What is peaceful, respectful, mindful parenting?
Firstly, what peaceful parenting is not. It’s not the traditional, mainstream approach to parenting. In mainstream parenting today we’re given a plethora of “arsenal” with which we can choose ways to manipulate our children to behave in whatever ways we deem acceptable. Things like timeouts, punishments, yelling, threatening, bribing, shaming or humiliating are what we’re often advised to use for behavioral challenges. We’re also advised to reward and praise good behavior. To encourage competition. And warned against “spoiling” our children. We’re told to turn things into a game, to distract your child or baby, or sometimes to ignore them completely.
Peaceful, mindful, conscious parents choose an intentional, empathic approach to raising children.
They reject the very premise of behavior modification as the main focus of parenting, instead of asking “How can I get my child to do what I want?” they’re asking a totally different question, or set of questions:
- “How can I give my child what he needs?”
This is very different from “getting your child to do what you want”. This idea is based in the premise that children are inherently cooperative. Children want to take part. When a child does not cooperate it is generally because they are disoriented or a need that hasn’t been met. So instead of seeing the tantrum as “evil” or “difficult” we see it as an indicator of an unmet need. This releases us from focusing on the behavior at all – and instead we’re focused on the needs of the child. It also lets us be more in tune with our own needs.
- “How can I instill long term values and goals for my child?”
By punishing and rewarding we are generally teaching self interest. We’re teaching children that they should be have well to get a star and not behave well so that they don’t get into trouble. Peaceful parenting focuses on teaching children to behave well because being kind is a value we uphold, not because they will avoid pain if they are kind. Teaching children not to hit because “hitting hurts” not because if they do they will get a time out. In this way we are consistently asking ourselves: what are our long term goals and values for our family? Sometimes this will mean focusing less on behaviors and more on values.
For example, if we want our child to be a questioning, creative thinker who doesn’t follow the crowd when they are adults – we will allow and facilitatequestioning authority, even our own authority, as children. This can be a tough pill to swallow but such is the premise of focusing on long term goals.
This is a great caricature that illustrates this:
A father saying to his son: “Honey, when you grow up I want you to be assertive, independent and strong willed. But while you’re a child I want you to be passive, pliable and obedient.”
- “How can I model the life that I want for my child?”
When faced with a challenging behavior, peaceful parents begin with asking how they can embody the values that they want their children to learn. How many of us have asked our kids to clean up when our own rooms or desks or desktops are crazy messy?
Peaceful parents answer any behavior challenge by starting with addressing their own behavior. If they’re concerned with their children’s diets – they begin by focusing on their own healthy eating. If they want their children to be polite – they focus on saying “please and thank you”. If they want their children not to yell – they learn not to raise their own voices. This is because peaceful parents know that the main way your child learns from you is by imitating what you do not doing what you say. This is why peaceful parenting is so damn hard because first and foremost it turns the spotlight inward to your own behavior, your own triggers and the example that you set.
So peaceful parenting differs greatly from mainstream parenting, because at the root it is not about control. It is not about changing the child. It is not about getting them to conform. At the root, peaceful parenting is about respecting children and childhood and moving ourselves, as parents, to empathize, to choose kindness, to create a loving, peaceful rhythm of life alongside our children.