This parenting philosophy may feel a little silly at first, but I have come to embrace it.
Before I had my son Henry, who’s almost 3, I was pretty dismissive of the idea of a parenting “philosophy.” It sounded so pretentious, and seemed needlessly hard! Couldn’t I just be focused on, you know, keeping my child alive and not whether I was feeding him precisely according to the rules of whatever invented structure I’d decided to follow?
But then I learned about so-called "respectful parenting." Most famously espoused by parenting gurus like Janet Lansbury, the idea sounds deceptively simple: treat children, even infants, as “whole people” — not as little adults, but as people deserving of respect. People often mock some of the more outlandish-seeming ideas from RIE (Resources for Infant Educators, an organization based on the tenets of respectful parenting that offers classes for children up to the age of 2 and their parents), like explaining diaper changes to your newborn and telling them when you’re about to pick them up — which admittedly does seem extremely silly at first, especially if you were raised differently, which most of us were.
But the idea is that as your kids get older, you’ll (hopefully!) have established a level of trust and respect with them that will lead to more authentic, connected relationships. I can already see it in my son — of course our relationship is not perfect and of course there are days when I am just not in the mood, but by and large, since he was a baby, I have tried to interact with him in a way that communicates, “I see you, and I hear you, and your thoughts and opinions matter, and also I am the parent and I will set boundaries and keep you safe and make sure you know you are loved.”
For anyone interested in exploring the realm of respectful parenting, there are now plenty of great people who can act as your guide. If you’ve already dabbled, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Lansbury or Robin Einzig, whose Facebook group, Visible Child, has helped me think about my parenting in a whole new way. But there are also several Instagram accounts that discuss respectful parenting in a way that is smart, accessible, and doesn’t talk down to parents. Here are the ones I recommend.
Instagram followers: 353,000
Jazmine McCoy, or Dr. Jazmine as she’s known on Instagram, is a Sacramento-area based clinical psychologist and mom of two whose list-based posts on The Mom Psychologist offer actionable, practical advice on topics like potty training, tantrums, and what to do when a child prefers one parent over the other. She’s also focused on breaking generational trauma and applying the tenets of gentle and respectful parenting to parents themselves — to wit, a recent post reminded parents, “You don’t have to enjoy all the small moments of parenting to give your child a good childhood.” On her website, themompsychologist.com, Dr. Jazmine offers workshops like the Positive Discipline Academy and an Ultimate Tantrum Guide ebook, as well as a private mom community called The Mom Sisterhood.
Instagram followers: 40,000
You’ve probably heard of the so-called Tiger Mom, popularized by Yale professor Amy Chua in her 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which espouses a strict and rigid style of parenting where the focus is almost solely on achievement and success. The term became associated predominantly with Asian parents, and the work of Iris Chen on her Untigering Instagram account is devoted to unraveling the harm that the Tiger Mom stereotype inflicted. Using quotes, memes, tweets, and comics, Chen gently challenges Asian parents to rethink their parenting methods — and give their own parents grace, as well. You can also buy her book, Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent, and join her membership community for more hands-on advice.
Instagram followers: 1 million
Known for her helpful scripts that guide parents through pretty much every possible scenario, the clinical psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy launched her Instagram account at the beginning of the pandemic and quickly became a go-to for help navigating the tricky toddler and young childhood years. Her relatable, lo-fi videos often draw on her own experience with her three young children, and she’s fond of reinforcing ideas such as “both things can be true” — as in, we need to leave the park, and you, toddler, are also allowed to be upset about it (but we’re still leaving). She’s also got an ever-growing number of paid workshops — ranging from “potty learning” to dealing with anxiety about returning to school — on her website, goodinside.com.
Instagram followers: 169,000
“Chancla Culture” refers to the sandal or flip-flop that Latina and/or immigrant mothers used to threaten or harm children who were misbehaving or not obeying. On Latinx Parenting, mom of three Leslie Priscilla Arreola-Hillenbrand posts tweets, artwork, and videos about gentle parenting with a Latinx lens and dismantling Chancla Culture — or as she puts it on her website, latinxparenting.org, “The movement to end Chancla Culture is about healing and reclamation.” Latinx Parenting also offers workshops and courses for individuals and organizations via its website.
Instagram followers: 2.3 million
Best friends Kristin Gallant, a parent coach, and Deena Margolin, a child therapist and parent coach, started Big Little Feelings on March 1, 2020, and almost immediately tapped into a community of parents desperate for solutions on things like navigating toddler tantrums and what to do when your 3-year-old doesn’t want to leave the park. Focused exclusively on ages 1 to 6, Big Little Feelings’ Instagram offers tons of practical advice mixed in with funny tweets (“By the age of 3, the average toddler has taken exactly 2 bites out of 372 bananas”) and Kristin’s relatable struggles with infertility. For those wanting more, they offer a $99 “Winning the Toddler Phase” course on their website, biglittlefeelings.com.
Instagram followers: 584,000
Another account borne out of the beginning of the pandemic, Curious Parenting is run by a team of three — creative director and former preschool educator Clementine Foxglove, her partner Maximilian Follner, and illustrator Victoria Fernández. Together, they post helpful tips and strategies for parents interested in everything from how little kids can help around the house to unlearning blame. Their posts are particularly helpful in terms of giving parents useful alternatives to common reactions and directions that parents give — i.e., instead of saying, “Don’t jump on the couch,” offer an alternative: “If you want to jump, you can do it on the floor or the trampoline.” On their website, curiousparenting.net, the team also offers paid digital downloads that go deeper into many of the principles on their Instagram.
Destini Ann’s Instagram bio reads: “Peaceful Parent; but Real AF.” Her relatable posts and videos on Instagram and TikTok — where she has 1.1 million followers — challenge the notion that gentle parenting is “YT-P-Pole sh*t,” showing how a Black single mom with two kids has put her own spin on a philosophy whose gurus are often white women. On her website, destiniann.com, she offers live workshops like Game Changing Discipline and Avoiding Power Struggles, as well as a Patreon where you can ask her questions directly.