Gone are the days when your mere look of disapproval was enough to derail your toddler’s plans for world domination. Nope. Now she’s three and going for broke.
Peaceful parenting is less about strict do’s and don’ts and more about a set of principles that help us connect with our kids—even when they’ve hidden our car keys and can’t be bribed.
Here are seven ways peaceful parenting might work when your child is in that stage—you know the one—somewhere between three and eternity.
1. How to peacefully deal with teaching them to clean up after themselves
Your child may not be successful in doing this independently for quite some time, mama, so don’t set your expectations too high.
Model what you want them to do and point out next steps. When you show, instead of tell, the brain processes it in a different way. Kids can follow your example and do it again another time. (And keep in mind, there is always the option to reevaluate what possessions your kids have. Maybe it’s time to donate some toys and clothes?)
2. How to peacefully deal with little (or big!) messes throughout the day
Consider this when you find a new portrait from your little artist on your kitchen wall: This is normal behavior, not akin to vandalism. Say something like, “I know you love to draw but this isn’t a good place to draw. Where else do you think you can draw instead?”
Help them think of a solution. If they are given the responsibility to think of where a better place would be then the learning will stick in their minds better.
3. How to peacefully deal with enforcing basic hygiene skills
Hygiene isn’t always top of mind for kiddos. Kids are busy and they don’t mind fuzzy teeth and bedhead.
Since we do mind paying their dental bill and would also like the general public to know that we try to take care of them, we have to be the ones to follow through.
Set an alarm. This is for you, not them. Setting an alarm on your phone for 10 minutes before you leave the house reminds you to remind them. Then supervise—at least peek in to make sure they’re really brushing.
When needed, help. Younger kids need help with teeth and hair and washing in general for far longer than we usually think. Scale back your help as they get older.
4. How to peacefully deal with lying
Gah! Why? We know they’re lying and suspect they know we know. Yet, they’re committed. This is actually a primitive and unrefined tool for staying connected and conflict-free. We know that it doesn’t really work that way but they’re new here.
For example, when your child lies about brushing her teeth, here’s what’s happening in her brain: She’s going to brush and then remembers she hates it. She decides that she’ll just hang out for 3 minutes instead so that she doesn’t have to brush.
Then you ask her The Question and she wishes she would’ve brushed but doesn’t want conflict with you so she answers in the affirmative.
Instead of seeing lying as the ultimate affront, try to understand the need that is being met by lying. How can you help her meet this need for secure relationships without letting the lie slide?
5. How to peacefully deal with hitting and hurting
Biting, throwing and hitting are normal parts of development for most kids. So just because your 5-year-old chucks a ball at your baby’s head doesn’t mean you’ll be visiting her in prison someday.
The way you react to this will set a precedent. Try to remain calm. If you fly off the handle then your 5-year-old is more prone to do the same.
It’s common for kids to immediately regret hurting someone. Help them make amends and talk about how to handle it next time they feel a strong emotion.
This sends the message that she can make mistakes and she can take responsibility and fix them.
6. How to peacefully deal with the refusal of dinner
My son went through a phase when he stopped eating what we prepared each night. The phase lasted until he moved out, which is to say we are still in the thick of it since he’s just 15.
When he was younger we gave him the choice of eating the dinner as it was made or having a sandwich. Choices that you can live with either way will save you. Red cup or blue cup? Sandwich or dinner?
7. How to peacefully deal with bedtime struggles
Bedtime is the biggest separation that children go through in their day. It also happens at the time when kids are most emotional because they’re tired. We see their looming bedtime as the gateway to adult freedom but they see it as missing out.
Make bedtime routines simple. And be consistent. A longer routine might actually stimulate kids and prolong the process.
Parenting peacefully takes time and energy, no doubt. It’s hard work to take other people’s feelings and needs into consideration at every turn, but it’s so worth it. When I hear my kids use these same strategies with each other and with other people, it makes my heart burst. Peaceful parenting is connection on purpose and that’s exactly what I want my kids to go out and sow in this crazy world of ours.