With a quick scroll through TikTok, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some of the latest viral trends, bizarre “challenges,” or newest health and beauty techniques. But a heated debated on gentle parenting? Yep, these days TikTok is good for that, too.
Fact: Parents should never be judged for the parenting style they choose (as long as they are doing what they believe is in the best interest for their child). And yet, here we are. Gentle parenting is simply the latest topic that’s captivated some misinformed people as debates rage on across all platforms — from Whoopi Goldberg publicly laughing at a TikTok mom on TV to others coming to her defense online.
Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a gentle parenting guru and author of 13 parenting books including The Gentle Parenting Book: How to Raise Calmer, Happier Children From Birth to Seven, explains the method as, “basically, it means treating your kids in the way you would have liked to have been treated by your parents when you were a child,” she tells Scary Mommy.
Sounds harmless enough, but Kelly Medina Enos is one mom who recently found out just how controversial this parenting style can be after sharing what she thought was a helpful TikTok video. In the clip, the 31-year-old self-described gentle parent explains how to stop constantly saying “no” to your child all day, every day. “Hope this helps, it’s helped us MASSIVELY!” she writes in the caption along with a hashtag about moms supporting moms.
In this TikTok, she offers an alternative to moms and dads who are sick of disciplining their kids by constantly saying things like, “No, get down from there” or “No, don’t climb on that.”
Instead of those goodies — or the exasperated “No, just get down!” — Enos shares phrases that she says have worked wonders for her family. For example, “Feet on the floor, please!” or asking “How are you going to get down from there?”
In addition to the 224 commenters who debated her method, The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg caught wind of Enos’ TikTok. She had such a strong reaction to this mom’s tips that Goldberg used her talk show platform to bring it up earlier this month — and completely laugh at the entire approach. “A mom on TikTok is going viral because she’s making the case for....” Goldberg said before she busted out laughing, unable to finishing the sentence before adding in a tone that can be described as mocking, “... for so called gentle parenting where you go beyond just saying no to your child.”
After playing Enos’ TikTok, Goldberg asked her panel of co-hosts, “Honestly, is that really a realistic approach when your children are acting up?” And with that, Goldberg reignited the gentle parenting debate both on and off the show.
Ockwell-Smith, who is also an experienced parenting coach with a background in psychology as well as clinical research, thinks this concept keeps getting people amped up simply because they don’t understand what it actually is. “The word ‘gentle’ makes it sound alternative and as if there is no discipline involved,” she says. “Neither is true.”
But that doesn’t stop what she considers to be a complete misconception from being fueled — with renewed energy. “This is almost solely down to TikTok and influencers creating 60-second videos with extreme examples to grab attention and go viral — just like The View, who fell prey to it,” she says. “The thing is, it’s not new or trendy at all; people have been parenting this way for thousands of years.”
And some of the gentle parenting mamas of TikTok are speaking out.
This includes Enos, who in true gentle fashion, shared a direct message for Goldberg after finding out that her video was used on The View. “Wow ... there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding gentle parenting. ... I get it, people that don’t understand it,” she starts off, even giving Goldberg the benefit of the doubt that she, like others, hears the word “gentle” and thinks there’s no parental authority.
“It’s really not like that. We still discipline our child, but we do it out of respect and love rather than shouting and smacking our child,” she clarifies. “And it really works for me — and hell of a lot of other people.”
But Ockwell-Smith sees Goldberg’s reaction as disrespectful and hopes this is an opportunity to also teach how to treat fellow parents. “It’s not cool to mock mothers. Whether you agree with their parenting styles or not, she was seriously rude,” adds Ockwell-Smith.
Enos says that she doesn’t expect everyone to automatically understand or even agree with gentle parenting but she was simply trying to help parents across the world with tips that have worked for her. “However, I am upset that I was mocked for the style I have chosen that works best for me and my child,” she says. “I was disappointed to be mocked on a national show for it.”
She says she would never dream of making fun of another person’s parenting style (or accent). And at the very least, she “would’ve liked to have seen some diversity on the subject” to represent alternative points of view, instead of a celebrity laughing at her. “At the end of the day, I’m just a mom… doing my best,” she adds.