Gentle Parenting: The Art of Giving Choices


April 1, 2013 by CassieCravings

It was not long after little Eli came into my world, that it his sensitive nature began to present itself, which was met by my horrifying realization by how sensitive I am not. One of my first fears in parenting was breaking this little one’s spirit. I worried, read, studied and prayed. Then I repeated the process several times…and am still repeating that cycle.

While I dove into different parenting styles, I realized that I naturally started leaning towards gentle parenting. It seemed to make the most sense for my high-needs, tender-hearted baby boy.

PicMonkey Collage Eli birth through 3 years

The more I practiced, the better I became (and am becoming) of parenting gently. While I am certainly no expert and am hopelessly flawed as a human parent parenting a human child, I have noticed a remarkable difference since embracing the gentle parenting style. I am happier. My son is happier.

Lately, I have received many emails, discussions, posts and texts from other parents wanting to adopt gentle parenting techniques. While I don’t consider myself an expert, I have found that my 6+ years as a classroom teacher and several years in casework have provided a unique perspective with a broad exposure to find out what works best with many personalities of children. I am happy to share what I have learned, to learn what you have learned and to share this journey as we go along together.



Gentle Parenting Defined

According to Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting, gentle parenting (which she calls positive parenting) is divided into two parts. “All children ‘misbehave’ sometimes, and all parents wonder how to stop the misbehavior.  But that’s only half of our mission as parents.  The other half is raising a child who internalizes our guidance to become ‘self-disciplined’.  The most effective “discipline”  for your child is always positive, loving, gentle guidance” ( 2013).

Many times gentle parenting is confused with permissive parenting. When I first cautiously began to research gentle parenting, I made this assumption. I raised my eyebrows at the idea. But I kept digging and kept studying. I quickly found out that the ideologies of gentle parenting and permissive parenting are not even in the same ballpark.

Permissive parenting is dangerous. It provides little to no direction for children, allowing them to the whims of evolution and Murphy’s Law. Gentle parenting, however, is incredibly and intricately intentional. Children are redirected, respected and guided to be responsible.


Sanity in Choices

Choices are my sanity. “Would you like to have 5 more minutes in the bath or to read an extra story at bedtime?” and “Do you prefer the Spider Man underwear of the Thomas the train underwear?” gives my son age-appropriate power.

With choices, I am establishing boundaries that are safe, doable and that work for the entire family. On the flip side of that, I am allowing my son to take on responsibility. I am also narrowing down a seemingly endless number of options which can be overwhelming.

Skip open-ended questions with young children.


Open ended  questions such as, “Which shirt do you want?” is daunting when that closet is longer than you are. When he has picked a shirt, what if it’s not weather-appropriate or event-appropriate? Then you have to discard his choice and ask him to pick something else. In my personal experience, few things are as annoying as someone saying “Pick a restaurant.” and then turning his/her nose up at my choice. Children have those same feelings of disappointment, frustration and hurt at a snubbed choice. But many have yet to develop the communication skills to say, “Am I picking, or not?”


How do choices really work? 

Limit your choices to a couple or a few items and make sure they are choices you can live with. It might be tempting to say, “Either pick up that toy, or I’m going to throw it out.” While it does present a choice, what happens if he doesn’t pick it up? You have put yourself in a position to throw away his toy. You either have to back-pedal or to follow through. Either way, it’s not where I like to find myself (though I have on numerous occasions).

Choices are an excellent tool to use for strong-willed children (children who have a strong inner drive to do and say what they feel is right/just). It goes back to power within boundaries.

Choices also work well for kids who are sensitive to “messing up.” There is affirmation in understanding that these choices are okay because a grown up this child trusts has issued them. This will help the child build confidence in his/her ability in making choices.

In my professional experience, I have found that choices empower my students to make choices that work for them as well as for the class. It teaches them how to take responsibility and how to deal with the consequences (both positive and negative) of a choice.

In my experience, I have found choices to be one of my greatest tools in the classroom and at home.

In the classroom, instead of saying, “Sit down!”,  I can give the option, “Would you prefer to sit in this seat or that seat?” It changes the nature of the direction, and it changes the tone. While I learned the art of choices in the classroom, I quickly brought it home after my son was born. Giving options to a child shows that you value their input, you respect him/her and that you trust that a good choice will be made.



How does giving choices work in your household?

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10 thoughts on “Gentle Parenting: The Art of Giving Choices

  1. To be honest, giving choices has backfired a few times for me! I have a daughter who just turned three and she tries to change her mind…a LOT. So I’m teaching her that many decisions can only be made one time. If I let her pick her dress for the day, she could sometimes have a meltdown in public about wanting to wear the other dress. On the other hand, when I see she is about to make a bad decision, I can prompt her actions by naming the two options from which she is deciding from so she can make her decision with complete understanding 😉

    • mamacravings says:

      I have had a few moments where it “backfired”. If it’s possible, I let him change his mind. Sometimes I change my mind and want a new choice.

      This has shown itself in our world most when he is halfway through with a snack and wants another. I remind him that he let his raisins have a turn. And he may not let the banana have a turn until the raisins are done. I explain to him that it’s wasteful to our food and our money to eat half of something, throw it out and move on the another.

      He is 3, so “wasteful” is a concept that he doesn’t understand. But I explain it anyway. Because he will one day understand it.

      I do want to point out that I do not make him clean his plate or anything of that nature. But we know it can be inconvenient and wasteful to continue to change his mind on snacks.

      If we are not able to switch choices, I remind him that HE chose that particular outfit, toy to take with him, etc, etc. I don’t want to make him feel badly about what he chose. But I do want him to understand that sometimes we live with the choices we have.

      I try to be flexible. And sometimes it works. And sometimes it backfires. Lol

      • Do you have a post on what gentle parenting is or a website? I love the method I use, it is training vs. discipline, and we do not raise our voices or guilt trip kids etc but I am curious about this. I am somewhat between attachment parenting vs. traditional parenting when it comes to infants so I love to research everything on every parenting topic 🙂

      • mamacravings says:

        Aha! Parenting ( is one of my favorite sources for gentle parenting. I’ love to research all types of parenting as well. I draw from as many parenting styles as possible for a well-balanced and individualized parenting program for my little man.

  2. Great post. It’s amazing how gentle parenting works and the benefits as they hit their teens is remarkable. By ding this it creates such a safe place for kids to express who they are and to allow space for who God intended them to be, not who us parents try to shape them into.
    I have exercised choices since my kids were very young and it has helped them to trust themselves and to know they can make good choices and poor ones but that’s in the growing and journey of learning.
    Great post! 😀

    • mamacravings says:

      Thank you so much! Gentle parenting has made an incredible difference in our world. I have found that gentle parenting lines up beautifully with God’s love and guidance for our families. Every day I pray for God’s will for my son and not my own plan. It can be so difficult to get away from our own dreams. But I don’t want to limit my son to what I plan is for him. God’s plan is bigger than anything I could ever dream up, and I can’t wait to see what that is for him 🙂

  3. Ruby says:

    I love this article. This makes me reflect on how my parenting was back then when my child was only a toddler. Quite difficult stage but then gentle parenting helps children grow the way we like them to be: smart, caring, gentle and loving. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for visiting my blog. Cheers!

  4. Hi Casi,

    I really admire your personal and engaging voice. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing such great advice and stories on your blog for busy mothers and parents of young children!

    I’ve taken a look through your website and we think you’ve done a fantastic job in covering topics that our brand’s audience of expecting mothers would be interested in reading. It would be great if you could join our community to feature your blog entries.

    If you would like to learn more about this, please send an email to info at with “mothers” in the subject line.


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