Ask The Expert: Respectful Parenting with Raised with Wonder

Share on WhatsApp Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

‘I’m starting to sound just like my mother!’ Anyone hearing snippets of your own mother’s voice when relating to your own children? Whether it’s a parenting style you would love to continue or discontinue, you are now free to choose your own path, break any unhealthy generational cycles, and take on new parenting methods that you feel would be best for your children.

Find out more about the respectful parenting approach, a modern way of parenting that many are now embracing with the aim of raising secure, resilient and joyful children. 

Source: Raised with Wonder

We invited parent educators and founders of respectful parenting platform Raised with WonderCarmen Chan and Justina Chen, to clear up our many questions on everything to do with respectful parenting.

Here are the key takeaways:

Respectful parenting, not permissive parenting

Spare the rod, spoil the child! This proverb may have been a guiding principle for some of our parents, but modern research suggests that this may wind up doing more harm than good. There are other more positive and respectful parenting methods that can be employed, while still incorporating firmness, clear boundaries, and consequences to ensure a well-adjusted (and unspoilt) child.

  • Physical punishment 

Some argue that they were spanked as a child and they turned out ok. What are your thoughts?


I think the statement about them turning out fine comes from a place of not knowing. Not knowing the incredible breadth and years of research on the many harmful effects spanking has on children and their development; increased aggression, antisocial behaviour, physical injury and mental health problems, just to name a few. And maybe, also not knowing the effects of spanking on themselves.

I guess this statement can be likened to parents letting their children drink alcohol and they grew up fine – but that doesn’t make it a good way to parent.

I personally have used spanking before and have decided to move away because even with “controlled spanking”, I find myself resorting to it almost always and it usually escalates to uncontrolled hitting. It also makes a lot of sense to me that if hitting an adult is categorised as abuse, then it doesn’t make sense to hit a child and call it discipline.

  • Setting boundaries

How can I practice respectful parenting while still enforcing boundaries and not letting my child step all over me?


Boundaries and limitations are very, very important when we practice respectful parenting. We enforce boundaries to show safe and unsafe behaviour, appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. We acknowledge the feelings, but we stop the behaviour. In essence, all feelings are okay, but not all behaviours are okay. 

We need to be very clear about why we are setting and holding those boundaries. Some of the reasons why we set boundaries are for:

  • Safety reasons– We don’t want our children to hurt other people or hurt us.  
  • Health or hygiene reasons– For example, needing to have a bath, brushing teeth, changing dirty diapers, healthy meals etc.
  • Personal reasons– For example, you may be feeling very tired that day, and it’s okay to set a boundary to not have to read the story book for the eleventh time that day!
  • Sense of entitlement

How do we gift things like toys/books/food treats to our kids without making them entitled?


I think many of us worry about spoiling our children. At the core of this question is: how do we help our kids learn gratitude and generosity? And just like other values, this is something that is more caught than taught – meaning that our children understand gratitude and generosity when they see us modelling it in our own lives.

  • Genuinely giving

One of the ways to model this is in the way we give. When we give gifts, we do it out of a genuine place of love and generosity. We don’t attach conditions to the gift like “I’ll only buy you that pencil box if you get all As for Maths”. Paradoxically, this type of gift giving is more likely to create a sense of entitlement as children learn that they are entitled to certain things when they ‘earn’ it.

  • Modelling gratitude 

We can model gratitude by receiving things with genuine thanks. This could sound like “I am so thankful to Aunty Amy for the book she bought for my birthday. She remembered me saying that I wanted to read it.” Our attitude towards giving and receiving goes a long way towards forming our children’s own attitude towards gifts.

Empathy is key

Temper tantrums and moody meltdowns on the daily? If you feel that your child is  being ‘unreasonable’ or acting ‘uncontrollable’, take a deep breath, try and see things from their perspective, draw necessary boundaries, and lovingly hold their hand through their big emotions. 

My child often cries or acts up to get their way. I don’t usually give in and will sit with them to give them space, but the tantrums are long, loud and exhausting – and nothing seems to change! What more can I do?


Your first and most important job is to make sure you are well-regulated. What I like to do is to take some really deep breaths and to tell myself a mantra.

Most of the magic happens outside those moments of survival, when you and your child are calm. That’s when you can help your child to build the skills for coping with their feelings the next time. One way you can do this is to help them to understand the story of their big feelings. 

How do I empower my child to be independent and stand up for themselves?


  • Support, without taking over

In terms of helping children become independent, a key is to respect your child’s struggle and know that it is through those struggles that they learn. It’s natural to want to make things easy for your child and take away the suffering, or make things go quicker, but it’s in the struggle that they have the space to wrestle with their own problems and in turn, develop skills. That being said, it doesn’t mean we don’t support them in their struggles. 

  • Acknowledge and empathise

One way to support your child in any struggle is to empathise with them. Your child won’t always be determined, and might get frustrated or upset in the process. Think of yourself when you’re trying to figure out something new, or when you happen to be in conflict with others. That uncomfortable feeling of frustration, helplessness or even anger might come up in you – what more, a little child who has to face so many things that are new to them.

What you can do during this time of upset emotions is to empathise with your child. Acknowledge that “I know this must be so hard for you. I’m here for you.” When children feel seen and heard, it empowers them to face those challenging situations again.

  • Practice

Practice is key to helping children stand up for themselves and often, this practice starts at home. It could be honouring your child’s “no” when they don’t want to be treated in a certain way. Practice can also look like brainstorming with your child about what they could do in situations where they can stand up for themselves and role-playing this using dolls.

Independence and developing the skill to stand up for themselves takes time, depending on your child’s temperament – but with your support, they will know that they are not alone.

Navigating differing parenting approaches 

You’ve chosen your parenting principles and approaches, but everyone else seems to be ‘messing it up!’ Justina comforts us by sharing that, “we have to accept that not everyone in our world has the same approach to raising children and we can also reassured that as parents, we are the primary influence in our children’s lives.” 

Although I’m practicing respectful parenting, the people around me (grandparents, daycare, domestic helpers etc) aren’t! What can I do?


One of the things you can do is to draw up a list of negotiable and non-negotiable areas relating to your child. For example, a non-negotiable area might be consent. This might look like not forcing your child to give or receive touches from anyone, if they are not comfortable. This is a case of picking your battles, so you could speak to your child’s alternate caregivers, thanking them for the care they give your child and letting them know that you would like them to respect certain non-negotiables, like not forcing a hug.

The most powerful intervention we have is to live out the values we want to see in others. Continue to model respect to your child and trust that your child’s other caregivers are trying their best too. In time, they may be open to learning a different approach, simply by observing the way you are with your child.

Elaine is a mummy of two who moved from the financial world to become an early childhood educator. She loves travelling, books and her cup of tea to unwind after a long day of diapers, school runs and pretend play.