Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Children Leading the Way


Recently I read an article on a parenting style referred to as “child-led parenting.” Simply put, “child-led parenting means the parent is in charge and makes the decisions but does so in response to the needs and wishes of the child.” The article indicated that this parenting style works for parents who recognize that children are not machines. This style requires the parent to make frequent adjustments to their expectations so that children’s feelings and needs are considered. One of the examples provided in the article was a child refusing to eat, where a parent practicing child-led parenting would react by putting the food away until the child is hungry or by offering another food choice. The parent’s ultimate goal is that the child eats healthy, but the parent is willing to compromise on when or what the child eats.

Do you have what it takes for child-led parenting?

What I like about this parenting style is that it takes into account the individualized needs of the child. It also requires parents to focus on the present. It seems to me that in order to truly assess and listen to the needs of their children, parents using child-led parenting would need to be present in the moment. Lastly, this parenting style would enhance the parent-child relationship as it lends itself to parents being responsive to their children.

In addition, I appreciate parents being able to compromise without giving up on what they see as important. I have often observed parents who become involved in extreme power struggles. These struggles typically involve parents insisting children follow the rules in order to demonstrate that they are in charge. In these situations parents identify compromise as weakness. However, in child-led parenting, parents use compromise to intentionally ensure the desired results are achieved. Choices provided by parents lead to what parents want for their children.

And though I see many benefits in this style of parenting, I could envision a potential pothole -parents taking the “easy way out.” Child-led parenting requires parents be responsive and still hold their own intention. At times parenting can be exhausting. In addition sometimes children’s challenging behaviors are reinforced when parents “give-in” to children versus dealing with the behavior. To avoid this unintended consequence, parents would need to be careful not to forfeit their own desired results as a means to eliminate children’s negative behaviors.

I typically state that there is no one right way to parent. I do wonder if child-led parenting comes close to being one way to parent, simply because it does take into account the individualized needs of the children while also supporting the intentions of parents. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Children Leading the Way

  1. I am the mother of 4 amazing children and while I find the concept of child led parenting interesting I wonder how effective it would be where there are multiple siblings.

    In my experience, children absolutely need to assert their own sense of power and giving them choices, usually only 2, I has worked pretty consistently with us. However there are times when power struggles within their own ranks will ensue and then it can be difficult to address the individual desires over the groups needs.

    Having been blessed with the opportunity to participate in the lives of my children and help them hone their spirits and gifts is one of my greatest joys. Watching them treat others with love empathy and respect is both humbling
    And heartfelt.

    Yes parenting is difficult and not every technique is flawless but using common sense and picking your battles has proven quite effective for my family. My advice is be present and try not to feel guilty every time you make a mistake. Learn from it and try a “do different” next time. After all these wonderful little beings don’t come with instructions, do they?

  2. This is interesting to me because it’s the approach we took without knowing there was a name for it. I always looked at it as being aware of and concerned for the child’s developmental age and needs, as well as being attentive to their own specific personality, level of emotion, etc. It was a bit tricky in that it means treating each child differently, and we often had to explain why sometimes there were difference consequences for the same behavior in different siblings (not only did we have to explain this to our kids, but also to a certain grandmother who had some very outdated ideas about parenting). I think many people, seeing it from the outside, would have thought we were simply permissive or ineffective. But in reality I think this parenting style led to mutual respect and closer relationships – kids appreciate it when an adult understands them and cares about them enough to be engaged fully through all the ups and downs – which is what was necessary for this style of parenting.
    -Amy at