Seven Thoughts to Help You Parent Peacefully

Are you looking for a life-long warm, mutually respectful, loving, relationship with your children?

Having brought up my now-adult children with peaceful parenting (no rewards or punishment), I’ve collected a few key principles that have guided me through some difficult moments. I’m hoping they might help you and your family as much as they’ve helped us.

1.   ‘Children don’t misbehave. They behave simply to meet a need.’ (Thomas Gordon)

Flowing on from this was the discovery that problems (conflicts) happened when my children tried to meet their need – and it interfered with me meeting my need. For example – I needed a toy-free floor in order to reach the other side without hurting my foot; my children needed to create . . .

When I discovered this principle, I stopped blaming and began listening. What was the need under the behaviour? Often it was a basic need – hunger, thirst, bursting bladder, pain or illness. Once we worked out the problem (through listening), there was often a solution.

2.   Take children seriously.

A child’s problems are just as important to them as our problems are to us. When we listen to what’s bothering a child, we respect their world. And when we are unhappy, they are more likely to respect our world.

3.   Don’t take their behaviour personally.

When our children are struggling, they might show us through their behaviour – tell us that they hate us, or even hit or kick us. They simply may not have the words to describe the strength of their feeling. Our job is to help them understand themselves, so they will have the ability to communicate respectfully in the future. You might like to read The Danger of Taking Your Child's Behaviour Personally, or New Tips for Dealing with Children's Anger, for further information and examples on not taking behaviour personally – and how to deal with behaviour that impacts on you, but comes from your child’s pain, or unmet needs.

4.   Don’t attribute intent – attribute innocence.

Believing that our children are doing something to deliberately hurt, annoy, or cause us pain, will cause us to react negatively to our child – even punish them. When we think our children are ‘pressing our buttons’, or ‘ignoring us’, we react to our assumptions behind their behaviour. But why would they want to press our buttons or ignore us? What’s in it for them? They’ll be dealing with an angry parent, and why would they want an angry Mummy or Daddy? It’s just not in a child’s interests to see their parent in emotional or physical pain.

Rather than thinking they are acting with a malicious intent, I’ve been helped by realising children are behaving simply to meet a need.

5.   Trust children - and trust them to care about you.

If we don’t trust our children, then how can our children learn to trust themselves? Trust is the foundation of a mutually respectful relationship.

Children are wired for relationship and connection (they could not survive babyhood otherwise). Many of us are conditioned to think that children don’t care about anyone other than themselves – yet we’ve all seen children pat another child with concern; babies cry when they hear other babies cry. Children care about us and they care about others.

6.   Believe in children’s competence.

When we take over our child’s painting, or constantly tell them what to do and correct their efforts, we are not letting our children learn skills for themselves. We are, indirectly, saying to our children that we don’t think they are competent. If we teach them, encourage them to problem solve, to come up with solutions, to be independent, we are showing we believe in them – so they can believe in themselves.

7.   Parents are human – we cannot be perfect; Children are human – they cannot be perfect.

Realising that I was an imperfect human being, who had my good days and bad days, helped me throw off that cape of perfection. I stopped being so hard on myself, forgave myself for my slip-ups, and bared myself as a flawed person. I was authentic, and my children saw me as authentic.

This meant I could say ‘sorry’, and then seek to repair our relationship.

By understanding myself this way, I took the pressure off my children. I could see that they, too, were imperfect human beings, learning, through trial and error, to fit themselves into this world.

To become caring citizens in their community.

First published by Larissa Dann May, 2020

© Larissa Dann 2020


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