Adopting a More Peaceful Parenting Approach

Adopting a More Peaceful Parenting Approach

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 1:35 pm

Grace Essen

Grace Essen

By Grace Essen

For moms like me who have young children, it must have been two months of yelling, separating fights and dealing with lots of ‘misbehavior’ this long holiday. I was visiting with a friend few days ago and for the twenty minutes we spent together we had to pause more than five times for her to yell, spank, pacify or ask the senior to just let the junior one be, even when the junior was obviously the trouble maker! Same scenario plays out in my home too. What can we do when children having so much energy have but minimal activities to expend it on, unlike when schools are in session. We console ourselves that school will soon resume anyway, but at the same time beating ourselves up for not being “perfect” moms.

I stumbled onto a term, peaceful parenting recently and it sounded really interesting. I studied some materials from Peaceful Parent Institute and I thought to share what I learned.

Peaceful parenting is an approach that focuses on dealing with parenting challenges in a more constructive way. It makes us as parents aware of (1)what we’re modelling through our responses to our children, (2)the importance of trying to meet the underlying needs that may be driving the behaviour, (3)the skills that the child needs to develop for future situations and (4)the connection, care and warmth in the relationship. This contrasts with traditional parenting approaches which often focus on the child’s behaviour in isolation, often using punishment as a strategy for modifying behaviour.

The key principles of the peaceful parenting approach are based on a combination of the following:

Parenting without punishment

This approach encourages supporting children to make choices from a place of integrity, self-discipline and self-responsibility rather than fear of disapproval or desire for reward. Not only is this an alternative to punishment, it’s the only alternative that leads to long term peace and harmony in families and effectively meets children’s needs for emotional safety, security, developing emotional intelligence and fostering unconditional love.

Clear communication, boundaries and limits

Peaceful parenting encourages clear and patient communication and trust in the child’s basic goodness. When children don’t respond to us parents, instead of raising our voices or making a threat, we can make physical contact, come down to their level, touch them kindly, calmly get their attention, be clear about our expectations and ask them what they’ve understood. Limits should be set with confidence, giving children very clear understanding of what the limits are, while maintaining warm, connected and supportive relationship with them.

Mutual problem-solving

Adopting a democratic, mutual problem-solving approach to parenting takes both the parent and child out of the power struggle. This approach teaches parents to relate primarily to the feelings beneath the behaviour and to respond primarily to the feelings. When a child’s response shows upset, rather than criticizing them, we can show care for their feelings, “My son, you seem upset, come and tell me about it”. This helps children learn to identify their own feelings and increase their emotional intelligence.

Role modeling: Do as I do

One of the most profound ways that children learn is by watching our behaviour. When we use manipulation, threats, bribes or punishments of any kind, we are modeling to our children that this is what they should do and how they should be in relationships. Consequently, this will become their default mode in attempting to make others act the way they want them to act. In other words, they will naturally think and feel in terms of manipulating, bribing, threatening and punishing.

Why children behave ‘badly’

Aggressive or hyperactive behaviour, or speaking with “whining” tones, are generally symptoms of unmet needs. The child may be hungry or exhausted, may be overstimulated or they may have a need to release their pent up stresses and frustrations. It may well be an indication that there’s too much chaos and aggressive tones in the family and the child is feeling disconnected, defensive or overwhelmed. From the peaceful parenting perspective, we should seek to explore what the underlying needs may be that are driving the behaviour. When we give children the safety and permission to feel and express their feelings, children can return to balance and again live happily in the moment.

Parents also have needs

The parent’s need for emotional support and release is just as big and valid as the child’s and the first is actually a prerequisite for the second. Peaceful parenting puts into consideration how the patterns from our own childhood influence how we parent. Although most of us try our best to parent with patience and kindness, we must keep in mind that putting this principle into practice won’t come so easy and it will be unfair to expect ourselves to just be calm and non-critical when faced with parenting challenges without lots of practice, support and quite a lot of processing of our own emotional hurts. It is therefore important that we have the opportunity and support to process our own emotional hurts so that we can move in a more positive direction with our parenting.

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