Saturday, February 20, 2010

Parenting in Peace

By Daisy L. Hall
Contact Hall at: DaisyHall@choosepeace.com

I urge you to be at peace with your children. Many parents are at 'war' with their children - constantly fighting over homework, chores, curfew, etc. Such households are characterized by frustrated, yelling parents; and fearful, crying, unhappy children. If you find a need to chastise or punish your children on a daily basis, there is a need for change. Isn't it time to end the conflict? Make a commitment to peaceful parenting and a peaceful household by embracing the concepts outlined here.

To parent in peace:

1. Give some thought to your childhood. Think about what you liked and did not like about your growing up experience. Think about your childhood relationship with your parents.

Why is this important? Because parents will inevitably relive their childhoods through their children. And, whatever unresolved issues you have from childhood, will show up, one way or another, in your relationship with your children - often in very unhealthy ways.

What issues have you carried into adulthood? Do you have unresolved issues with your parents? Do you have issues around control, sexuality, school performance, anger , trust or intimacy? If so, think about how these issues may be affecting your ability to be a good parent. See my article, Do Your Own Therapy.

2. Think about the problems you are having with your children. For each problem, ask yourself, is this really important? Why does this bother me so much? If the child does not change this behavior, will there be serious consequences? Sometimes a problem becomes a power struggle that the parent is unnecessarily determined to win. But, what value is winning if you destroy your relationship with your child? Ongoing conflict carries with it the risk of seriously damaging the parent-child relationship. And with ongoing conflict, there can be no peace.

3. Accept your child as a separate, unique individual, who at times may think and behave very differently from you. Too often parents are threatened by, or uncomfortable with, differences. Conflicts arise when the parent tries to change the way a child thinks or behaves. Ask yourself, "Is this really a problem I should be concerned about?" Or, is it simply the child expressing his or her unique personality?

For example, you feel your child is much too outgoing and constantly warn him to be more cautious about people, not to be so friendly. After you have adequately expressed your concerns, it may be time to let go and accept the child for who he is. Recognizing that we all learn by experience.

4. Think about the expectations you have of your children. Are they realistic? Are they fair? Children are often held to higher expectations than adults - i.e. "You must always tell the truth," when lying by adults is often excepted or overlooked. Children are often punished for breaking a glass, spilling the milk, or losing his jacket; when adults are not. Children are frequently punished for getting a bad grade, but adults are not punished for getting a bad performance evaluation. In regards to school work, the issue should be, whether or not the child did the best he or she could.

5. Respect your children. Just as adults want and need respect, so do children. Respect your children by listening to them, accepting their individuality, accepting that they are not perfect, allowing them to make mistakes, and allowing them to make decisions and have input about things that affect them (as age appropriate). And remember, if you must demand a child's respect, you don't really have it.

6. Contemplate your concept of a "good child." Is a good child one that always does what he or she is told? Never disobeys? Always does the right thing? Always pleases his parents? Think about it. Would you really want a child like that? And how prepared would such a child be to function in our society? Sometimes "disobedience" can be a sign or strength or independence. If parenting was a simple as telling a child once, parents would not be needed. A child needs to be taught, and teaching and training takes time and repetition. If you have to correct your child many times for the same misbehavior, this does not necessarily mean the child is bad or disrespectful. A child is a work in progress, who will need support and guidance for many years.

And remember, there are no perfect children, as there are no perfect parents. You must forgive yourself for the mistakes you make as a parent, and you must forgive your children. A parent will often be required to forgive a child for not being born at the right time, for not being the child you wanted, for not living up to your expectations, for not fulfilling your dreams, and for making mistakes.

7. Have fun together, as a family. Create your own family traditions. Such as, pizza night or movie night once a week. Make cookies, popcorn, or other treats. Work a puzzle, play a board game, read stories together. Sit down with the children and come up with fun things you can do on your "fun night." Children need to have fun and so do you. I recognize that this can be difficult with our busy lives, however, investing time in your children reaps great rewards.

8. Be a loving parent and do the very best you can. This is the best advice anyone can give a parent. If you are doing the very best you can, there is never any reason for guilt. Most parents "love" their children, but "loving" is about how you treat your children. Be loving with your children. Praise them specifically, give them attention when they're doing things right, show them respect as human beings, and tell them you love them - often.

And, if you are getting it right, you will know. Within your household, there will be smiles, there will be laughter, and there will be peace.



23 comments:

  1. Love this blog! And really love this post! Apart from the praise part, exactly how I feel about the issue!
    I put this blog on my blog list
    mamapoekie.blogspot.com

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  2. Thank you for this. At 3.5y, 1.5y, & pg again, we are running smack up against my issues from childhood and I'm challenged on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis to change patterns of neglect and disparagement handed down from my family. I'm not blaming my family, I'm taking responsibility for my reality from childhood. APing and GDing has been easy until now, but as they grow and push through to their own sense of selves it touches all of my issues. I am reading a lot of positive parenting things and practicing saying, "I'm sorry" both to my kids, husband and self whenever I slip into these unconscious patterns. I'm also taking responsibility for every time I am successful at handling family situations with peace and equality.

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  3. Great advice. I wish this was common sense to all parents. :)

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  4. Though "peace" is not always easily achieved, the real goal, in some ways, is more peace than war! And I know that you are correct in so many ways... My husband and I decided that positive reinforcement is the BEST tool to maintain appropriate behavior... Who wants to be yelled at all the time... If you really want your child to behave, notice them for everything good that they do. They will start seeking praise for doing "good" things instead of seeking out bad behavior which results in yelling. I am now a follower of your blog!

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  5. This is great advice.

    The one thing I'd add is to be forgiving of yourself to when as a parent you inevitably find yourself in a ridiculous power struggle with a four-year old -- just give it up, forgive yourself and move on.

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  6. fantastic post, thanks for sharing. i need to be reminded of this from time to time. I think i'll post this on my fridge.

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  7. I wish my mom had read this when I was little... I feel grateful that I was able to read this before my little one is born. I will not relive my childhood through my relationship with my daughter. Thank you for posting this.

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  8. What beautiful advice. Except for the one line on "praising," this is one of my favorite articles ever posted here (and they are all wonderful). I would like to reference this from my blog. Is that okay?

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  9. Thank you for this post! As a mom of 3 boys, 7, 5, and 2, I often find myself in needless power struggles and have to step back...one thought though, my children are "perfect" and so is every child out there...it's the adults' visions of perfection that need work! Give our children guidance, stability, and love, and they'll be fine making their way in this world.

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  10. I am not sure what some of you Mamas are referring to when you talk about the praise part being not-so-great - what do you take issue with? I'd love to know! :)

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  11. I've seen a couple comments from women who are against praise for good behavior. What's wrong with positive reenforcement?

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  12. Here's a link to an article on why praising isn't such a great thing. Note that there is a difference between praising children and being positive/supportive/encouraging!

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

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  13. I cannot say for sure what someone questions about praise, but I do know that its important for a child to feel her/his own pride and enjoyment from something. Instead of saying "that is beautiful", say "look at that" or "you worked hard" or "how do you feel" etc. My hunch is this is what people are reffering to and I've heard it from many positive parenting sources.

    I also have a question about this article- I believe in the concept, but struggle daily with my daughter because she won't get dressed or come to breakfast, etc. This is important to our family- we need to leave for school/work. How can I give her freedom in this without impacting myself or her carpool.

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  14. In regards to the praise line, that can be a little confusing. In our home, we strive to embrace an Authentic Parenting philosphy. It depends how the praise is being used. We encourage and share in our childrens' accomplishments but try not to use praise as a way to manipulate behavior. I recently came across this article which attempts to clarify different uses of praise. http://blog.essentialparenting.com/2010/10/unpacking-praise/.

    Alfie Kohn
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/books.htm

    and Naomi Aldort http://www.naomialdort.com/

    are both excellent resources for those seeking to incorporate authenticity into family life. Kohn's book "Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason" and Aldort's book "Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves" have both greatly influenced our parenting style. Their philosophies heavily challenge the current mainstream parenting advice and require a major paradigm shift in thinking, but we find so much more joy and peace in living with our girls since embracing an authentic parenting style. That's not to say that I never yell or become frustrated, because that would be untrue- I am still human :o). We are definitely still learning and working toward becoming more authentic and peaceful in our parenting.

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  15. so totally awesome! the past is prologue if we don't examine it fully and remake our resolve to do so every single day.

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  16. How can we get parents to have to learn this stuff every time they have a new child (refresher courses).

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  17. As I was reading this I kept thinking "yeah, my thoughts exactly. I'll have to send hubby the link so he can read it too" ...until I got to the praise part at the end. Can that bit be removed? If it is I'll also post this article on my blog!

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  18. All the responses that seem afraid of reacting positively to any article mentioning "praise", irritate me. Seems like the audience is much too hung up on buzz words and fads, with far too little concern for understanding the meaning of the author.

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  19. as my daughter entered kindergarten, they use little rewards - it does helps them (the teachers) but it is an "extrensic" motivator. "if you do this, you will get..." It had negatively affected our daughter's behavior. she expects a toy or some reward for doing what she previously did and was proud of herself for doing "it". we are looking at a "Waldorf" school now for a change. we are experiencing a lot of frustration, return to tantrums and too much concern for "wasting time" etc. Some kids are fine in this learning environment but it has had a deleterious affect on our daughter. it's very distressing - also, it could be a growth spurt, growing pains and one of those mind growth changes - so .... It's still "the toughest job you'll ever love" to borrow from the military motto!

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    1. We are experiencing this same thing with our daughter. She has become aggressive with us because of it. We are currently interviewing with the Montessori school and hoping to change as soon as possible.

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  20. I think that by 'praise specifically', the author means to praise the actual action. Not "Good Job!" but "I like how you used the colors in this drawing" or "Look how you picked up your clothes without being told!". Instead of "You did it!" try: "You kept trying until you succeeded. Doesn't that feel great?" Everyone-especially children-needs to hear praise. Everyone needs to know that someone appreciates what they are doing. Mindless pandering (everyone gets a trophy) isn't helping them. Showing that you appreciate them and their efforts helps them to feel good about themselves and that will reflect on their behavior.

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    1. Agree completely. I think the anti-praise sentiment has gone a bit too far in the opposite direction. There is a huge difference between the everyone's a winner mentality and offering a word of encouragement/praise. I get the "reasoning" behind it . . . I really do. (I've studied psychology . . . I understand the logic.) But . . . seriously? Aren't there bigger issues with parenting peacefully than whether or not I may have tossed a few nonchalant "great job, honey!" comments at my kids?

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  21. This should be tucked into the folder on the way out of the hospitals for new parents. I love it! Praise, in my opinion....positive reinforcement :) I hate the discipline and shame that so many parents resort to.

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