Before I became a parent, I told myself that there were certain aspects of my childhood that I would leave behind. Rather than ruling with an iron fist (or a leather belt), I would have honest conversations with my kids about why the rules were in place. But I gotta be honest ya’ll, the reality of life raising two strong-willed Black children has been a lot different. I always start the day with good intentions, but somehow I end up throwing a “do XYZ because I said so” at them before bedtime.
So when singer Kelly Rowland had a conversation with Angie Martinez about gentle parenting for a recent episode of her “IRL Podcast,” I couldn’t help but lean in.
“I love it,” Rowland said of the approach The Cleveland Clinic describes as “encouraging positive behavior, free will, and allowing children to make their own choices within safe and healthy boundaries set by parents.”
Just writing that made me laugh, so if the idea of giving your kids choices never crossed your mind, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s total departure from my ass Black childhood, where choices were few and far between. With gentle parenting, there’s no such thing as “because I said so,” and there’s definitely no ass whoppin’ involved. “It sounds lovely and ridiculous,” Martinez said.
“Some of it makes sense to me, and some of it doesn’t,” Rowland told Martinez during their conversation. “I respect it though, because what general parenting is trying to do is break the generational curse of talking at your kids and making them feel seen and respected.” The singer added that she’s using trial and error to find the parenting approach that works best. “I’m unlearning things that happened to me in my childhood with my son,” she said.
Although it sounds great on paper, the reality of gentle parenting requires a whole lot more patience than I have to give on most days when I’m also juggling work and other adult responsibilities. So I had to scour the Internet to see what other Black moms were saying. And I was surprised to see that there are plenty who are all in on the approach.
The Mentor Mommy used her TikTok platform to defend her decision to use gentle parenting. In a video that received over 25,000 likes, she responded to critics who accused her of acting like a white stay-at-home mom. “I’m raising my child in a world where he realizes what restorative justice looks like, what it looks like to be treated like a human. And what I will not do, is prepare him for a world that treats him like an animal or less than because he’s a Black man.”
In a piece for Parents, Gloria Alamrew writes that gentle parenting has worked for her Black family, arguing that it has been the best way to offer protection based on mutual respect and trust rather than fear.
“Gentle parenting allowed me to see my child differently—as a partner in his own growth and upbringing. It’s permission for both parent and child to make mistakes, to be held accountable to each other for them, and to move forward in healthy ways. It invites both parents and children to be soft and to let themselves relax into the process and trust each other enough to let the growth and learning unfold at its own pace.”
But there were others who just can’t get with it, like @misskeilondon, who told her Twitter followers that gentle parenting just doesn’t work for her Black boys.
And in an article for The Oprah Magazine, psychologist Dan Peters, PhD, is quick to point out that gentle parenting shouldn’t be used as an excuse to be avoid confrontation and setting rules for your kids.
Although many Black people can say that whoopins were a part of their childhood, we can’t overlook the fact that the practice has roots in slavery.
Gentle parenting advocates argue that the practice, which revolves around mutual understanding, empathy, and respect, has a more positive impact on a child’s mental and emotional health and can be better for the parent-child relationship in the long run. That all sounds great, but I’m a work in progress. So while I won’t go as far as an ass whoopin’, I can’t promise you that I won’t yell at my kids to clean their room every now and then “because I said so.”