Parenting can be a tricky business. Over the years, untold experts and parenting books have presented "the best" way to parent. One of these propositions is peaceful parenting. Using this healthy parenting method, experts say that parents can connect with their kids on a deeper level.
If you are looking to improve your relationship with your child through a change in parenting method, online therapy can support you in getting started.
Peaceful parenting is a method for raising children that was created by Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and author of several parenting books. Her philosophy is based on the understanding that authoritarian parenting is far more isolating and frightening than it is nurturingfor a child. She argues that children need the support of unconditional love, in addition to understanding, empathy, and effective communication from parents.
Essentially, peaceful parenting is a parenting philosophy that requires letting go of the reigns of control, in favor of a more dialogue-heavy, understanding approach. A peaceful parent, as their title suggests, abandons harsh discipline, bursts of anger, rigid demands, constant punishment, and other forms of parenting that focus on control and manipulation. Instead, this type of parent opts for behavior and communication styles that foster collaboration, a back-and-forth dialogue, and an exchange of ideas.
Under this philosophy, caretakers are not strict authority figures, but function more as guides in helping their children navigate their own feelings, their relationships, and the world.
A peaceful parent seeks to limit stress on the part of the whole family. This can have many rippling effects on other parts of your life, including the mental and physical health of you and your child. 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.
Essentially, peaceful parents are able to develop a strong relationship with each of their children through a series of mutually respectful interactions throughout the children’s lives.
Here is an overview of the basic tenants of peaceful parenting.
Have you ever started yelling without even thinking about it, reacting to your own emotions instead of your child’s? It happens to many parents at some point. That’s why breathwork and cultivating your own sense of calm and focus are some of the most important parts of the peaceful parenting philosophy.
This behavior of a peaceful parent involves stopping where you are, taking a minute, and breathing, before responding or reacting to your child.
For many moms and dads, one of the biggest struggles is to develop the ability to truly listen to your child and to have your child or children actually listen to you. Peaceful parenting advocates recommend practicing active listening by
They say this type of support can make a huge difference in helping kids manage big emotions and develop a greater sense of empathy.
Collaboration is another important tool of a peaceful parent. The idea is that by raising your children in a collaborative home, your kids learn how to exert positive control over their own lives and consider the wisdom of great advice offered by others.
Experts argue that children are far more likely to respond positively to guidelines, rules, and ideas when they are able to feel some sort of ownership of those boundaries and rules. They are also more likely to adhere to a directive when it is reached with a caretaker, rather than being demanded by them.
Some peaceful parenting tips include:
Markham emphasizes that a peaceful parent focuses on coaching rather than controlling. Instead of getting angry and issuing punishment, they respond to a child’s inappropriate behavior with empathy and calm words.
Peaceful parenting differs from many of its counterparts, such as authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting, permissive parenting, and uninvolved parenting.
Authoritarian parenting may be the oldest and most easily-recognized of these philosophies. Purely authoritarian parents rarely limit their words when they’re angry, instead barking out orders and using threats and rewards as ways to encourage certain behaviors that fall in line with the parents' desires for a child. They use forms of punishment like timeout, which is “generally considered a form of love withdrawal,” according to Dr. Laura Markham.
Authoritative parenting is a step away from authoritarian and is often suggested as the best of the four styles. Caregivers who follow this approach typically engage with their kids more, take their feelings into consideration, and try to create a healthier, happier balance in family relationships. Still, authoritative parents maintain that they are, ultimately, the rule-makers and boundary-setters in the home. This style most closely aligns with the peaceful parenting philosophy, and studies have shown that it’s typically successful in producing happy kids with strong emotional intelligence.
Permissive parenting is exactly what it sounds like: raising a child while rarely setting limits for the child’s behavior. Purely permissive parents try to build a relationship that resembles more of a close friendship than a parent/child relationship. Even if there are rules that do exist in a household that follows this philosophy, they are rarely enforced and breaking one will likely have little to no consequence.
Although the media may portray this philosophy as ideal, it can lead to many problems later on in life such as poor self-control, egocentricity, difficulty in relationships, and difficulty adhering to expected rules and norms.
Finally, an uninvolved parent takes a backseat. These caretakers may be unsure of what’s going on in their child’s life, unaware of their children's schedules, their likes and dislikes, and their feelings. An uninvolved parent usually falls within the camp of "neglectful," but many do not do so intentionally. Instead, they are often raising children while working through issues of their own such as undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues, abusive partners, or substance abuse issues.
The most common complaint about peaceful parenting is the method's difficulty. Because many people come to this philosophy after experiencing a problematic family dynamic, learning how to be a peaceful parent can be difficult and can even seem almost impossible at the beginning. If you and your child are perpetually locked in a power struggle, for instance, it will take time for you to learn how to stay calm without resorting to harsh discipline. It will also 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 reasonable options, rewards, and consequences as you provide gentle guidance and model emotional control.
Some might also find peaceful parenting, as a philosophy, too permissive in its scope. Because parents actively engage with their child during tantrums and acting-out behaviors, instead of ignoring or punishing the child’s behavior, some critics have suggested that the framework is too lax and can result in a child who refuses to listen to authority.
Implementing a new parenting method can be difficult, particularly if you or your children are living with mental health conditions that make communication and emotional control more challenging. If you've found that you are simply too overwhelmed to engage in these ideas, or too nervous to start, it may be helpful to seek the help of a qualified therapist who can help you develop unique strategies and techniques for your family.
Families today are extremely busy. It can be difficult to make it to basic health and dental appointments, much less to a family therapist. Online therapy, especially through BetterHelp, can help you make your family’s mental health a priority. These types of remote sessions can eliminate the time it takes to travel to an in-person visit, making counseling feasible for you and your children.
While online counseling may seem less intimate, video-based conferencing and live streaming helps bridge this gap. Studies have found that it’s still possible to make meaningful connections with therapists despite the physical distance, citing online therapy as just as effective as in-person therapy options for treating certain conditions.