Parenting is a deeply personal and transformative journey. But it can also be an opportunity to heal your own inner child while nurturing the next generation. The path to healing and empowering your inner child can be meaningful for Black and brown parents, given their unique challenges and experiences. Gentle parenting is a style of parenting that focuses on raising confident, independent and happy children through empathy, respect and understanding, and setting healthy boundaries, according to the Cleveland Health Clinic. 

21Ninety sat down with Dr. Erlanger “Earl” Turner, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and founder of Therapy for Black Kids. He sees gentle parenting as a compassionate and empathetic approach to raising children that can contribute to a parents healing process.

Gentle Parenting: A Definition

“Gentle parenting is an approach focusing on using empathy, respect, understanding, and boundaries to help children become confident and emotionally healthy,” explains Dr. Turner. “In comparison, traditional parenting often focuses on teaching kids consequences to their actions and rewarding desired behavior. Parents often view traditional parenting as being directive, relying on rules or restrictions, and using punishment for misbehavior,” contiues Dr. Turner.  

Some people view gentle parenting as being too soft on their children. And they would prefer to take an authoritative approach. But gentle parenting aligns with the idea of authoritative parenting. The only difference is less of a focus on placing demands on the child.

For Black and brown parents, gentle parenting can be a profound act of self-love and empowerment. Here’s how it can heal your inner child and create a nurturing environment for our children.

 Validating Your Child’s Feelings

Dr. Turner emphasizes that a crucial aspect of gentle parenting is validating your little ones feelings. For Black parents, this can be particularly challenging as society often undermines our emotions. When your child expresses sadness, it is essential to avoid dismissing their feelings. Instead of saying, “You don’t have anything to be sad about,” respond with empathy. Ask them questions that illicit emotional responses like “Can you tell me why you are feeling sad?” 

By acknowledging their emotions, you teach your child the value of empathy and demonstrate that their feelings are valid.

“I think it can be hard to understand childrens perspective, for some black parents,” says Dr. Turner. Three key gentle parenting techniques that might be useful are validating the child’s feelings, modeling empathy, and showing mutual respect,” says Dr. Turner. 

In doing so, you create a safer space for your child and also engage in self-healing. As you nurture and validate your child’s emotions, you start acknowledging your own feelings and experiences, which you may overlook. Nurturing the emotional well-being of your child can simultaneously heal your inner child.

 Modeling Empathy

Empathy is a life skill we all need, and children learn it by observing how their parents handle emotions.

“For children to learn to be empathetic, they will often mimic how they see their parents react to their own feelings. It’s helpful to model how to cope with intense emotions for children,” says Dr. Turner.

Gentle parenting encourages empathy. As a parent, when you cope with your intense emotions with grace, you show your child the importance of empathy and self-compassion. Empathy allows you to reconnect with your inner child and offer yourself the love and understanding you may have missed.

Showing Mutual Respect

Respect is at the core of gentle parenting. It extends to how children interact with adults, according to Dr. Turner. For example, while it may be customary for children to shake hands or give hugs to adults as a sign of respect, gentle parenting emphasizes that this should be a choice and not an obligation. Therefore, respect their choices.

Dr. Turner suggests gentle parenting can involve discussing physical contact with your child before family gatherings or social events. By having these conversations, you empower your child to express their boundaries. You build mutual trust and respect. As you respect your child’s autonomy, you also honor your inner child’s right to consent and personal boundaries.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Contrary to popular belief, healthy boundaries are a cornerstone of gentle parenting. Dr. Turner emphasizes shifting to gentle parenting is simple, especially if setting boundaries is one of your parenting goals. However, it’s essential to consider your child’s stage of development. The rules and boundaries should be age-appropriate. Therefore, ensure your child can comprehend and adhere to them.

Additionally, you should explain the rules behind communication to enhance mutual understanding with your child. This approach fosters a sense of respect and trust between you and your child. Therefore enabling you to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and feelings.

It is crucial to understand the traumas that Black and brown children experience, and build a community who does the same. 

“There are a lot of dangers our children may be exposed to,” explains Dr. Turner. “Black children are more likely to be at risk for exposure to discrimination, police harassment, and community violence.” 

Remember, a huge cultural factor is how many family members and friends may be involved in caretaking or parenting your child. It is essential that those outside your home understand how to respond to your child’s needs and behaviors. 


Gentle parenting provides a path to healing your inner child while nurturing your own children. Black parents can use gentle parenting to help cope with their own traumas and reduce depression, anxiety and more. 

 By embracing empathy, respect, and understanding, Black and brown parents can create a nurturing environment that supports their children’s emotional well-being and empowers them to heal and grow as parents. One can embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-love that uplifts both your children and yourself.

Aysia Morton, a culture and travel writer, wrote this story.