Peaceful Parenting

peaceful parenting

Whether you’re transitioning to a more peaceful parenting style or you have a longstanding commitment to parenting with respect, this post is for you.

Parenting with empathy and love is the most important thing we can do for our families and for society as a whole.  There is nothing more vital than our children’s wellbeing.  Peaceful parenting helps our children grow into kind, confident, creative people.

But peaceful parenting (perfect parenting?) is an unattainable goal at times.  An ideal we never quite reach.

We mamas can be so hard on ourselves (and sometimes on each other).  But we all mess up.  We all have moments when we react instead of respond.

This post is about getting back on track when you veer from the path of peaceful parenting.

Intention vs Reality

In my last post, I advocated for unconditional parenting.  I wrote that we should show our children unconditional love regardless of their behavior.

The next day, I did the exact opposite.

When my toddler bruised my temple with a block (that kid has an arm), I reacted instead of responding.  I grabbed his arm, scolded him, and left the room.  I sat on the opposite side of a glass door while he cried.

Everything I know not to do.

There can be such a gulf between knowledge and kneejerk reaction.

Go easy on yourself.

What I did was unacceptable.  But I have to accept it, and move forward.

Sometimes we need to hold two opposing thoughts and accept that both are true.

It’s not okay to hurt children, to speak harshly, to withhold love as a form of punishment.

But it’s okay to be human.  To feel triggered.  To mess up sometimes.

So what now?

What can you do after reacting in anger?

Cool Off

Before you can do anything, you need to calm down.

It may help to get some space.  Let your kids know (after you’re calm, if necessary, but ideally before you step away) that you’re doing this so that you can calm down — not as punishment.

I stepped outside for a minute and took some deep breaths.  Not an ideal response, since this was more upsetting to my son than anything, but sometimes we just need a moment to reset.

Get Support

If possible, ask someone else to give your kid some love while you calm down.  I try not to leave my son alone when he’s upset, but I’ll leave him with his Papa if I need a moment.

It may also help to talk to someone.  There was no one else around when this happened, but I texted my friends and cousins for support.  Their kind words helped calm the guilt and anger that were swirling through my chest.

If you react in anger on a daily basis, consider counseling and/or a listening partnership to better regulate your own emotions.  It can be so difficult to stay calm in the face of huge emotions, especially if you didn’t experience peaceful parenting as a kid.  But it’s possible.  You can break the cycle.

Make room for whatever helps you be a better parent.  Daily exercise, yoga, meditation, time with friends — whatever helps you.

Apologize

As soon as I had my temper under control, I offered my son a wholehearted apology.  And because toddlers are beautifully forgiving, he rushed me with a hug.

Apologizing sets a good example.  It shows kids that even parents, these nigh-infallible gods (from a toddler’s perspective) make mistakes.  And more importantly, it models how to own your mistakes and make amends.

But the most important thing about an apology is that it sets the stage for reconnecting.  Chances are, your child acted out because they felt disconnected from you.  My son threw a block at my head when I was talking to my grandma on the phone, because I had been on the phone all morning instead of being present with him.

Identify Triggers

Look at what triggered your reaction and what drove your child’s behavior.

My trigger was the pain and surprise of having a hunk of wood hurled at my temple.

My toddler’s behavior stemmed from a lack of connection, feeling ignored and frustrated.

And there were other factors underlying both of our moods.  Hunger, a morning inside, pent-up energy, isolation.  Lots of things I can focus on to set us up for better mornings.

Set an Intention

Once you’ve identified everyone’s triggers, ask yourself how to avoid a repeat situation.  Meet your needs and theirs before things get desperate. 

Personally, I could have been more tuned in to what my son was feeling.  He was communicating his frustration long before he chucked a block at me.  I could have gotten off the phone with my grandma and given him the attention he needed.

I need to do everything I can to support both of us.  Healthy (and timely) meals, plenty of time outside, time with friends.

But let’s be real.  Even if I do everything “right”, there will be times that my toddler throws things, or hits, or screams.  Growing up is tough!

How can you parent peacefully, even when triggers do arise? 

Take a deep breath (or several) and don’t react (unless a kneejerk reaction is necessary to keep someone safe).  When that initial flash of anger has cooled, look at the underlying need driving your child’s behavior.

Respond with love.

Recommended Reading

The following are affiliate links.  If you use one to purchase something through Amazon, I earn a small commission.  Thank you!

        

If there are other peaceful parenting books or blogs that have helped you, please share in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Peaceful Parenting

  1. So had you responded as you feel would have been correct, how would it have taught him that throwing blocks at you is a bad way to get your attention or that him getting attention is not your highest and best use or that patience and non-violence are positive attributes?

    1. Hi Joshua! Thank you for your question.

      As far as teaching patience and non-violence as positive attributes, I think children can only learn that by seeing it consistently modeled. We can’t expect our children to be patient or non-violent if we’re not modeling that ourselves. And the most important time to model that is in our responses to them.

      For the more specific problem of throwing hard objects, I think that redirection is better in the long run. But it’s not realistic to expect a toddler to be in control of their emotions and actions all the time, so harsher forms of correction damage the parent-child relationship without having positive longterm effects.

      I’m not sure I understand your middle question, as I do think that giving him my loving attention is my highest purpose. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have other things that matter to me or that I don’t mess up sometimes, but my son is my priority. Always.

      I hope that helps. I’d be happy to answer any further questions. I’d also recommend Unconditional Parenting if you want to understand why parents would choose to partner with their children over trying to control them.

  2. I think it is realistic to expect that a toddler doesn’t express his lack of control by throwing things at people. The problem with children is that they are fundamentally imbalanced and unmodulated. The wrong things are triggers and their response is outsized. Humans are good at finding causality where only correlation exists and drawing the wrong conclusion. Children are even better at drawing the wrong conclusion. So I wonder if what he will learn from the incident is that throwing the block works and that it is thus pragmatically correct when he isn’t getting his way.
    I’m not sure what a neo-hippie is, but it would seem like giving him *that* amount of attention would be akin to being a helicopter parent. I would think a neo-hippie would prefer to let him explore on his own a bit more.
    I love the bit about apologizing to him for what you thought was an unwarranted aggression. My wife and I have apologized so many times to our four. I never expected that before I was a dad. Modeling how we want them to behave is incredibly important. How that happens changes over time based on what they understand. An infant doesn’t understand your fulminations on correct attitude. They understand proximity to mom and hunger. A toddler understands more but unfortunately, the time in their life that they do the most dangerous things is also the time that they understand force best. They need to understand that dangerous pursuits have negative consequences. Sorry, but the only way to enforce that at that time is physically. It may be abhorrent to you but I am going to spank my children. Calmly and restrained by great empathy, but firmly. The key, for us, is to enforce in their minds that my love and acceptance for them is related to my position as their dad and as long as I am their dad, I will love them. To this end, I quiz them in other times, Why do I love you? And they know the answer is not related in the slightest to their performance. So when they make it clear over time that they refuse to heed our repeated admonitions, they make it clear that the only way to teach them to avoid the specific dangerous pursuit is with a quick, calm, and structured, spanking. Because this is how life works. This is how the physical world around them responds to dumb ideas.
    The funny thing is, had my toddler chucked a block at my head, I probably would have done even less than you did. I would have firmly stated do not throw blocks at people, explained that it hurts the one that he loves and doesn’t want to hurt and moved on. If it happened again, there would be a stronger response. If it becomes a practice, there would be a spanking. I don’t think that does send a mixed message. They understand cause and effect when you explain that throwing a block in anger earns you a spanking. Especially within a context of knowing that throwing or not throwing a block has no effect on how much or whether you love him.
    Forgive my rambling. I’m under no illusion that I’m the best parent ever or that my methods are universally applicable. The concepts are, but none of my children are the same, much less your child(ren). I appreciate any wisdom about how my words can be more effective so that the last resort becomes unnecessary. After 9 years of parenting, I just recently stopped saying “obey or you will get a spanking” and instead saying “obey because you love me”. Always trying to learn. These little people are more important than hanging onto my mistaken ideas.

    1. I’m sure you love your children, and I don’t doubt that your intentions are good. But it honestly breaks my heart when people try to defend hitting their children. It’s never acceptable. It may work in the short term to control their behavior (though studies show that, on the whole, it’s no more effective than more peaceful methods) but in the long term, it only teaches them that it’s acceptable to hurt other people. The enduring lesson is that they can and should use force and fear to control people who are helpless to defend themselves.

      I admire your willingness to learn and grow as a parent, and I hope you’ll stop purposefully hurting your children. Honestly, I think that both of those messages (obey or I will hurt you and obey because you love me) are very unhealthy and damaging. The books I recommended have alternative approaches if you’re open to them. My article on Unconditional Parenting gives a synopsis. Reading it was a radical paradigm shift for me, and I’m grateful that I found those books while my son was still a baby.

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