Peaceful Parenting is so often mistaken for permissive parenting, as it is widely misunderstood. What Peaceful Parenting rather is, is guiding children through respectful, empathetic means, while still maintaining healthy boundaries for all parties involved- especially children.
It involves coaching (rather than controlling), modelling behavior and acceptance of the child as an individual, as well as all the emotions he/ she may experience as a growing human being. It is not punitive in any way, and fosters connection between the parent/ caregiver and child.
Examples of Peaceful Parenting in Action
When a child is crying they are generally encouraged to do so in a warm, supportive, nurturing environment, as it prevents a backlog of emotions and allows the child to work through “big” feelings without repression.
Supportive messages are generally given, like “you’re safe” and empathetic phrases relating to the specific situation to allow the child to be heard and acknowledged, like “I can see you miss your mommy very much” or “it looks like you’re feeling sad about your friend not wanting to share that toy”.
“Attending silence” is also very beneficial depending on the situation – where the child is held and comforted without the use of words.
So often children will get into a battle of wills about who wants what or who had what first.
With Peaceful Parenting sharing is not forced, but rather encouraged through behavior modelling from the caregiver/ teacher.
We all have moments in our life when we don’t feel like sharing and children are validated in being allowed to feel human in doing so. As adults we are used to sharing with our families and close friends, but our ‘possessions’ (toys) are not usually shared – think cellphones, computers, jewelry, cars etc… In a social setting where toys do not belong to the child, but are available to all the children, sharing is a skill for them to develop over time, the converse is things that are not shared like underwear/hats/straws etc.
Toddlers are not developmentally ready at this stage to understand what sharing is, they are egocentric, recognizing themselves as individuals (apart from their parents) and with their own things. They are only just beginning to understand empathy and to learn the skill of sharing (which develops over the next couple of years). We encourage turn-taking and sharing by modelling empathy, and giving them words to help describe what they are feeling and validating those feelings. We don’t validate giving something up just because somebody else wants it. That takes from their power.
Mary and Dave get into a fight over a toy. Attending teacher gets down to their level.
Teacher – It looks like you guys are having a hard time deciding who gets to play with the ball now. Mary, it looks like you had the ball first and havent finished playing with it yet?
Mary – No! My ball.
Dave – But I want the ball now.
Teacher – Dave, can you see that Mary has not finished playing with the ball yet? It looks like she still would like to do some stuff with it for a while longer.
Dave – I want ball.
Mary – My ball! I haven’t finished yet.
Teacher – Seems like we have 2 children that want to play with the same ball at once. Is there anything we can do?
Dave – I want the ball.
Teacher – Yes Dave, I can see you want to play with the ball very much. You love playing with the ball.
Dave – Yes I do.
Mary- I haven’t finished still.
Teacher – Mary, do you think it would be possible for you to play with the ball for a bit longer and then give it to Dave?
Mary – Yes I can do that!
Teacher – Dave, do you hear Mary saying she will give you the ball when shes finished?
Dave – Yes. I still want ball.
Teacher – I know you do Dave, could we maybe find something else for you to do in the meantime while Mary finishes her turn with the ball? When shes done she will come and give it to you?
Dave – Yes, I suppose that’s ok, but I want it as soon as she’s done.
Both children have felt heard, and have also been given a working model on how to reach a win-win situation. Often a meltdown will follow such an interaction, in which case the child having the emotional reaction will be coached and supported on dealing with their feelings.
As they get older and are comfortable in the space and equipped with some tools as modeled, we would likely allow them to work out these scenarios by themselves in a safe space, closely overlooked by a teacher.