Is Peaceful Parenting Actually Permissive Parenting?


”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!

Want to know more about the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to setting limits? Check out this free Setting Limits E-book or sign up for their Setting Limits Online Self-Study Course.

31 thoughts on “Is Peaceful Parenting Actually Permissive Parenting?

  1. I agree. A child needs to express their emotions and if parents constantly try to sidestep a tantrum then children are left confused about how to react in stressful times as they grow. It’s the happy but also sad times that develop us as rounded individuals. Great read! #bloggerclubuk

  2. My Mom who is a super hero when it comes to dealing with kids (she’s been a kindergarten and playgroup teacher to probably thousands of different kids over the years) has been babysitting for a family we are friends with. She experienced EXACTLY the playground scenario you describe with their youngest 3yo boy, and she’s a bit shocked about it. I don’t even know how she managed to get him home.
    So what are your tips on how to handle those situations in a loving way?

    1. Hi Tamara,

      your mum sounds great! With Hand in Hand Parenting, it’s all about setting limits by bringing connection. So getting down on the child’s level making eye contact, setting the limit with warmth, but being firm, and then allowing space for the child if they want to get upset, (or if they want to giggle, run away, etc). Listening to the feelings while ‘holding’ the limit, means that any upset that was getting in the way of the child being able to co-operate will be released and then they’ll be able to think clearly and be much more reasonable. You can learn much more in the free setting limits e-book that I link to above 🙂

    2. I think having a group of children makes things smoother because there are usually advance notices, routines, and a little bit of positive peer pressure. Maybe it would to try to duplicate those in appropriate ways for one kid.

  3. You make an interesting distinction. I don’t do bribes because it drags the situation out longer & the kids would expect it every time then. I do think giving a heads up that we are leaving the park in five minutes helps a lot though. Thanks so much for joining us at #BloggerClubUK

  4. Just wonderful advice! Mine are teens – I think slightly harder to be a peaceful parent but I do try – any advice for parenting teens? Am just writing a blog post on teen attitude! #BloggerClubUK

  5. I love this way of looking at tantrums as an emotional release – I’ve also heard it described as when they are feeling ‘big feelings’ that they are struggling to handle. It’s important I think not to forget how difficult it can be for children who don’t know how to process their feelings and emotions yet. Another brilliant post and it’s great to see the distinction being made between permissive and peaceful. #ablogginggoodtime

  6. Isn’t it interesting that, when we are in public, the act of allowing our child or have a trantrum or even the act of listening to and genuinely considering what our child has said, can be seen as permissive!
    (And yes, I have also has such statements made to me as well in the course of my work, so thank you for addressing it here).

  7. Another great post Kate – you’ve totally nailed it, we are so busy trying to ‘sidestep’ tantrums when actually they are so cathartic for the kids because WE find them draining and also embarrassing if others are around. I’ve heard the phrase setting ‘kind limits’ – it may well be one you’ve used – and this really helps me when I’m being firm about no more telly today, not another biscuit etc etc – but know there will be a full on meltdown as a result! The problem I have with one of mine’s tantrums is that they tend to include hitting out to siblings and myself…. I’d love to find a post of your’s about this sort of stuff?! x #ABrandNewDay

  8. Another interesting way of framing it.

    The difficulty is being consistent between parents. It’s one thing for me to come home and be hard line when I haven’t had a day of constant demands, screaming and cold tea it’s another for my wife who will have!

    Sometimes I don’t pick my battles well (see the 10 minute “say please / sorry” stand off where we both in a loop).


  9. I really enjoy reading your posts. I want to be a peaceful parent, but I wasn’t raised that way (at all) and I often feel like I don’t have the right tools in my toolbox. Your posts help me find the ones I need to pick up and use.

    1. Thanks Liz 🙂 I think we all feel that way to some extent about our own childhood. I’m really glad my posts are helping 🙂

  10. Oh SO MUCH yes. Personally, with my two, I find that ‘peaceful parenting’ requires a LOT of waiting. I know that if I am half in the middle of figuring out a tough crossword clue, for instance, I don’t want to be lifted out of it and have my nappy changed (so to speak), so I won’t do that to my kids either. Waiting, waiting waiting… and then knowing exactly when is the right moment. And communicating, communicating, communicating… Peaceful parenting is hard! And as somebody external who is watching, they can’t see all those tiny clues and decisions that we make. My littlest one at the moment (20 months) is really stepping up to the tantrum plate, and there are many times when I just have to be present and wait. I tell him that I know he is angry/whatever, and that I am here for him when he is ready for a hug. He usually has a couple of minutes of a flip out and then runs to me exhausted and needing support and love. I hope that my kids will grow up to know that strong emotions are a normal part of life, and that no matter what, I am here for them.

    1. What you say about external observers not knowing about all the details and decisions is so true! I sometimes wish I could have guides to dealing with my mother, just like parenting guides.

    1. Yes exactly Honest Mum, at that communication means they can express some sadness about the boundaries and then are often happy to co-operate 🙂

  11. I agree. Often tantrums are misconstrued as being bold but it’s not that at all. Built up tension and the inability to explain what they want or need. Peaceful can definitely be misconstrued as permissable. And bribery gets you no where fast #ablogginggoodtime

    1. thanks for reading. Yes I think sometimes parents want to be peaceful but aren’t sure what tools to use. Simple setting limits and listening to feelings is so powerful!

  12. It’s always great to read your posts. With my nearly one year old I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to come. It’s great to read some coping methods in advance to prepare myself and hopefully avoid loads of pitfalls! Thanks for linking up to #abrandnewday

  13. I’m curious re your thoughts on other ways to avoid tantrums at leaving the park, such as begining to take one last time down the slide, give the merry go round on last spin, touch the swingset & say goodnight, tell the benches “good night! See you next time”. And the playmates too. And the grass, the games, whoever, whatever else is there. In my experience, that alleviates a tantrum. Does persistNt parenting in that mode (“red or blue pants?” “Yes, you may hold a balloon from the floral dept while we walk through the grocery (& give it to the cashier at check out)”) mean that the child is missing out on an important chance to throw that tantrum?

    1. Hi Jennifer, sorry for my very late reply! I’ve been travelling this month, so haven’t had a chance to reply to all my comments. I think it’s nice to give kids some warning, and make compromises to meet their needs/wants, but if you sense that your child has some underlying tension, or is picking all sorts of little things to have upsets about then often what they really need is for you to say no and then listen to the upset, then they get a chance to release all their feelings and feel better. Hope that makes sense, thanks for reading!

  14. I love the idea of peaceful parenting. My daughter is nearly 15 months old and as she starts to understand things more, she also understands “no” and refusing certain things. I agree with you that being positive, peaceful and kind as a parent doesn’t mean giving into their every request – rather it means working as a team in a mutually respectful way.

    Also, I definitely feel that pang of guilt or feeling like a failure when my daughter gets upset (I don’t know that we’ve quite hit tantrums yet, but I know they’re inevitable in some capacity). Even though I know it’s her way of expressing her true emotions, I can’t help but feel that I’ve made a mistake.

    1. Hi Sam, thanks so much for your comment, your daughter is lucky to have a mum that’s already thinking about peaceful parenting. I think there’s a massive misunderstanding in our culture that if our children cry it’s something we’ve done wrong. Crying and tantrums, are a real natural stress release, kind of like therapy for kids. When a child gets upset about something small, often it’s not really about that but a trigger for deeper feelings. Of course we don’t want to deliberately make our children unhappy but sometimes setting a limit, and listening to an upset, is what our children need to feel better. If you want to know more I’ve got loads of articles on my blog about crying, and because I’m so passionate about this subject I’ve also written a whole book about it!

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