What is ‘sturdy parenting’? Child psychologist Dr Becky explains the benefits of this technique

Sturdy parenting 'truly changes lives', according to the expert

A woman and toddler holding hands while walking through a field
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're at a loss when it comes to disciplining your kids, sturdy parenting might help - and it's approved by child psychologist Dr Becky.

With so many different parenting styles to choose from, it's difficult for mums and dads to know which one will best fit their family. From the empathetic gentle parenting to the more strict authoritative parenting style, there's no right or wrong choice, but that doesn't make it any easier to know how best to discipline your child.

'Sturdy parenting' is one parenting style you may not have heard of before. Fortunately, child psychologist and author of Good Inside Dr Becky Kennedy has explained it - so you can decide whethere this particular parenting style is the one for you.

Posting on Instagram, she explained that sturdy leaders "prioritise connection and set boundaries to effectively change behaviour" - sounds good, right?

Explaining further in the caption, Dr Becky says, "When we’re able to validate feelings and hold boundaries, we stay connected to our kids and build the skills they need to actually change behavior. This is the kind of parenting that builds strong relationships… breaks intergenerational cycles… and truly changes lives."

What is sturdy parenting?

A post shared by Dr. Becky

A photo posted by drbeckyatgoodinside on

Using the example of a child throwing a football across the room after being told not to, Dr Becky compares three different parenting styles and how they would respond:

  1. Punishment parenting: You say, "If you do that again, no dessert tonight." Dr Becky says this is not effective in teaching skills to change behaviour and creates fear.
  2. Permissive parenting: You say, "Throwing is so fun! We throw outside, not inside." While this maintains connection, it gives no boundary and is therefore also not effective in teaching skills to change behaviour.
  3. Sturdy parenting: You say, "I won't let you throw that ball here. I'm going to take the ball because it's too hard to see it inside and not throw it. You're a good kid, you can throw it outside later."

The impact of the sturdy parenting response, Dr Becky says, is that it both maintains connection and sets a firm boundary, which leads to effective behaviour change.

And many of her followers were grateful for the advice. One wrote under the post, "Loved seeing the difference!" while another said, "So helpful, thank you!!" and one added, "Examples are sooooo helpful. Love this!"

But not everyone agrees. One user commented, "Sturdy parenting is actually punishment in disguise to appeal to the authoritarian parents", while another said, "How is Number 2 permissive?! it sets the boundary by saying that we don’t throw the ball outside."

Others questioned how they could apply the technique to other scenarios, with one writing, "I love this, but what if there isn’t a removable thing. Like playing too hard with their sibling?"

In other parenting news, one expert has claimed that kids 'learn nothing' from being told to say sorry - here's how you can teach them to apologise in different ways. Elsewhere, psychologists swear by this acronym to navigate those tough parenting moments and this is why your teenager thinks you don’t understand them - and how to respond when they yell ‘You don’t understand me!’ in an argument.

Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.