What does "Compassionate Parenting" mean?

Compassionate Parenting

What do I mean by “compassionate parenting” and why did I choose this as the name of my practice?

The answer is that I like the flexibility of the term as it refers to practicing compassion for others, such as our children, and compassion for ourselves, or self-compassion. Compassion is necessary for our well-being and that of our children and in order to teach our children compassion, we first have to give it to ourselves.

Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell in Parenting From the Inside Out, describe compassion as “tenderhearted” (p. 224). Of compassion and parenting, they write,

“…parents can learn ways of being with their children that promote the development of empathy and compassionate understanding.


This way of being is rooted in a parent’s compassionate self-understanding. When we begin to know ourselves in an open and self-supportive way, we take the first step in the process that encourages our children to know themselves. This intentional stance, this attitude of being centered in self-awareness, is a purposeful, mindful approach toward parenting.” (p220)

Paul Gilbert says,

“The essence of compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living beings, coupled with a wish and an effort to relieve it.”

It is this wish and effort to relieve suffering that distinguishes compassion from empathy. The effort to relieve may be as simple but as significant as being present with someone in their sadness.

More about Self-Compassion

Kirstin Neff, a leading researcher, author and advocate of self-compassion, writes that self-compassion is comprised of three elements:

  1. Being kind to yourself.
  2. Recognizing that suffering is a shared human experience – we all feel isolated and imperfect sometimes.
  3. Being mindful – just noticing any feelings we have, whether they be of joy or pain, without trying to push them down (in the case of unwanted feelings) or hold on to them (in the case of feelings we like).

For more information on Kirstin Neff and her work, go to http://self-compassion.org


For More Information

on working together or attending one of my workshops.