Many of us assume that peaceful parenting comes easily when we have children. I mean, we’re going to love them to the moon, so it should all come naturally, right?
Unfortunately, that’s simply not always the case. Peaceful parenting doesn’t come naturally to every parent every time they interact with their children. We’re real people. Sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as we’d like.
Peaceful parenting can feel like something of a unicorn. We want it to exist, but does it? How do people do it, anyway–especially with any consistency? How can our kids know what to expect from us?
Let me share with you an exchange that (unbeknownst to me at the time), prepared me for peaceful parenting. Then, I’ll share some tips that science says can help keep you calm — even when it doesn’t feel natural in the moment.
One day when my child was just an immobile, lovable lump of infant, a wise person said to me, “Someday, she’s going to break something you love.” It hit me kind of strangely. I mean, she couldn’t even roll
over yet, much less damage anything.
Those words planted a seed, though. I wondered what would break. I started thinking through all of my most prized items–would she rip an irreplaceable photograph? Break a necklace? Shatter a family heirloom? For the most part, I’ve always thought stuff was just “stuff” and haven’t formed attachments to many things. Still, though, we all have something special; the thing we’d try to grab if we had to leave the proverbial burning house.
Having a short list of sentimental items in mind, I imagined my child breaking one of them. I envisioned being upset about it, but since it hadn’t actually happened yet, I could easily replace my feelings about the broken object with my feeling of sincere, secure love for my little one. The “thing” didn’t matter in that moment. I knew what mattered more.
Eventually, my child learned to roll. And walk. And, of course, break things. She didn’t break much, but accidents happen.
And when they do, I remember that moment from her infancy when I imagined how it played out. Having that foresight helped me release the “things” and focus on the child. The child who needs me and loves me, and who doesn’t know a sentimental-whatever-it-is from a hole in the wall.
How would she? She’s little. To her, all things are toys.
Knowing this — and expecting her to treat them as such — helped me embrace peaceful parenting. I mentally prepared for all kinds of calamity before anything happened. I didn’t keep the anxiety around losing the “things,” regardless whether they were physical or emotional.
Sure, I still lose my cool sometimes. However, this early conversation set the stage for most of our interactions. It was more empowering than I could’ve ever known it would be.
How can we encourage the likelihood that we’ll use peaceful parenting approaches with our children, rather than the alternatives?
1. Visualize peaceful parenting ahead of time.
As the personal example above illustrates, if we mentally prepare for things to turn out peacefully, they’re more likely to turn out that way. Experts have studied visualizing positive outcomes when we’re trying to master something new and demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. Plan ahead of time to stay the positive parenting course, even when you’re having a particularly hard parenting day.
2. Anticipate that some parts of parenting are going to be hard no matter what we do to prepare for them.
Give yourself all the resources you can to feel peaceful — enough sleep, good nutrition, and mental breaks (even when you feel like you can’t take one). Sometimes we naively feel surprised when we have a tough parenting day. Somehow, we think if we’re a “good” parent, it should all be easier.
You know what, though? We ALL have those days. The more full our proverbial cup is when we encounter those days, the more smoothly they often go. Specifically, getting enough sleep can directly affect our happiness.
3. Play whenever you can — for everyone’s sake.
It helps you avoid unnecessary conflict. Playful parenting doesn’t mean that hard things don’t have to happen (tooth brushing, leaving the house — all the things that can feel difficult for kids and for which we want to have their consent). It just means that we choose to have fewer battles in the first place.
We create a more joyful life together. Does it mean we’re conflict avoidant? No. It simply means we don’t have conflicts when there’s a better, healthier option available.
4. Learn as much as you can about the long-term benefits of peaceful parenting.
The more you know about why it’s important to practice peaceful parenting, the easier it will be to justify it (and remind yourself!) when you’re doubting whether it’s the right course of action. Study it, and the science that describes its long-term effects, as much as you can.
“…In many situations, adoption of a flexible and warm authoritative…style is most beneficial for a
child’s social, intellectual, moral and emotional growth…” (source)
Peaceful parenting is a gift you give to your children, and that they can pass along to their children someday.
For now, though, we know that something’s going to break. We can proactively plan to embody peaceful parenting and proactively forgive our children. We can decide today that our relationship matters more than the stuff. And we can choose to let go of emotional attachment to the “things” so that when they do break, we can say to our kids, “That’s okay. It’s just ‘stuff.’ You’re what matters most to me. Always.”
Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.