When you think about your childhood, what comes to mind? Was your home a place you loved to be? Or, did you try to avoid time at home with your family? What was the tone in your home? What words would describe your family culture or home environment?
Restful. Loud. Hiding. Yelling. Happy. Shame. Tears. Fear. Arguing. Joy. Disappointment. Laughter. Correcting. Hitting. Pain. Peaceful.
What words would be on your list? What words do you wish you could remove? What words would you like to add?
As a mom or dad, you can control the words that describe your family and your home. Just yesterday I found myself raising my voice with my son after a long day of disobedience. I didn’t even follow my own advice of correcting with peaceful tones and words.
I also witnessed a mom berating her three-year-old little girl in from of her friends. I heard, “She couldn’t listen if her life depended on it. She would just choose to die instead of listening to me.” Her harsh words about her daughter continued as I walked down the hall.
What is her daughter going to believe about herself if these are the words she hears from her mom on a daily basis?
So, what is peaceful parenting? How do we pursue peaceful parenting? Why would we want to pursue parenting that brings peace instead of angst?
What is peaceful parenting?
There is no one way to define peaceful parenting. I believe there are common threads that you might find in different families but peaceful parenting is just that. Peaceful.
As I asked earlier, what words describe your childhood? What words do you want your children to say when they think of your home and your family? What steps can you take to create a peaceful home environment?
For our family, we have established a few things that help us pursue peaceful parenting. We do not do this perfectly but I do believe we are creating a healthy atmosphere for all of us.
One thing we do not do is yell. I speak firmly and I will speak louder at moments to get the attention of my children but I do not yell. I do not yell at my husband, my son, my friends, my enemies, or anyone. I simply do not yell. When someone yells at me, I shrivel up inside and I am a fully-grown adult. So, what is happening inside a four-year-old? I repeat that we do not do this perfectly in our family but it is our goal and we mostly live without yelling in our home. We even try not to talk to one another from a different room because it often leads to frustration, misunderstandings, and guess what?? Yelling.
We have several other things we try to pursue to help keep the peace in our home. I’ll share more as we go along.
Why would you want to pursue peaceful parenting?
When I think of turmoil, I can almost feel anxiety in my chest and stomach. The last thing I want in my home is more turmoil and stress. I especially want to protect my children from feeling these emotions. I have come to realize that as the mom, I often set the tone for our home. I do not say this to create pressure for other parents. But, I do think that peace starts inside the heart of the parents and then flows into the children and home.
If you are peaceful, your children will feel it. If you are full of stress, your children will mirror it. Go back to that list of words that you long to describe your family. These are why you would put the work into peaceful parenting. You are the CEO of your family. You decide the direction your family is going today.
How do I pursue peaceful parenting?
You do not have to overcomplicate your definition of peaceful parenting. Start with your list of descriptive words for your family. You could even include your spouse and children and let them choose some words for the list.
- Be Intentional
Ask yourself where your parenting lacks peace. Is it your tone, words, impatience, or a busy schedule that creates chaos, stress, or turmoil? Identify one or two areas that you would like to increase the peace in for your family. Think about what small changes you can make today to intentionally choose peace for yourself. If you choose peace for yourself it will trickle down to your family.
- Commit and Recommit
Changing the rhythms and daily habits of parenting might feel a bit like going on a diet. It will take regular moments of committing and recommitting to your definition of peaceful parenting.
Each morning when parenting fatigue weighs down your eyelids, you will once again need to carefully pick your tone and words. Remember that when you fall down and break your previous commitment, the very next interaction with your child is an opportunity to choose peaceful parenting. Give yourself lots of grace.
Those little eyes and ears are always around. They start talking by mimicking your words. Your accent literally falls out of their mouths. If you use demeaning words and harsh tones, they will do the same. If you pause and collect yourself instead of blowing up, they will eventually reflect those skills back to you. If you yell at the waitress, they will yell at the waitress. If your impatience hurries them along, their impatience will settle in their hearts as pressure and stress. But, the beauty with children is that they are always watching and learning. They watch you get it right, mess up, and then get it right again. They will catch what you model for them more than if you try to teach them by talking.
My guess is that you will mess up more than you get it right. The reason I think this is because I’m a parent too and I get it wrong more often than I’d like to. Each and every time I do not live out my commitment to peaceful parenting is an opportunity for me to say, “I’m so sorry, buddy. Mommy got it wrong. I said harsh words and got overly impatient. Will you forgive me?”
Shifting your parenting approach is a big transition, and you can expect some bumps as you and your child learn new patterns of relating. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. In fact, what’s happening is that you’re healing old hurt feelings so they stop driving new bad behavior” (Laura Markham Ph.D.).
- Give Yourself Grace
As mentioned, there will be moments of peace and moments when you fail. Don’t compare yourself to other parents. You didn’t see how they were with their kids this morning. Just because they seem to make it all work seamlessly at school drop-off does not mean they have mastered this parenting gig. Just because you blow it at bedtime does not mean you can’t get it right in the morning.
Give yourself heaps of grace in the process. Plan ahead for the next time you get it wrong and dump that forgiveness right on yourself. Attempting peaceful parenting is better than going about this big role as a mom or dad without direction and intentionality.
You will grow with time. Your habits will kick in over time. You will learn to take that deep breath before spitting out the words on the tip of your tongue. You will say no without anger and gritting your teeth. It is possible.
- Don’t Go It Alone
Life is busy, complicated, overwhelming, and beautiful. Simply doing day-to-day life can be too much at times.
Then, when you become a parent, your heart becomes more vulnerable than ever before. Your responsibilities are never-ending. This is even truer if your family includes a child with special needs. These little people hold a grip on us like we never thought possible.
I honestly could not accomplish many of my personal goals, much less my parenting goals, without friends’ support. We have chosen to be in a community of people with similar family goals. They model how to pursue peaceful homes. I learn from them how they handle their children when their kids throw a tantrum and lie down in the middle of the grocery store. I glean tips from parents who have children older than mine.
Hand in Hand Parenting agrees by saying, “Parenting is complex work. It’s hard work. It’s emotionally challenging work. Would you want your surgeon to have been figuring out surgery all by herself for 8 years, rather than working closely with others in medical school and in residency? Would you want your local bridge builder to be self-taught in welding, and making design decisions by himself? Of course not! And no parent does better parenting alone than with a supportive crew of friends and family to talk with, to cooperate with, and to lean on when times are difficult. We need to ask for help.”
Lastly, I also lean on my faith. I, personally, cannot create peace inside myself without looking to God. My heart is not naturally at peace. It is something I have to seek. I pray, read the Bible, and other books to find a lasting sense of peace that is not found inside myself. Perhaps you have the same kind of feelings as I do. Don’t go it alone. I highly suggest building a community of people around you who are also pursuing peaceful parenting. You could start a small movement among your friends as you make small changes together as a community of parents.
Let’s get real
I have not mastered peaceful parenting. Even with an intentional commitment to building a home and family environment that brings peace, laughter, and security, I can often make some really painful mistakes.
As I mentioned above, just last night I parented my son out of exhaustion and with harsh words. It was bedtime and I felt done. Beyond done. I bet you know what I mean! He had fought me on every single instruction the entire day. I was overwhelmed with many responsibilities and needed the space to tackle a few things. So, I needed my son to go to bed. Plus, it was way past his bedtime and he had preschool in the morning.
It is much easier to look back on a situation with fresh eyes after the fact and determine a better solution. I am confident that I will have setbacks again with how I parent. But, when I commit to developing a home environment that is more peaceful than chaotic, I do have more wins than losses.
In Psychology Today, Laura Markham Ph.D. says that
Shifting your parenting approach is a big transition, and you can expect some bumps as you and your child learn new patterns of relating. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong.
There are many resources that I have read to develop an idea of peaceful parenting for our family. The site Peacefulparent.com says, “To approach parenting challenges in a more constructive way, it’s important for the parent to be aware of (a) what they’re modelling through their responses to their child, (b) the importance of trying to meet the underlying needs that may be driving the behavior, (c) the skills that the child needs to develop for future situations and (d) that the connection, care, and warmth in the relationship is the biggest contributing factor towards a child’s behavior and needs to be preserved.”
Do not try to overcomplicate your goals as you pursue peace for your family. Simply pick a few ways to choose peace when in the past you have chosen another path. Your tone could literally shift mid-sentence when your teenager is pushing your buttons. If you are exhausted, don’t make big decisions and try to do big parenting work with little ones.
Remember, it will require some clear, simple goals like word selection and taking deep breaths. It will also require lots of grace given to yourself. Peace starts with you and can start right now.
Go find a fellow parent friend to join you. You’ve got this!