I’m aware that there is a lot of misunderstanding about what peaceful parenting actually is. Mostly, I know this because I was once one of the people who misunderstood it! To start, I would like to define what peaceful parenting is to me. In short, it’s treating my kids the same as I would treat anyone; understanding that they have the same emotions and thoughts and are just lacking the same vocabulary, ability, and experience needed to express those thoughts and emotions. Consequently, I am not here to tell them what to do or who to be; I’m here to be their mentor and guide, their voice and their advocate. That said, here’s what peaceful parenting is not…
Peaceful parenting is not…letting your kids do whatever they want.
This has got to be the most annoying assumption out there! Would I sit back and watch a complete stranger wander out into traffic? Would I watch passively while my husband was about to grab a hot pan? Would I do nothing if I knew my friend was spending so much time playing games on the Internet that it was interfering with the quality of her life? Would I walk away from people fighting on the street without doing something to try and stop it? The answer to all of these is no! Being peaceful doesn’t mean watching people be self-destructive or harm others. It simply means that when those situations arise, they are dealt with in the most peaceful manner possible. And if my children’s behavior is not harmful to themselves or others (physically or mentally), then I don’t attempt to change it.
Peaceful parenting is not…selfless.
It may appear that a parent must completely give up their own wants and needs in order to peacefully parent. That’s not completely true. Yes, I do give up a whole lot for the sake of their wants and needs, but there are certainly times when I am selfish. That doesn’t mean I am completely uncaring about it, though. For instance, I like to have my coffee first thing in the morning. That’s not exactly feasible with two little ones, but just as soon as they have their immediate needs met (diapers changed, something to snack on, drink), I absolutely do go get myself a cup of coffee. Even if that means they cry a bit. I will tell them what I’m going to do and that I’ll be done shortly. I sometimes carry one of them with me. And yes, sometimes my first cup gets postponed because things happen. Peacefulness requires adaptability and compromise, it’s definitely not conducive to rigidity. If it seems like peaceful parents are selfless, it’s because we realize that children grow up quickly. They will not always have such great need of our time and attention. There will be plenty of time for me to do whatever I want once they’re older.
Peaceful parenting is not…lazy.
Far from it! Take it from someone has practiced both authoritarian and peaceful parenting; requiring your kids to follow arbitrary rules without questioning, and responding with immediate punishment (physical or otherwise) when they don’t, that is far easier than responding with empathy, critical thought, and an explanation of your reasons. Isolating them in a corner to deal with their big emotions (“tantrums”) alone is far easier than comforting them through those emotions and helping them to learn a healthier way of expressing them. Demanding that they eat whatever you feel like making for dinner is easier than asking them what they want or allowing them to choose between what you’ve made and a hot dog, peanut butter sandwich, or whatever else they particularly like. However, in the long run, the peaceful way will be easier! Establishing a deep emotional and mental connection to your children now will ensure that you will have the same connection when they are teenagers and adults. You might think that all teenagers rebel, but does it have to be that way? If the only rules you establish are to keep them and others physically and mentally safe, if those rules are explained in great detail time and again, and they are fluidly changing to meet current needs, then what will there be to rebel against?
Peaceful parenting is not…perfection.
I certainly have many moments, sometimes entire days, where my actions and words are not peaceful. I am only human, after all. I make mistakes. Part of peaceful parenting is how I handle those mistakes. Admitting those mistakes to my kids and apologizing for them is important. Being aware of patterns of undesirable behavior on my part and coming up with a working plan to change that behavior is crucial. Being in tune with my kids’ reactions to me, whether spoken or not, and figuring out if I can change what I’m doing to improve the situation requires a high level of introspection. Taking responsibility for my own actions is what will model peace to my children. “Monkey see, monkey do.” Children parrot the words and actions of their parents. That is my motivating factor when it comes to peaceful parenting. It’s what helps me keep trying even when I screw up.