”So peaceful parenting, is that when parents are nice to their children all the time, even when they are acting out and misbehaving? That sounds a bit permissive to me.”
I have heard variations on this statement many times, and yes, sometimes, being ‘nice’ to our children can be permissive, and not in their best interests in the long run.
Imagine the scene. You’ve had a lovely day out with your child, doing what they love, and soaking up joy and connection. At the end of the day you want to leave the park/swimming pool/playground etc, because it’s getting late. However each time you try to leave you sense your child is on the verge of a tantrum, so you decide to stay a little longer. And then when they are still not willing to go, you try bribing with the promise of an ice cream or a new toy, because you don’t want to ruin the lovely day, you want to keep them happy.
In this scenario, we are being ‘nice’ to our child, we’re thinking of their feelings and their needs. We know they love the park and playing with their friends. And we don’t want them to feel sad. We’re not shouting or losing our temper.
But we are also being permissive. The confusion between peaceful parenting and permissive parenting happens because of a misunderstanding of how our children’s emotions work.
Many parents often think that when a child throws a tantrum it means they’ve failed as a parent. When we have days filled with non-stop tantrums, we can feel drained and exhausted and we can often wonder what on earth we are doing wrong. It’s no surprise, that parents often choose to parent in a way that sidesteps tantrums, keeping their children happy by being ‘nice’ to them.
But here’s the thing, when a child has a tantrum, they don’t think that the day is ruined. They’re simply feeling a strong emotion, and when that emotion passes, with lots of warmth and empathy from a parent, they’ll be back to feeling good (and also behaving well) again.
Tantrums are a natural stress release, a way the body releases the stress hormone cortisol, and other hormones that effect mood. They are often not a sign that anything is wrong in the present, but often a sign that everything is right, that your child has been soaking up your love and attention, and now senses it’s a good time to release feelings from when they didn’t feel so good.
Believe it or not our child’s natural state is one of co-operation. Beneath all the ‘no’s and the refusals, and the running away. The fast track to returning our child to their natural state is by setting limits with our children when we know our requests are reasonable, and then listening to any emotional fallout, with warmth and empathy.
It’s in our child’s best interest not to be permissive, and not to be ‘nice’ because when a child is saying no to our reasonable requests, it’s actually that they have an underlying upset, and need to release some feelings. Listening to their feelings regularly means that they don’t need to tell us about their feelings through the behaviour, and we’ll see more and more that their natural co-operative nature shining through.
Peaceful parenting, doesn’t have to be permissive parenting. We can set limits in way that is loving and full of empathy, providing we are able to listen to the emotional upsets. It’s not always easy for us, and I’ll explain more about what to do about that in my next post. Sign up to follow the blog via email to make sure you don’t miss it!