What Is Peaceful Parenting?

By Corrina Horne |Updated May 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Guilbeault, LMHC

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.

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 this parenting philosophy 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 The Definition Of Peaceful Parenting?

Peaceful parenting is one of the methods of parenting, 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 unconditional love, in addition to understanding, calm, and effective communication from parents.

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.

The Three Basic Tenets Of This Style Of Parenting: Breathwork And Calmness, Active Listening, And Collaboration

Parenting Tenet 1: Breathwork And Calmness

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.

Parenting Tenet 2: Active Listening

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.

Parenting Tenet 3: Collaboration

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.

What Is The Desired Result When Using This Parenting Method?

Etymology Of This Parenting Philosophy

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.

Why Is It So Effective?

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.

How Is This Style Different From The Other Styles 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 caretakers 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

Authoritarian parenting may be the oldest and most easily-recognized of these philosophies. Authoritarian parents are the ones 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

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.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parenting is exactly what it sounds like: raising a child in a way where permission is granted more often than not. Parents stay out of the way of their children and try to be more of a friend to them than an authority figure. 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 media idealizes this philosophy, 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.

Uninvolved Parenting

Finally, uninvolved parenting takes a backseat. These caretakers 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, they often have issues of their own, such as undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues, abusive partners, or substance abuse issues.

Common Drawbacks Of This Parenting Psychology

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.

Why Use This Method? Is It Going To Help My Family?

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.

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