Positive parenting, peaceful parenting, respectful parenting, gentle parenting… These are big buzzword terms these days. They also tend to be easily confused with assuming that parents are permissive, thus allowing their child to do anything and everything, whenever they want (*hint hint*, not true).
I’m here to shed some light on what these peaceful parenting practices are, and are not. I’ll also share my top 4 favorite aspects of practicing peaceful parenting. And remember, it’s never too late to start incorporating some of these ideas in your own family, too.
What is positive parenting
According to the Zero To Three Organization, positive parenting can be defined as,
It’s also not about being perfect and cheerful all the time, though either. After all, we’re only human.
This approach to parenting focuses on the connection between adult and child, rather than on bribes and threats to get desired behaviors from the child. The adult works to recognize and regulate their own behaviors and feelings, before responding to their child. And lastly, the adult validates the child’s experiences and feelings, while holding healthy, age-appropriate limits and boundaries.
Benefits of Peaceful Parenting
Research shows that there are numerous, attractive benefits of using a positive parenting approach in your family.
- Smoother school adjustment and less behavior problems
- Can lessen the negative impact of family risk factors (such as socioeconomic disadvantages, stress and single parenthood, for example)
- Emotion-coaching that comes along with peaceful parenting leads to emotional resilience, healthy self-esteem and accountability
- Leads to healthy child development and positive communication skills
top 4 Favorite things about Positive Parenting
Endless opportunities to reparent yourself
Growing up I was an extremely sensitive kid. I took everything personally and was afraid of people (talking on the phone, answering the door, meeting new people, large crowds). I was incredibly shy, uncomfortable in my own skin and often wished I was invisible.
On top of all that, I received zero emotional support from my parents which led me to feel like there was something inherently wrong with me. My feelings and instincts aren’t being validated by my caregivers, therefore I must be wrong. My feelings don’t matter, I should ignore them.
Fast forward to me having my own child and with that came a monumental desire to parent him differently. I discovered positive parenting methods and immediately fell in love.
- Now, whenever I practice holding space during my son’s big emotions, I actively picture holding space for myself at that age.
- When my son comes in for a bear hug, I imagine giving my younger self a bear hug, too.
- Whenever I validate my son’s emotions with empathy and agree that “Yah, I would feel that way, too” or “Yah, that sounds tough”, I do the same for my own inner child.
- When I see that my son needs help regulating I crouch down to his level, make eye contact and take a moment to really see and acknowledge him. Then, I also pause and acknowledge my own feelings that may be rising up.
Raising your own child can provide a profound reflection of all of your pain points and bring to light what still needs healing from your past. Your child’s behaviors that trigger you now, could very well be because they’re behaviors that you couldn’t display when you were that age (for fear of punishment or abandonment or loss of love from your caregivers).
Every person is worthy
The next reason I love, love, love positive parenting is because it embodies the idea that your feelings, experiences, perspective and thoughts are real and valid, regardless of age. Even if your reaction or expression doesn’t appear to make any sense to someone on the outside, it’s real and true for you. That’s what matters. That’s what is acknowledged.
You and your child are both human and that is what makes you both deserving of respect, validation, empathy, compassion and patience. That’s it. No one has to prove anything to be shown respect and compassion with this parenting style. It really is that simple.
Kids can teach adults just as much as adults can teach kids. Adults are not somehow “better than” or “more deserving” than kids just because of their age or their title of “parent”.
Inspires you to lean into the discomfort
Another beautiful aspect of peaceful parenting is how it encourages you to sit in uncomfortable feelings, in a shame-free way. At first glance this may seem counterintuitive, wait, you want me to linger in the tantrums? Disappointments? Upsets? The short answer is, yes. Allow me to explain.
Let’s say you just prepared a delicious and nutritious meal for your family, but your toddler wants nothing to do with it. They start whining, crying, kicking and asking for snacks and cookies and chips.
The way I see it, you have 2 options here:
Give in to your toddler’s demands and make them their own, separate meal with the food they want. This avoids any more power struggle, and your kid will finally sit down to eat.
Sit down for dinner and calmly tell them, “This is what’s for dinner tonight. I hear that you want cookies and chips instead, yah that would be fun. Those aren’t available right now. You can sit and eat with us, or not.”
In option B, the adult chooses the “what” and “when” for meals, and the child chooses if they eat and how much. There’s no shame, there’s no blame, there’s no coaxing, just the facts. You acknowledge your child’s desire (to eat chips and cookies for dinner), while also setting a boundary (this is what’s for dinner), and then hold peaceful, calm space for your child to be upset about those facts.
Part of “holding space” for your child means offering them a safe outlet to express their emotions. Here are some ideas,
- Punch a pillow
- Kick a ball
- Stomp your feet
- “Grrr” out loud
- Play an instrument
- Draw how you feel
- Listen to a favorite song
- Hang out in your music zone
You see, everyone is entitled to having their own feelings, AND it’s also not your job to “fix it”. Although this approach may seem strange, it’s actually a beautiful process to witness. The adult sets (and holds) a clear boundary around meal time, while the toddler learns how to navigate their emotions and desires.
Allowing your child to fully feel their emotions and sit in their discomfort is what helps the negative feelings move up and out. The alternative is for the feelings to turn inward and fester inside as shame, only to blow up later.
The focus is on the relationship, not just the desired behaviors
One of the key pillars of positive parenting is maintaining a strong connection between the adult and child through all ages and stages. Great care and attention is put on building the bond, growing the relationship and acting as a strong, healthy anchor for your child. You want your child to know (and feel) that you love them unconditionally, even (or maybe especially) when they’re having a hard time, acting out, or making poor choices.
Positive parenting understands that cooperation comes from connection and relationship, rather than threats and bribes. When your child is throwing an epic tantrum you realize that they’re HAVING a hard time, not GIVING YOU a hard time (that’s a huge difference).
Positive Parenting Summary
Now I’m willing to bet that most of us want our kids to be respectful, kind, and good citizens (to each other as well as to the earth), and I firmly believe that peaceful parenting is how we get there.
First, we looked at the myriad ways that positive parenting encourages you to reparent yourself. By reparenting yourself you’re literally putting a stop to the multi-generational cycle of trauma and wounding that occurred before your time, and changing the direction of your lineage for all future generations.
Next, we expanded on the concept that every person is worthy. Encouraging our children to listen inward (am I still hungry or full, do I want to hug or high five grandpa today, what does “mad” feel like in my body…) will raise a generation with healthy self-esteem and self-worth. Having healthy self-worth and self-esteem is what allows for the necessary and important work of setting boundaries, in all your relationships.
Additionally, acknowledging and talking through feelings and emotions as they arise will raise an emotionally intelligent world. A world where everyone feels free to express themselves which will then lead to a healthier and happier world.
And lastly, by focusing on building strong, connected, honest relationships with our kids, we will allow them to safely explore and navigate the world, knowing they always have a tether back home any time they need. This strong, supportive home base and secure attachment within the family is what the world desperately needs from us, now more than ever.
Now, your turn!
What do YOU love about positive parenting? Tell us in the comments below!