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What is Peaceful Parenting?

When people hear the term ‘Peaceful Parenting’, they sometimes assume it is a permissive style of parenting and want to run a mile; especially when they discover that it is about connecting with children and refraining from using shouting, time-outs, threats, punishments, and parent enforced consequences of any kind. Permissive parenting tends to raise kids who grow up to be entitled and anxious and who struggle to maintain friendships, so it is not an ideal way to parent. Peaceful parenting is not permissive at all, parents are in charge and kids are not allowed to just do as they please.

Punishments and parent enforced consequences (as opposed to natural consequences which work well to teach kids e.g., If you forget your lunch then you will be hungry), have also been shown to be ineffective at raising well-adjusted kids. Punishments don’t teach kids morality, or how to manage their emotions. Instead, they teach them to get good at not getting caught and to only do the right thing when someone is watching so they won’t get punished. It teaches kids to think more about how their behaviour will affect themselves than others e.g., kids think, ‘I won’t hit my brother because I don’t want to get punished’ instead of, ‘I won’t hit my brother because it will hurt him.’

Punishments and parent enforced consequences model to children that it’s OK to hurt someone smaller than you to get them to do things your way, they erode the relationship between parent and child and drive the child away from the influence of the parent. The child doesn’t believe the parent has their best interests at heart because if they did, they wouldn’t hurt them. Parents and kids are then set up against each other in a miserable battle of wills where no one wins. Kids loose trust in their parents, they feel alone, and they are less likely to go to them when they have a problem. This is devastating because as kids grow older, your relationship with your kids is all you have as a means of influencing them.

Peaceful parenting on the other hand allows parents to teach kids the lessons they want to teach whilst maintaining a strong parent-child connection. Peaceful parenting raises children who chose to do the right thing even when no one is watching and who feel safe to tell their parents the truth. Peaceful parents are the leaders in their homes but they are the kind of leader you would like to have, one that is respectful, kind and always gives you the benefit of the doubt when you are struggling and works with you to help you to get back on track.

Peaceful Parents set limits with empathy

In peaceful parenting, kids don’t always get what they want, but their desires and feelings are always acknowledged and validated even as the parent says ‘no’. For example, you might say ’no’ to your child eating chocolate before dinner but you still acknowledge how your child feels about not getting the chocolate and allow them to have their feelings even as you stick to your ‘no’ e.g.,

“You wish it was time for chocolate and not dinner, I get that, chocolate is yummy. We need to wait until after dinner for chocolate, but you could munch on this pepper or carrot while you wait for dinner.”

Your child might say, “OK, I’ll have a piece of pepper” and then it’s all good, but what if they get angry and say, “No! you are so mean, give me the chocolate!”

They are not being a brat, or turning into a brat, they are an immature human who doesn’t yet have the skills to express their emotions in appropriate ways when they are upset. If we shut them down by saying, “Don’t speak to me like that! Go out of the room until you can be respectful." You have just taken away the only method they currently have of showing you how they feel. They will feel misunderstood, resentful and will be forced to turn that anger inward onto themselves and feel like a bad person for feeling angry.

We think we are teaching them a lesson by sending them away, we assume that they will go and process the feeling and figure it out on their own and come back all polite and know how to handle their emotions better, but that is like sending them away to learn how to do algebra by themselves with no teaching, books or guidance, it’s not possible. They might come back and be polite, so that you will allow them back into your presence and good graces but they will not have processed their feelings, or learned how to process their feelings, they will have stuffed them down where they are no longer under conscious control, and lie ready to drive emotional outbursts and misbehaviour in the future.

Children learn how to manage their emotions and express them appropriately through our modelling and acceptance of all their feelings. Feelings and emotions drive behaviour, so once we help children to manage their feelings better, they are then able to manage their behaviour better. In the above example, we could first calm ourselves by taking a few deep breaths and reminding ourselves that our child is acting like a child because she is a child, and it is normal. Then we might be able to not take what she says personally and remain the leader; we could say, “Wow! you really, really want the chocolate and you’re so upset with me for saying no. I know it seems like I’m being mean, but I wouldn’t feel like a good mum/dad if I let you fill up on chocolate before dinner, you are allowed to be angry with me.”

When children feel heard and validated, they are more likely to accept our limit and work with us on finding something else they can snack on or do while they wait. This builds resilience and self-discipline. Kids also learn that although their feelings can be big and overwhelming at times, they are not dangerous, they are manageable, and their parent will always understand and help.

Peaceful parents look for the unmet need or feeling driving misbehaviour

When they are not acting how you would like, instead of getting angry at your kids, get curious. Look for the unmet need or feeling underlying their behaviour. Are they tired, hungry, angry, lonely? Do they need more connection time with you? More autonomy? Skill building? Are they feeling afraid? Do they just need to cry in your safe loving presence? Misbehaviour is never the real problem; it is the symptom, a cry for help. If you can answer your child’s cry for help, their behaviour will improve.

Being Firm and Kind takes practise

Many parents struggle not to become permissive when they first make the switch to peaceful parenting. Most of us were not raised this way, so it is hard to be kind, understanding, see things from our child’s point of view at the same time as enforcing firm limits. If you are finding it challenging to set limits in a peaceful way, reach out to me for some coaching and I can guide you through.

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