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'AITA for telling my sister gentle parenting is BS and kicking her family out of my house?' UPDATED 4X

'AITA for telling my sister gentle parenting is BS and kicking her family out of my house?' UPDATED 4X


"AITJ for telling my sister gentle parenting is BS and kicking her and her family out of my house?"

My younger sister and her family, which includes her, her husband, and 2 kids (3F, 5M), were visiting my husband and I and staying at our home for a week. A little background: We don’t live in the same state. I’ve had kids of my own but they are young adults now and out of the house. My sister is much younger than me and is still in the young family stage.

We’ve always had a pretty close and good relationship despite our age gap. My sister does gentle parenting. I’d never heard of that before she came to stay with us because I guess I’m out of the loop since my kids are grown now. She explained to me that gentle parenting means they don’t do time out, don’t do grounding, etc. but instead just talk about their feelings.

I thought that was a bit odd because it sounds like there is zero discipline but didn’t say anything as to not rock the boat. Until I saw gentle parenting in action and was appalled. During the first two days of their stay, her daughter drew on my walls with crayon. And her son pulled up flowers I had recently planted in my garden bed and threw a rock at my car parked in the driveway.

To top it all off, they both kept constantly pulling my golden retrievers hair and hitting my dog in the face. My dog is very sweet and a little on the older side so she’s very calm. She never bit, attempted to bite, or did anything that would harm or spook the kids. In every instance, I was expecting my sister or her husband to discipline the kids. They never did. So I did. Or at least I tried.

Just me telling her kids to stop, or scolding them in the slightest made my sister lose her mind. She told me it’s not my place to discipline them. I told her someone has to because they’re messing up my home but I agree it should be their parents scolding them, however, it seems their parents are not willing to.

I told her they need a fairly stern punishment for what they’ve been doing and she started going off about how they refuse to spank their kids like we were spanked as kids. I told her I’m NOT suggesting she spank her kids but a stern talking to and making them clean up what they destroyed would be a good idea. She said what her kids were doing was not worth what I would call discipline.

All she did in every instance was ask them “what kind of feelings are you having that made you do that?” And that was it. So I realized this behavior was not going to stop and my husband and I told them they need to find a hotel or go home.

Even though we had planned for them to stay a full week, we couldn’t handle more than two days because of the gentle parenting. I told her the gentle parenting is going to cause her kids to have a very hard life and rude awakening someday, probably even j-il time.

She argued back and really lost it when I told her “this hippy dippy gentle parenting s-t is a scam and will ruin your kids life” which I regret now but boiled over in the moment. Now she won’t speak to me and our mom says I’m in the wrong for kicking them out when they planned on staying longer. Am I the jerk?

Commenters had a lot to say in response.

Jolly_Security_4771 wrote:

I ended a long friendship over this exact issue, only the kids were 100x worse and completely feral. Same utter lack of consequences, to the point where the kids had no friends and no one would babysit them.

One of the last visits involved the youngest going through my bags in the guest room and taking what he wanted. He took a whole box of what he thought were cookies because he couldn't read yet. They were dog treats, and he ate ALL of them.

istara wrote:

I've seen a few of these "gentle-parenting-goes-wrong" stories recently - all because they essentially involve zero actual parenting.

perfidious_snatch wrote:

They forgot the “parenting” part of gentle parenting.

Father-Son-HolyToast wrote:

It's interesting, the children in my life that are "gentle parented" (friends' kids and some of my nieces and nephews) are actually the best behaved kids I know. And they're particularly nice to animals, since their parents prioritize emotional intelligence in how they deal with others and emphasize empathy for animals they're interacting with.

I've seen the parents immediately redirect them if they do things like pull tails or chase shy cats, framing it through the lens of how they wouldn't like it if a giant manhandled them, and how it's important to respect when anyone (cats and dogs included) don't want to be touched.

From what I've seen, kids who are encouraged away from bad behavior through empathy-centered lessons are way less likely to want to do it again.

On the other hand, a kid who is just harshly ordered "stop that!!" without explanation may avoid the behavior when their parents are around because they don't want to be yelled at, but they'll be back to tail-pulling and kitty-chasing the second the feared authoritarian presence is out of sight, because they don't have a "why."

If the parents in this story are real, it sounds like they use the label of "gentle parenting" to just not deal with their kids at all, when in fact true gentle parenting is much more hands-on and involved than the traditional disciplinarian approach.

OP soon jumped on with an update.

Update: I read the comments. Sounds like my sisters version of gentle parenting is not actually gentle parenting. However, the real gentle parenting lots of you are describing still sounds like an odd choice of parenting in my view and if it was around when my kids were little I can’t imagine it would have worked on them.

I guess this new generation of parents are just doing things differently. Not sure how that’s going to work out in the long run for society but to each their own. The world isn’t gentle. How are all these gentle parented kids going to deal with the real world when someone yells at them or does any of the things gentle parenting doesn’t include?

If our world was a perfect utopia then gentle parenting sounds great but it isn’t and it’s not realistic to me. I don’t plan on ever inviting my sister over to stay at my home again if her kids will be with her, that is if she ever decides to even speak to me again. Which even after all this, I do hope our relationship is mended because she is still my sister. Just can’t deal with her kids.

The comments kept rolling in.

MyUserNameisMehhh wrote:

That's not gentle parenting, it's non existent parenting. Gentle parenting includes talking a lot, yes, but there are still consequences, just not any shouting or any, "Go to your F0KING ROOM!" or grounding and what not. Your sister and her husband are just shitheads who can't be f-ked enough to raise their kids.

Diodancer wrote:

NTA, their gentle parenting can have consequences without hitting out yelling. “You drew on the wall, so you need to clean it” “You pulled out a plant, so you need to replant it and apologize."

SweetFrostedJesus wrote:

But the key to OPs situation is to 'gentle parent' the parents right back. A cheerful: "Oh boy, there's crayon all over the wall. Someone needs to clean this up! We don't want to be bad guests now, do we? Come on [sister], grab that sponge and start scrubbing, unless maybe you think maybe the people who did the drawing should clean it up? What do YOU think?"

"Should I have to clean the wall? Nooooo, that doesn't make sense, I don't remember drawing on the wall. [Husband] did you draw on the wall? Nooooo, that doesn't make sense...Whooooooo drew on the wall?" Be an irritating s-t and gentle parent her until she picks up on it.

siren2040 wrote:

Just as a heads up, there is a difference between gentle parenting and permissive parenting. I've seen plenty of children that turn out very well behaved and very emotionally regulated thanks to gentle parenting, the kids that turn out like little monsters tend to be from permissive parenting.

Gentle parenting really just boils down to treating your child like a human being, and not acting like an authoritarian or a dictator, but instead a parent. A lot of people think those two mean the same thing, when they really don't. The examples you have seen, are probably examples of permissive parenting, not gentle parenting.

Two days later, OP shared another update.

Someone either sent my sister my original post or she is on here herself and saw it. She texted me a link to my post and said she can’t believe I’m airing our family drama online. She told me she was leaning towards working out our differences but now that I’ve posted it on here, she’s done, and blocked me. Since I can’t reach her by phone, I’ll address her on here since she’s clearly reading this.


I do love you and have always cherished our relationship but if you feel like you’re done then that’s ok, I can’t change your mind. Look at me talking about feelings, you should be proud. At this point I’m pretty done too so here it is.

You are family but that doesn’t mean I am going to be a pushover and allow your children to behave the way they did in my home, especially pulling Bella’s hair and smacking her in the face. That was animal ab-se. It was all completely unacceptable and I don’t understand how you allow them to behave the way you and Stephen allow them to.

Some people have suggested I send you a bill for the damage your kids caused but I’m not going to do that, I’ll pay for the repairs but only because I know this will never happen again since your kids are not welcome back at my home unless you drastically change your parenting style and finally implement legitimate discipline.

I’m still not saying you need to physically discipline them, but you need to do some form of actual discipline before it’s too late and their future is ruined. I don’t understand why you have decided to gentle parent (or whatever your form of gentle parenting is) and it has changed you as a person.

You don’t act the way you use to and now you are offended by everything and don’t agree with the way anyone else does anything. I just don’t understand what happened. I encourage you to look at some of the comments on the original post to prove to you 99% of people would have done exactly what I did in the situation and I was not just being harsh.

There has to be consequences for bad behavior or else you are doing your kids a disservice which is not kind on your part. When you read the comments, some have good parenting advice and others are harsh. But hey, that’s life, it’s not so gentle.

The internet continued to share their thoughts.

im_a_sleepy_human wrote:

What your sister and BIL are actually doing is what I call “dismissive parenting” They chose to ignore their children’s behavior, and call that gentle parenting. Tell her to actually get a book and read up on what gentle parenting certainly isn’t letting their kids get away with murder. It’s all about redirecting and lots of talking.

MrsRetiree2Be wrote:

Great letter, OP. I hope Allison takes the time to really read it. Allison, you and your husband owe your sister and her husband a huge apology. You owe your kids one as well for allowing them to behave like that. You are failing them.

mimi_3_1 wrote:

I’m sorry that your sister’s lack of parenting and lack of self-awareness has caused this rift. NONE of this is your fault. You have every right to protect your home, your pets, etc. Allison and her husband have absolutely NO CLUE what “gentle parenting” is. They are PERMISSIVE parents, not gentle.

Feeling_Fab_U-Lus wrote:

Kids need boundaries, rules and consequences for their well being, safety, to learn to be respectful, builds common sense, caring, empathy, and emotional intelligence to name a few. As a parent, and teacher from K-12+ mostly in alternative schools, GED and teaching DUI (DWI-drug and alcohol prevention) I saw 1st hand what her parenting will do.

The majority of my students that had parents like this had drug and alcohol issues as well as a criminal history. Allison, I can promise you any money you are saving for your children’s college fund will be used for bail money and lawyer fees. Don’t worry, pris-ns have visiting days.

Four days later, OP shared another update.

Allison (not her real name) finally reached out to me to talk.

She read some of the comments and sees that most people think she is neglecting her kids due to her parenting choices. She asked if I agree. I told her I think there could definitely be some changes in the way she parents.

She said she had tried gentle parenting but realizes now that she has gotten it wrong. I asked what her plan moving forward is. She apologized for the way her kids acted and said her and her husband have lost friends over the way her kids act because people don’t want to be around them.

She said this whole ordeal has been a wake up call. Allison said she’s going to try a different parenting style since gentle parenting didn’t pan out very well for her kids. She said she’s going to enforce punishment/consequences but still no corporal punishment. I said I think that’s great. Her worry is that the kids won’t take it well and it will cause even more problems.

I told her they’ll just have to get use to it. Apparently her husband was never in agreement with the gentle parenting and it has also caused marital issues due to the fact they didn’t see eye to eye on it. Now, her husband is happy she’s finally come around to some form of consequences and punishment for their kids. I told her I think she’s making a very wise decision.

I still am not happy about what her kids did to my house and dog but the fact she’s willing to change her parenting style so that doesn’t happen again makes me feel a lot less angry. And yes, I got Allison’s permission to post this update. We really were able to work things out. She really is a good person, just had a lapse in judgment in parenting.

Not long after posting, OP shared another small update.

Edit: Since this will be the last update/post on this issue by me, wanted to say something about the permissive parenting vs gentle parenting styles a lot of people commented about.

Gentle parenting how everyone is explaining in the comments sounds like the kid does something wrong, then the parent asks how they feel, then redirects them to a different task/activity, maybe tells them “no” but maybe doesn’t. And they call the redirection to a different task/activity the “discipline” or “natural consequence” part of gentle parenting.

That is the exact same thing as permissive parenting because there is still no legitimate punishment or consequence. I’ll agree that my sister wasn’t doing the form of gentle parenting everyone was describing because all she did was talk about feelings and left out the redirection and the possible “no, don’t do that”.

But even after reading all the comments, permissive parenting and gentle parenting sound very similar, if not the exact same. If kids are taught redirection is what happens when they do something wrong, they are going to be completely shocked and confused when there are real consequences and punishment and not just redirection or “natural consequences” in the real world.

If they grow up and steal a car, the cops arrest them, send them to j-il and make them pay a fine they will think it’s an incredibly harsh punishment and be shocked because all they were expecting was a “natural consequence” of returning the car to the owner and then moving on with their day.

The internet was invested in the outcome.

DangerousDave303 wrote:

It’s impressive that she’s come around. She’s going to have a tough time at first. Kids don’t always deal with changes well. She might benefit from family therapy to help her gradually transition to the new parenting style. Be supportive of her and let her vent occasionally. She’s gonna need it.

GingerBeerBear wrote:

I was going to suggest some form of family therapy. It's all very well to say, "I'm going to change my parenting style" but she needs to make sure that she's setting appropriate boundaries for her kids, and her and her husband need to be on the same page.

GoodBad626 wrote:

Glad to read she's opening her eyes to the issues. I'm a mom of 2 young men and we never spanked our children as punishment, hitting never works, just makes confused children and no lessons learned.

We used time outs in our kitchen for breather moments, so we all could take a min to collect ourselves, then have a discussion about what went on and how we could make better choices and or outcomes.

Learning there are consequences for ones actions, is not punishment, it's reality and how we raise well rounded young people. Any fighting over anything, they both lost it, life isn't fair and we taught our boys, the sooner they learn this, the easier life gets.

We taught our boys as they aged they were responsible for cleaning up their messes, and soon learned if they didn't make a huge toy mess, they didn't have to clean it up later. We added house chores around 10 with laundry and dishes and added other daily chores as they became teenagers, explaining that these things are part of life and it's easier to just do them them argue with me over them.

Or one day you will have same argument with your partner, taught them house chores are purple, (add, not just pink and blue) unless discussion between partners to make choices on chores together, to never expect anyone to clean up after your lazy selves, parents are to teach kids how to be responsible adults, not mommy them to then have fights with partner over who should clean up.

A month after moving in with roommates in university, my oldest texted me " why did you teach me what a clean house looks like" I told him cause I wanted him to be healthy in his home, apparently roommates not taught that stuff, they didn't even know they had to buy Toilet paper.

Parents that don't teach their kids, basic manners or skills they will need in life are the biggest problem we have in society, in my opinion. Especially with families that still enforce gender stereotypical roles, like women in the kitchen and doing all the kids raising, and men go to work.

This only works if its communicated between the couple and no one is left to do all the work while the other plays video games, for a example I've read more then a few times on here Barbara Coloroso book, kids are worth it and her other parenting books are great resources.

I even saw her at a conference, she has great real gentle parenting lessons and how to teach constructive criticism and consequences for all age groups. Good luck OP, hope your sister finds a better way forward and has help for the changes will not be easy but well worth it if she can nip the lack of manners and disruptive behavior in the bud.

overnumerousness9 wrote:

I’m not a parent but this didn’t sound like gentle parenting. It’s a good thing to discuss your kids emotions and feelings when they misbehave but your sister seems to have skipped the part where you teach empathy.

You also have to discuss with your kids how OTHER people feel as well and how others are affected by their behavior. Your sister is raising little narcissists who are only aware of their own feelings and think those feelings are justification to do whatever they want.

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