Is Gentle Parenting Biblical?

Updated Feb 28, 2024
Is Gentle Parenting Biblical?

This can be a tempting model for Christian parents because it models values like gentleness, patience, and love, which are Fruits of the Spirit and Christ-like virtues. However, we should examine every parenting style, to see whether or not it falls under a model for Biblical parenting, or even a realistic one.

One of the most personal decisions a couple makes is how they choose to parent their children, and some parents can get protective of their chosen style. Parents either embrace or reject parenting techniques based on their own experiences as children. As a result, there are trends in parenting styles. One of the current parenting trends is gentle parenting.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Instead of focusing on punishment and reward, gentle parenting focuses on improving a child’s self-awareness and understanding of their own behavior.” Hallmarks of this method of parenting include, but are not limited to:

1. Talking to a child at their eye level

2. Never raising your voice

3. Using empathy to understand why a child did a behavior

4. Talking through a child’s behavior with them, so they understand why they did an action

5. Setting boundaries to prevent undesirable behavior

This method has an appeal in particular for people who felt that being disciplined physically did not work for them, or for people who experienced abuse. It can be a tempting model for Christian parents because it models values like gentleness, patience, and love, which are Fruits of the Spirit and Christ-like virtues. However, we should examine every parenting style, to see whether or not it falls under a model for Biblical parenting, or even a realistic one. We recognize that this world has fallen and no parent can be perfectly gentle all the time.

Does Gentle Parenting Align with the Bible?

There are aspects of gentle parenting that are appealing. It is appropriate to not punish a child in anger, but with temperance and patience. Talking with a child about their feelings can help increase their emotional intelligence and can help parents better connect with their child.

But one of the concerns with gentle parenting, from a Christian worldview, is that it does not look at children who sin as a part of a rebellious nature that is the product of a fallen world. There is an assumption built into the method that assumes children can be reasoned into good behavior, because people are inherently good and rational; this core assumption contradicts the Bible.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

The problem with gentle parenting, from a Christian worldview, is not select techniques, but the assumption that a child can be reasoned with, as they are inherently good, rather than as prone to rebellion as any other person. In fact, the Bible says, “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright” (Proverbs 20:11).

Should Christian Parents Use Physical Punishment?

Many believers point to the verse, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24) and argue that physical punishment, like spanking or other types of traditional punishments like time-outs, are necessary to help shape children’s character. Unfortunately, this verse has also been used as a justification for abuse. Not all corporal punishment is abusive, but it does happen. Christians who use that style should not pretend abuse doesn’t occur. Any form of parenting can become abusive when done for the wrong reasons or because someone doesn’t know God and is dead in their sins.

Parents should not hit as an act of anger or rage, and some parents should know their own sinful nature well enough to recognize they cannot spank a child with appropriate patience and temperance.

Many parents have raised godly children who became godly adults without using corporal punishment. It is possible to raise children without physically disciplining them, but it is not possible to biblically raise a child without any discipline.

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Just as many spoiled, ungodly children have come from overly-indulgent “gentle” parents as from those who spank.

How to Decide What Discipline Method Is Best for You

To determine what style of discipline to use, consider the following:

1. Pray about how God wants you to raise your children. Many people talk with one another and get advice from parents, books, and friends. Getting advice from others is fine, but as Christians it is important to go to God first, to get wisdom in all things. 

2. Recognize if you are prone to overly emotional responses or anger. When the Bible refers to not sparing the rod, lest the child become spoiled, it does not mean to enact physical punishment on a child in anger, or to the point of doing real physical harm. It means controlled, thoughtful discipline. 

3. As your child ages, learn what discipline style is best for each child. What works for one family may not work for another, and what works for one child may not be effective for another. It may be different for boys versus girls, or for a more hyper child versus a more mellow one. Trying to apply universal discipline could lead to overindulgence in one personality type, or not communicating to a child why they are experiencing discipline.

An example of this happening in real life is that studies now show that school is set up to facilitate how girls learn, but not boys, who require more opportunities to be active, and tend to learn more by doing than by reading or memorizing. If a parent chooses to only parent or discipline one way, they may not be effectively helping a child learn the difference between right and wrong. The lack of proper discipline for one child may mean the child never grows to understand their own faults and sins, and develops a haughty spirit. Conversely, they may over-discipline another child, leading to resentment and hostility. 

4. Remember your children have a sinful nature, and the Bible says they must be disciplined. One of the core tenets of gentle parenting is getting on their level and talking to them about why they exhibited an undesired behavior, without condemnation, and by asking questions. “Why did you not tie your shoes? Do you not want to tie your shoes? Is it more fun to play with your stuffies than to tie your shoes?” Sometimes children disobey or do something wrong because they live in a fallen world, and for no other reason. Assuming a child can always be reasoned with is a denial of the reality of the world. It can also lead to elevating the child to a place where they assume they are on more equal footing with their parents than they should in a Biblical home.

When in doubt, it is important to err on the side of caution, to avoid abusing or indulging a child. An effective style of discipline should be implemented, but some gentle techniques can be used to help the punishment become a true learning experience. Use prayer, the wisdom of others, and take a child’s personality into account when deciding how to discipline.

Bible Verses to Encourage Parents

Bible verses that provide guidance on parenting include:

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13).

“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

More important than what type of discipline, or lack thereof, a parent chooses to use is the decision to raise them to know God. If you love God, try to emulate that love, and teach them about how much Jeus loves them, then parents are taking the right steps.

Ultimately, all children grow up and will have to make their own mistakes and have their own relationship with God. Gentle parenting has principles such as patient parenting and talking through a child’s feelings that can fall under the model of Biblical parenting. But the overall ethos could create problems in the future, as it does not recognize the child’s sinful nature, instead assuming their behavior is only a result of not understanding their feelings or having a fully developed pre-frontal cortex.

The Bible makes it clear that all people are born into a sin nature, which can only be addressed through a relationship with Jesus Christ. God, our loving Father, disciplines His children, and modelling God’s love for us to our children is an important part of raising them.


Dobson, James. The Dr. James Dobson Parenting Collection. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2011.

Ockwell-Smith, Sarah. Gentle Discipline Using Emotional Connection - Not Punishment - to Raise Confident Capable Kids. New York: Penguin Random House LLC, 2017.

McDowell, Josh. Set Free to Choose Right. Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing,  2018.

Tripp, Paul David. Parenting - 14 Gospel Principles that can Radically Change Your Family. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/digitalskillet

Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on