We believe in what is called a peaceful parenting philosophy. We begin by modeling the behavior we would like to see in our children. This approach is somewhat different to most traditional parenting approaches that focus on the child’s behavior, and use punishments and unnatural consequences to modify behavior. Unnatural consequences and relationships that are defined by hierarchy are less effective in our opinion, so if a rule does not apply to adults, then (generally speaking) it should not apply to children. We are all humans after all, and children are just adults in training. We prefer our approach, because we believe children learn what they live, and connection and compassion are a better way to get children to “behave”.
There are a few different categories we would like to address in our philosophy that we believe are imperative if we want to create a better world with more compassionate human beings.
If you were to come over and spend a few days in our home, you would find that we have very few rules. We don’t have bedtimes, yet our children fall asleep at a decent hour every night. We don’t make them share, yet they are generous.
We only have two rules in our home—we stole them from someone who stole them from someone else. They are basic, yet all encompassing.
1. Do not encroach on the person or property of another. We use simpler language when the children are young. In a nutshell, you do not touch a person’s body or property if they have not agreed to it.
2. Do all that you have agreed to do. Keep your promises.
These two principles are powerful, and imperative if you wish to live in a free world. The rest is all about teaching children to self-regulate. Adults and children are to adhere to these rules. If you wish to be a member of our family and remain in good standing, you must follow these two rules.
We do not make our children share. “But won’t they turn into selfish brats who never share?” Not really. We’ve actually found the opposite to be true. Children whose parents make them share are given arbitrary limits on a particular object (toy). We’ve seen it time and time again. Many of these children are so anxious about when their turn will be over, that not only do they lose out on enjoying their time with said toy, but they clench tightly and fight it. Children tend to be more generous when they are allowed to self-regulate their turns.
How does this play out in real life?
If the toy belongs to the child, refer to rule 1. The child does not HAVE to share. No one comes to our house and makes us share all of our things with them, yet we do this daily with children. Something we do when we are having friends over is talk about it beforehannd. If children are visiting, they will probably want to play with our toys, just like we like to do the same when we visit others. We ask if there are any special toys that they definitely don’t want touched. Those we put away. We talk to them about generosity, and they share because they see what happens when they do.
When we show our children that it is okay for an authority figure to come in and take your property to give it to another at any moment, well…. what does that teach them? In our opinion, this creates a dependence on “authority” for problem solving and takes that responsibility away from the child. It also legitimizes theft. We aren't fans of theft of any kind.
One last thing that we feel is important to mention…most of the toys our children have were bought with their own money. This means more to them. They worked hard for something and just like we do, they value their things.
We can hear it now…
“No, its my turn!”
One day we were at the splash pad, and Dean was waiting for his turn on one of the only two water squirters at the splash pad. The child using it had his mother screaming at him to share and he was not happy about it. He did not want to give it up. I turned to Dean and, loudly enough for the other child to hear, I told him, “Its his turn now. When he is done you can use it.” Then I turned to the little boy who stared at me in distress and I told him, “Take as long as you need, let us know when you are done. We can wait.” I waited patiently with Dean. The boy continued to use the squirter for a few seconds, but I could see him thinking about what had just happened. There was no fight. There was nothing to control. The power struggle was non-existent. He was done right away and said, “Im done!”
This just proves that it is more about control than anything else. We’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again. How does this apply to real life? If I’m on my 10th set with the smith machine at the gym, no one will come up to me and say “my turn!”.
NATURAL CONSEQUENCES VS PUNISHMENTS
Spanking - This is absolutely off limits and we are against it. Research has shown time and time again that spanking only causes more aggressive behavior in children and does more harm than good. You can actually destroy the gray matter in their brain when you hit them. Also, this breaks Rule #1. We NEVER hit. EVER.
What about Time-Out? Time outs do not teach children any lessons. They put children on the defense and most of the time they cry the entire time. They feel shame and it teaches them that their feelings are unacceptable in your presence.
Instead, try TIME IN. Most of the time, when our child is acting out, it is because a need is not being met. They are asking for something. They need to connect. Something we have done is to create a “relax space” for the children. A little space that is safe in the home with some paper and crayons for coloring, some soothing essential oils, and maybe one of our soothing glitter bottles. Another option is to offer the child for you to take some time in with them. Sometimes, all they want is to be heard and seen. We can immediately see the walls come down when I acknowledge their pain. You will never get through to a child who you forcibly separate from you.