Thursday, December 1, 2011

Peaceful Parenting


I came across the phrase peaceful parenting on facebook, the social media platform for DrMomma.org. Here is what she says about this style of parenting: Peaceful Parenting is essentially the effort to mother and father our babies and children in a manner that leads to their optimal health, happiness, and well-being. Peaceful parenting is as old as humanity itself, and is coherent with listening to our own mothering and fathering instincts, as well as tuning into the cues our little ones provide for us. As parenting that is normal, natural, primal and innate, it is *not* exactly the same as the pop-culture definition of ‘attachment parenting’ and it is *not* a set of hard, fast methods or laws to follow. Peaceful parenting does no intentional harm. It is parenting based not only in natural human and mammalian experience, but also in hard science and evidence-based research.
So what does that mean? For us, it is a foundational principle for raising our son. We model the behavior we desire, even the emotional traits we wish for our son to learn. The traits/behaviors we wish for him to learn are respect, empathy, and internal motivation.  Since we want him to learn empathy towards others, we model empathy for him. His cries have always had value to us. We have always attended to his needs, both physical and emotional. We have NEVER allowed him to be by himself in a room, crying it out. There is so much research out there that shows this is detrimental to emotional development, I’m shocked anyone would even consider doing this to a child. Are there times he’s upset and crying? Yes. But we’re right there with him, holding him, giving him emotional support and comfort. At 2 1/2 he knows to show empathy towards others because it’s been modeled to him. He comforts others who are upset, shows concern when someone it hurt, and shares his toys with others, as well as a 2 1/2 yr old can do, which in our opinion, he does pretty good.
Another value we are instilling is intrinsic value of self, internal motivation, versus external motivation with the attitude of what’s in it for me. Eli is learning what is right and wrong because it is right and wrong. He is not learning this through external motivation, i.e the reward/punishment system. There are no time-outs (which in research has shown to be ineffective) for undesired behavior, just like there isn’t rewards for desired behaviors. The idea of sticker charts for learning to go potty just absolutely drives me crazy! As an adult, I have yet to have anyone give me a gold star for using the potty.  He will get stickers because he likes stickers.  The same with food.  Food is not a reward or punishment.  It is a basic human need.   Here is the key to peaceful parenting, or natural parenting, treat children with the same respect you would an adult. I believe in my child’s ability to have his own mind, ideas and expression. I treat him with the same respect I expect him to show others. When I model this behavior to him, he then show this behavior towards others.  Is he perfect, other than me being a proud mama who thinks he’s always perfect?  No, he’s still learning.  Does this mean we don’t have rules and boundaries?  No, we do.  Are we more open with our boundaries than a lot of mainstream parents?  Probably yes.  We also believe in free range parenting, which is basically allowing him to discover his world without us having to hover over him.  It’s something I constantly work at, for me.  But for Eli to be our first, and only child at this point, I feel I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to allowing Eli to explore and discover his world.  Eli is a very outgoing, free spirit and we nurture that spirit.  We don’t let him run completely wild in public, but we have reasonable expectations of his public behavior.
So what do we do when he is misbehaving? First, we see misbehavior as the symptom, not the problem.  When Eli is acting out, it is an outward expression of some other issue.  Is he tired, hungry, bored, not feeling well, teething, emotionally ready to explore/expand the boundaries?  We address these root issues and guess what, the so called misbehavior is taken care of!
Some of you ready this might be thinking “how sweet, just wait until he reaches 5, or they have another baby, we’ll check in with you to see how you feel about peaceful parenting”.  What I do know, is that this foundational principle of treating our child(ren) with respect will not change.  We are always learning and growing as parents, adapting to fit the needs of our child.  What we do at almost 3 is absolutely different than what we did at the newborn stage, so of course what we do at 5 will be different than what we do now.  BUT we have the foundational principles of respect, empathy, and internal motivation to guide us through those changes.

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