Peaceful parenting can seem like an elusive, abstract idea that is clear and wise in hindsight, after the dust of drama settles. But in a moment of struggle with a young child whose mind and body seem bent on opposing everything you want and need in that moment, remaining truly peaceful is your white whale.
There are three major commitments you are making when you decide to embrace peaceful parenting.
- Instead of punishment and reward, coercion, and bribery, you are patiently tending to an environment, a communication style, and a relationship that brings forth the goodness of the child by way of reason, logic, well thought out ground rules, room for practice, trial and error, forgiveness, and trust.
- How you respond to your child is your choice and you aim to respond with love, kindness, logic, and reason, even when the situation is chaotic and difficult.
- The daily dynamic between you and your child and the relationship you are building with your child is of the utmost importance, and you prioritize this relationship over pretty much everything else.
These are the three basic principles of peaceful parenting.
“Peaceful Parenting is about turning the spotlight inwards at least 50% of the time, and hopefully much, much more.” – Avital “the parenting junkie”
If you embrace these three ideas and you can turn inward (at least 50% of the time), you are walking the path of peaceful parenting, and yes, it might be very steep and gravelly indeed.
Why is it so hard?
- You are choosing to avoid punishments and rewards: Manipulating and coercion is easy when you dangle reward, candy, and stickers in front of your child. It’s much harder to be present, accept the behavior and decide to respond, not react, and find a logical, reasonable way forward. You have to remain peaceful and not use the crutch of reward and punishment when your child is triggering you and pushing your buttons.
- We are taking 100% of the responsibility for how things go. It’s harder to take control of our own reactivity than it is to take control of a young child. In the end, how the whole thing plays out is on you because you are the adult. The feelings of failure and disappointment that come up when things don’t go well can be heavy on you.
- You are part of a fringe group, you are not the norm; the majority of parents spank, or use time out, and/or use coercion, and/or embrace authoritarianism. Not only is this path you’ve chosen putting you in the minority, but chances are you were not raised in the peaceful environment that you are trying to manifest for your family. This is not a criticism nor is it an egotistical grasp at being better than other parents in the neighborhood. It’s simply a fact that for some, you are an outlier in your own family, or community, and this makes you somewhat of a pioneer, an explorer…
You are exploring new ways, new words, new ideas, as you go. And you might feel alone in this, especially if your friends and family remind you that “time out really works!’ and “I was spanked as a child and I turned out just fine…” and “you’re not here to be her friend; you are here to be her mom…”. The advice from loved ones is well intended, but it can be isolating if the support you are receiving is not actually the support you want or need.
With the tips above, you can start making small changes to become a more peaceful parent.
Do you have tips that work for your during moments of duress with your children? Share them in the comments below.
About the Author
Natalie Baginski is Head of School at Toddlers on the Hill in Washington, DC. She writes about toddlers, peaceful parenting and Montessori philosophy.