Peaceful parenting involves quite a struggle for the adults who were not parented that way. For those wondering, peaceful parenting may be described as parenting in a way that shows proper respect and care to the child. What peaceful parenting looks like exactly is often unclear as realities of child psychology and development are often unrecognized. Peaceful parenting is more than not hitting, yelling at, or calling a child names. It also entails appropriate boundaries and freedom according to the child’s stage of development and individual circumstances. It means doing all in one’s power to protect and guide as well as carefully discerning when and where to let go of the reigns. My husband and I decided in our early 20s, before having children, that we would be “peaceful parents”. We got hooked on the simple notion of reciprocity, hoping that if we respect our kids, they in turn would reciprocate and respect us and our home would be peaceful, and our parenting might be effective. We have learned much more since then. I would like to share a few of the peaceful parenting challenges we have had along the way thus far and the lessons we have learned from them.
The way in which your child is like you becomes one of the biggest hurdles for parents. When you parent a child who is different from you in many ways, you often see that difference and sympathize or feel admiration. When they are stubborn, shy, or impatient like you, you are confronted with something that is challenging about yourself which carries emotional weight. You may recall this trait giving you a tough time growing up or being criticized harshly over it and so may want to banish it in your child for their sake. Your gut instinct will be to go hard on them over it, as if you wished you could go back in time and have someone go hard on you so that you would not have grown with this particularly nagging trait or habit. Your love for your child can stop you from this knee jerk reaction and you will have to process your personal feelings in the matter to avoid being triggered. You will have to come to terms with yourself and either choose to change or accept this behavior. If you approach yourself with the same love you have for your child, you will grow as an adult and mature into a happier and healthier individual. That is your task, for if you do not, you will pour resentment and pressure down your child’s throat, all for the innocent crime of being a bit like you. My husband and I have learned so much through this process of confronting various things about ourselves which we see reflected in our children. Whether they learn or inherit a particular trait, dealing in a healthy way is crucial to respect our children who are, no matter how similar, completely unique and sovereign individuals who should not suffer from our emotional baggage.
Peaceful parenting is not highly conducive to tight schedules and rushing about. If you are in a hurry and must pack up multiple kids and be somewhere at a certain time, you have a death-defying stunt to achieve in doing so without resorting to non-peaceful parenting methods like yelling and threatening your children. Your best bet is going to be to learn how to plan, be creative, ready to redirect your little ones, and always allow for extra time. It gets easier the more you do it. If you can homeschool your children, you will have tons more time for everything and you and your kids will benefit from your ability to deal more patiently with them, particularly during those exhausting toddler years.
You are not perfect so learn the art of the apology. Many have been taught that there is a hierarchy in a family and that apologies only move upwards towards the parents, not down to the kids. I grew up this way and thus had to break this learned behavior with my children. And while I accept the hierarchy in terms of many things, and I would not consult my children about all sorts of decisions, apologizing to them is the decent thing to do when my actions have negatively affected them. It does not have to be dramatic. A genuine but frank apology will suffice. Your children will hear you. They will learn to do the same, too. You will teach them how to own up to their mistakes and they will be able to apologize to you and their siblings and others as needed. You will not have to say, “now say sorry to your brother and give him a hug.” You will model to them what a heartfelt apology is like and then you will live in a household where no one has a stubborn shame surrounding a sincere apology. It will positively stun you how your children will approach you with a genuine apology without you ever once calling for it.
The values of humility and truth are taught in the West with Christianity and in our secular culture. Yet, it is common for parents to be quite indignant with their children, even when we are in the wrong. We do not want to appear infallible or weak. Yet, when a child gets to about age 10 or 11, they start employing much more advanced critical thinking skills. Any pride or authority we have that is not matched by behavior and results starts to stand out to them in the worst way. My husband and I come from proud families and had to become acutely aware of this. We realized over the years that we gain the respect of the kids when we admit to being wrong or making a mistake or not having the answer. You do not have to be perfect, but if you are consistently virtuous, they will see that, and you’ll earn their trust. The thing about tweens and teens is if they see it and you pretend it isn’t there, they won’t feel good about it or you. Children want strong and capable parents. But parents who feign knowledge or try to cover up the truth their child observes do not elicit respect. Do you suppose the little boy who blurted out the truth about the emperor’s absence of clothes received appreciation or chastisement for his behavior? In that fictional little world, I like to think that boy was raised peacefully, with freedom to say what he thinks, and with parents who had a certain level of humility. My husband and I have found, to our relief, that we do not lose respect from our children when we admit to being wrong or incapable of something. Every now and then we find that our kids are right, we are wrong, and we must humbly recognize and accept that. Guess what happens later when we correct their errors, however? They recognize and accept it. That happens after we do it first, so you must show them what it looks like and be patient while they soak up your example.
These are the major challenges we have had in relation to peaceful parenting. We’ve been told we are going to raise either deviants or pitifully weak children along the way. They are neither and so for others out there committing to this way of parenting with little ones, I hope you stick with it. Doing something differently than most and differently compared to how we were raised is not easy and can come with self-doubt and fear about the outcomes. We have done it long enough to get past the adjustment period and the immense doubt to see wonderful results in our kids. I can say that the challenges are well worth your efforts.