that the LORD is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy (Psalm 145:8).

I may not have every piece of knowledge about child development. I am bound to make parenting decisions that I will realize later were not the wisest.

But in the midst of my imperfect parenting, I can remember that the Spirit of a perfectly loving God dwells in me. The more I know of him, and the more closely I listen to the voice of his Spirit, the more I reflect his heart and exhibit his character to my children. As I follow him, I learn that there is no other Christlike way to parent than to parent with gentleness – to be gracious and full of compassion, to be slow to anger and give an abundance of mercy to my children.

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