The "gentle parenting" buzzword has really taken a turn on the internet. And the worst part is that it's not even a thing; it's not a parenting style as seen in research, and the ideal "gentle parent" that social media has created doesn't exist!
Here are the four main research-based parenting styles (based on research by Baumrind, Maccoby, and Martin). And yes, one style does lead to better outcomes as seen in research. But remember - these are styles, NOT personality traits or goals. Parenting styles are a spectrum and none of us fit into one category, 100% of the time!
Permissive: child-driven, rarely has or enforces hard boundaries, avoids most conflict and will give child what they want to do so, very low demand but high responsiveness to child needs.
Authoritative: high responsiveness but also high demand. Often solves conflict together with the child. Open, clear communication that takes child experience into account. Natural consequences are typically favored. Firm boundaries are provided and reinforced regardless of conflict involved.
Neglectful: uninvolved or absent parent. Provides little in the way of nurturing and guidance. Apathetic to child’s social-emotional and behavioral needs.
Authoritarian: parent-driven with strict rules and punishments for breaking them. Communication comes only from parent without taking child experience into account, and little specific nurturing of child’s emotional needs. Rigid, with a very “because I said so” attitude.
So which style leads to better outcomes? Authoritative all the way. The language above may be confusing but it boils down to this: when we consider the child’s social emotional and behavioral experience, when we include our child in communication and problem-solving, and when we set firm and clear boundaries, then follow through, we see the best possible outcome for our child.