An edited version of this blog post first appeared on the Nurture Network blog on 4th February 2021
When most people hear the term “Peaceful Parenting” they assume that it means giving control to the children in the family; never saying no, never giving boundaries and avoiding upsetting children at all costs.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many parents that I know were raised in an authoritarian style, where rules were handed out by parents with an expectation that they would be followed. The reason for the rule probably wasn’t understood (and definitely not questioned), and not following rules meant punishment as a consequence. Punishments could have included being smacked, being shouted at, having things taken away or being grounded.
Of course, the opposite to this traditional parenting style is permissive. This is where parents don’t set any rules, give no consequences and children are left to figure out how they should behave.
Peaceful Parenting is neither of these.
What Is Peaceful Parenting?
In the Peaceful Parenting model, parents work with their children. The needs and wants of everyone in the family are taken into account, whilst setting clear boundaries. Children don’t “get their own way”, but how they feel and what they need is recognised. Children are respected and treated as human beings in their own right.
The result is a calm and happy household where each family member is respected and has their own voice. It might sound too good to be true, but it’s absolutely possible!
Why Children “Misbehave”
One of the first steps to becoming a peaceful parent is to recognise why children “misbehave” in the first place. There are three reasons:
- Attempting to fill a legitimate need
- A lack of information
- Strong feelings are being experienced
So, what does this look like in practice? Let’s say your two-year-old keeps climbing on the table. You’re annoyed because you’ve asked them many times not to. The child is misbehaving, yes? Not necessarily. Your two-year-old could be climbing on the table because they want to be higher up to see out of the window, or to be at the same level as the adults around the table: filling a need. Or they don’t understand that they will hurt themselves if they fall: they lack information.
In an authoritarian style of parenting, we’d tell the child to get down and maybe shout at them. If they persisted, we’d take away a toy or maybe put them in time out. Imagine you are that two-year-old; you don’t know why you can’t climb on the table and no one has asked why you’d like to. You’ve had something taken away from you that is completely unrelated to the table, which is just confusing!
Setting Boundaries, Peacefully
In the Peaceful Parenting style, we’d approach this differently. First, do we really not want the child on the table for an actual reason or just because they “shouldn’t” be up there? Set your limits (we call these “loving limits”) based on your actual needs and wants. Maybe if the table is clean and not set for a meal, it’s actually fine with you for them to be up there with some help. Or maybe for you, this is not negotiable. Both are ok and limits will look different for every family!
When we set these loving limits, we want to do so in a calm and concise way. We state what we see and what we want using “I statements”. Something like “I can see that you’re climbing on the table. I’m worried that you’re going to fall and hurt yourself. I need you to get down.”
In this case the child might get upset, they’re feeling frustrated. That’s ok, you can still be firm with your limit and feel empathy with your child. You can say, “I know that you’re upset you can’t climb up there, you really like climbing, don’t you? Well done for getting those big feelings out.”
It’s Ok To Have Emotions!
Where Peaceful Parenting differs from a more traditional style of parenting, is that we want children to express their emotions. It’s ok to be annoyed, or upset, or frustrated when they can’t do something. That doesn’t mean the parent gives in, it means that the parent listens to the child’s feelings and empathises: “I know that you’re annoyed that we can’t get the bricks out right now, you really wanted to build something. I can’t let you because we’re going to Granny’s right now.”
Setting these limits, whilst empathising with our children, allows children to grow up feeling respected, listened to, aware of the importance of boundaries and having the ability to set their own.
Want To Know More?
I do have more blog posts planned around the topic of Peaceful Parenting, but if you’d like to work with me on an individual basis to explore how it could benefit your family please do get in touch.