Parenting is a tricky business. Over the years, untold experts have presented "the best" way to parent in order to facilitate the production of obedient, responsive children, with ideal grades, ideal friendships, and a warm, pleasant disposition. Although many of the parenting theories put forth by these therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and child development experts are perfectly reasonable in their scope, and provide some sound advice, there are also many parenting philosophies in existence that encourage parents to bully, belittle, and dismiss their children, in the name of socializing and manipulating children into behaving in a way that is considered palatable to parents or authority figures.
It is a parenting philosophy that requires letting go of the reigns of control, in favor of a more dialogue-heavy, understanding approach. Peaceful parenting, as its name suggests, urges caretakers to leave behind yelling, bursts of angry, rigid demands, and other forms of communication that focus on control and manipulation, opting instead for behavior and communication styles that foster collaboration, a back-and-forth dialogue, and an exchange of ideas. In this philosophy, caretakers are not strict authority figures, but function more as guides in helping their children navigate themselves, their relationships, and the world.
Breathwork and cultivating your own sense of calm and relaxation are some of the most important parts of this philosophy. After all, if you are unable to keep yourself calm in moments of crisis, frustration, or irritation, how are you going to respond to your children's needs, which are often borne of crisis, frustration, and irritation? This parenting philosophy encourages stopping where you are, taking a minute, and breathing, before responding or in any way reacting to your children. This is particularly helpful in situations that incur great anger, frustration, or resentment, as things are often shouted or murmured in these moments that later act as a source of guilt or regret.
Active listening is another important tenet, as one of your greatest goals is developing the ability to truly listen to your child and to have your child or children actually listen to you. Practicing active listening by listening to your child, synthesizing what you've heard, and repeating your analysis back to them is a pivotal aspect of the communication encouraged.
Collaboration is another important part of this philosophy. You are working to collaborate with your children to create a healthy home, rather than trying to force that type of home. Children are far more likely to adhere to guidelines, rules, and ideas when they are able to feel some sort of ownership of those boundaries and rules, as is the case in this philosophy. Children are also more likely to adhere to a directive when it is reached with a caretaker, rather than being demanded by them.
Although there are no direct studies regarding the philosophy itself, there are several studies on which the style itself was based. These studies acknowledge that children are far more likely to behave well, engage with parents and siblings, and exhibit healthy responses to stress and other setbacks if they feel safe, secure, and heard at home.
Parents who dismiss their children, ignore them, or regard them as nuisances are far more likely to have children who report feeling anxious, nervous, and angry. Children are also more likely to listen to directives when they feel they have a say; children are known for their boundary-pushing behavior, from simple back-talk to more extensive power plays, such as screaming tantrums, or aggressive behavior. These behaviors are known to be an effort, on the child's part, to exert some form of control over their lives, as almost everything in a child's life is left up to the whims and fancies of someone else. When parents encourage children to make decisions-even in toddlerhood-they are creating a healthier home, and teaching children how to think for themselves and speak up to show their preferences, hopes, and wants.
Peaceful parenting seeks to limit stress on the part of the whole family, which can have many rippling effects on other parts of your life, including the mental and physical health of you and your children. Creating a healthy home life allows children to feel stronger and more confident when out in the world and among their peers, which has been linked to lower incidences of substance abuse and risky behavior.
Authoritative parenting is a step away from authoritarian, and is usually suggested as the best of the four styles. They typically engage with their children more, take their feelings into consideration, and try to create a healthier, happier balance in family relationships, but maintain that they are, ultimately, the rule-makers and boundary-setters in the home. This style most closely aligns with the peaceful parenting philosophy.
The most common complaint is the method's difficulty. Because many people come to this philosophy after experiencing a problematic family dynamic, implementing an entirely new way of parenting is difficult and can seem almost impossible at the beginning. If you and your children are perpetually locked in a battle of wills, for instance, it will take time for you to learn how to stay calm in the face of chaos, and it will take your child time to learn that they can trust you enough to open up, discuss their feelings and experiences, and rely on you to offer fair, reasonable options, rewards, and consequences.
Some might also find peaceful parenting, as a philosophy, too permissive in its scope. Because children are engaged in their tantrums and acting-out behaviors, instead of being ignored or punished for them, some critics have suggested that the framework is too lax, and can result in children who refuse to listen to authority. These arguments can certainly be seen in some families who have tried to implement these approaches– particularly if the practices were not applied over the long-term, and children are still engaged in a battle with parents.
It encourages families to engage with one another to create a healthy, engaging dynamic with one another, built on mutual respect and love. It leaves behind the harmful ideology that believes children should be seen, not heard, or the newer ideas that children should be left to figure things out for themselves, and instead places parents as important guides in their children's lives, through teaching them how to identify their feelings, put them into words, and put those words into action.
Changing to or starting a new parenting method can be difficult, particularly if you or your children struggle with anger, anxiety, or other, similar issues. If you've found that you are simply too overwhelmed to engage in these ideas, or too anxious to start, it may be helpful to seek the help of a qualified therapist who can help create unique strategies and techniques to keep anger at bay when engaging with your child and ease your anxiety. This can make a healthy household not a far-fetched fantasy, but your family's reality.