What Is Peaceful Parenting?
Updated February 13, 2020
Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault
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 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 and authority figures.
While encouraging children to behave in ways that are considered reasonable, respectful, and considerate is not problematic, the manner in which parents go about teaching these skills can be. If parents hope to nurture peaceful children, one argument goes, should they not also engage in peaceful parenting? This is the core of peaceful parenting, and demonstrates the basic position that children and parents should be considerate of one another, rather than creating an uncomfortable or dominating power dynamic.
What Is Peaceful Parenting?
Peaceful Parenting is one of the types of parenting styles, and was created by Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and author of several books on the subject. Her parenting philosophy was created based on the notion that authoritarian parenting was actually far more isolating and frightening for children than it was nurturing, and that children needed the unconditional love of their parents, in addition to understanding, calm, and effective communication.
Peaceful parenting is an actual parenting philosophy that requires parents to let go of the reigns of control, in favor of a more dialogue-heavy, understanding approach. Peaceful parenting, as its name suggests, urges parents 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 peaceful parenting, parents are not strict authority figures, but function more as guides in helping their children navigate themselves, their relationships, and the world.
Basic Tenets of Peaceful Parenting
Breathwork and cultivating your own sense of calm and relaxation are some of the most important parts of peaceful parenting. 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? Peaceful parenting encourages parents to stop where they are, take a minute, and breathe, before responding or in any way reacting to their children. This is particularly helpful in situations that incur great anger, frustration, or resentment, as parents often shout or murmur things in these moments that later act as a source of guilt or regret.
Active listening is another important tenet of peaceful parenting, 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 in peaceful parenting.
Collaboration is another important part of peaceful parenting. You are working to collaborate with your children to create a healthy, peaceful 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 peaceful parenting. Children are also more likely to adhere to a directive when it is reached with a parent, rather than being demanded by a parent.
Efficacy of Peaceful Parenting
Although there are no direct studies regarding peaceful parenting, there are several studies on which the parenting 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 more peaceful 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 both parents and children, 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 peaceful 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.
Peaceful Parenting and other Types of Parenting
Peaceful parenting differs from many of its peers, such as Authoritarian Parenting, Authoritative Parenting, Permissive Parenting, and Uninvolved Parenting, as all of these rely on parents as a source of checks and balances, rather than inviting a child to take part in the development of rules, the creation of boundaries, and open dialogues regarding feelings, experiences, and wants.
Authoritarian parenting may be the oldest and most easily-recognized form of parenting, and has also been called militant parenting. These are the parents most likely to bark out orders and use threats and rewards as ways to encourage certain behaviors that fall in line with the parents' desires for a child.
Authoritative parenting is a step away from authoritarian parenting, and is usually suggested as the better of the four parenting styles. An authoritative parent is one who acts as the authority figure in the household but does not simply order children around. Instead, authoritative parents typically engage with their children more, take their feelings into consideration, and try to create a healthier, happier balance in parent-child relationships, but maintain that the parents are, ultimately, the rule-makers and boundary-setters in the home. This parenting style most closely aligns with the Peaceful Parenting philosophy.
Permissive Parenting is a parenting style often borne of exhaustion, uncertainty, and a lack of respect for oneself and others. Permissive parenting usually involves parents tossing out empty threats-i.e. "If you don't go to bed now, I'm taking your video games away!" then failing to follow through on the consequence. Consequences as a whole are rare in permissive parenting, and parents from this philosophy believe children learn best with as little interference as possible, and operate more as friends than authority figures.
Finally, Uninvolved Parenting is parenting that takes a backseat. These parents are frequently unsure of their children's schedules, their likes and dislikes, and their feelings about things. Uninvolved parents usually fall within the camp of "neglectful," but many do not do so intentionally. Instead, these parents often have issues of their own, such as undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues, abusive partners, or substance abuse issues.
Drawbacks of Peaceful Parenting
The most common complaint regarding Peaceful Parenting is its difficulty. Because many people come to this parenting philosophy after experiencing a problematic parent-child 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 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 of Peaceful Parenting 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 Peaceful Parenting approaches-particularly if the practices were not applied over the long-term, and children are still engaged in a battle with parents.
What is Peaceful Parenting?
Peaceful parenting is a type of parenting that encourages families to engage with one another to create a healthy, engaging dynamic with one another, built on mutual respect and love. Peaceful parenting leaves behind the parenting precepts of yesteryear 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.
Peaceful parenting 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 angry to engage Peaceful Parenting 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 peaceful parenting not a far-fetched fantasy, but your family's reality.