In a world where the concept of parenting is often dominated by rigid rules, punishments, and strict discipline, a compassionate and empathetic approach is making waves: ‘Good Inside’ Parenting. Today’s parents are reflecting on their own childhoods and realizing that traditional parenting methods, which focused on rewards and punishments, negative reinforcement, shame and guilt, do not feel right to use with their own kids. The Good Inside philosophy advocates nurturing children with love, understanding, and respect, focusing on their emotional well-being and fostering a strong parent-child bond. In popular culture, “gentle parenting” is often misunderstood as permissive parenting, or parenting without limits or rules. “This is not the case. Good Inside parenting is not “gentle” parenting, but “sturdy” parenting.

In her book, Good Inside, Dr. Becky Kennedy, a parenting expert and psychologist who trained at Columbia University, focuses on setting limits, boundaries, safety, parental reflection, and sturdy leadership of parents. In this blog post, we will explore the essence of Good Inside parenting and its benefits for both parents and children.

Understanding ‘Good Inside’

Good Inside parenting is based on the principle that all children (and parents!) are good inside. During a particularly difficult parenting moment, you may have caught yourself thinking, “Why is my child being so disobedient? Why are they being so disrespectful? Why are they being [bad?].” Conversely, you may have thought to yourself, “I can’t believe I said that/thought that about my kid! I’m such a bad parent!”

Instead, Dr. Kennedy encourages us to think about behavior in the following terms,

“Why is my child, who is good inside, screaming at me?” “Why did my child, who is good inside, behave in that way?” And, when we yell at our kids, “I am a good parent, having a hard time.”

Fundamentally reframing “bad” behavior as good kids who are having a hard time changes the way we think about and respond to this behavior, and helps us to respond in a more compassionate (and helpful) manner.

Another important concept is that children are individuals with their own emotions, thoughts, and desires. Therefore, behavior is not “acting out.” All behavior is communicating a need, usually in a developmentally appropriate way. This is true for adults too! So, Good Inside parenting encourages parents to reflect on the developmental level of their child and ask, “What need is my child expressing?” For example, a three-year-old having a tantrum is not having a tantrum to be difficult, or to be “disobedient.” Rather, the child is responding to a situation in which they are experiencing extreme emotional dysregulation. Kids are born with the capacity for BIG feelings and have no coping strategies or cognitive abilities to handle these feelings! So tantrums are a normal part of that development. It is the parents’ job to provide and model that emotional regulation until the child is old enough and developed enough to do it for themselves.

Instead of using traditional disciplinary methods, Good Inside parenting emphasizes open communication, empathy, understanding, and boundaries to guide children towards positive behavior. Central to this approach is the belief that children learn best when parents set firm boundaries and act as sturdy guides of their children. Importantly, firm and sturdy parenting with boundaries is not punitive or fear based.

Key Principles of Good Inside Parenting

  1. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Good Inside parents strive to understand their children’s feelings and needs, helping them develop emotional intelligence. By validating their emotions, children learn to express themselves in healthy ways and develop a deeper sense of self-awareness.
  2. Positive Reinforcement: Instead of focusing on punishment for undesirable behavior, Good Inside emphasizes positive reinforcement for good behavior. Praising and acknowledging a child’s efforts and achievements build their self-esteem and motivation to continue behaving positively.
  3. Setting Boundaries and Sturdy Leadership: Good Inside parenting does not imply a lack of boundaries or discipline. On the contrary, it involves setting clear and age-appropriate limits and firm boundaries while respecting the child’s autonomy and individuality.
  4. Effective Communication: Open and honest communication is vital. Active listening and understanding children’s perspectives create a safe environment where they feel heard and valued.

Benefits of Good Inside Parenting

  1. Strong Parent-Child Bond: Good Inside parenting fosters a strong emotional connection between parents and children. This bond creates a sense of security, leading to increased trust and cooperation between both parties.
  2. Emotional Resilience and Frustration Tolerance: Children raised with empathy and compassion are more likely to develop emotional resilience and a positive self-image. They learn to handle negative emotions in a healthy manner and develop better coping mechanisms for life’s challenges.
  3. Reduced Behavioral Issues: By addressing the root causes of misbehavior rather than resorting to punishment, Good Inside parenting can lead to a reduction in behavioral issues. Children learn to understand the consequences of their actions, promoting more responsible decision-making.
  4. Enhanced Communication Skills: Good Inside parenting encourages open and respectful communication, which, in turn, improves children’s ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings. This skill proves invaluable as they navigate relationships and interactions throughout their lives.

Challenges and Misconceptions

Good Inside parenting, like any approach, is not without its challenges. One misconception is that Good Inside parenting is permissive and may lead to spoiled or entitled children. However, proponents assert that Good Inside parenting sets boundaries and expectations, albeit in a more compassionate manner. Again, it is not parenting without limits or rules, but setting rules and limits without anger and understanding developmentally appropriate responses to unmet needs,

Another misconception is that Good Inside parenting is overly time-consuming and exhausting. While it may require more patience and effort initially, many parents find that the long-term benefits, such as a harmonious family dynamic, outweigh the extra dedication required.

Good Inside parenting is a compassionate and understanding approach that prioritizes the emotional well-being of children. By nurturing a strong parent-child bond and focusing on empathy and respect, Good Inside parenting lays the foundation for emotionally intelligent, confident, and well-adjusted individuals. While it may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, incorporating elements of Good Inside parenting into any parenting style can undoubtedly have a positive impact on both children and parents alike. After all, raising emotionally healthy and compassionate children is perhaps one of the most rewarding journeys a parent can embark upon.

Learn more about therapy for parents.

Reference: Kennedy, B. (2022). Good Inside: A guide to becoming the parent you want to be. Harper Wave.

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