13 realistic ways to transition to peaceful parenting

The secret of making this transition is having compassion for yourself, just as you do for your child.

13 realistic ways to transition to peaceful parenting

Shifting your parenting approach is a big transition, and you can expect some bumps as you and your whole family learn new patterns of relating. Those bumps don't mean that you're doing anything wrong, even if your child sometimes "acts worse" than she ever would have before.


In fact, what's happening when your child acts out is that she's showing you feelings from the past, from those times when you yelled or punished, and she felt so alone and misunderstood. It takes extra compassion from you, but your empathic response will heal those hurts so you can all move on. You might think of it as healing old hurt feelings so they stop driving new bad behavior.

Many parents also find themselves feeling guilty for the way they acted before they discovered peaceful parenting. But feeling bad doesn't help you act "good," any more than it helps your child. So ditch that guilt. You're paying the price, after all, and making amends now, by helping your child heal those old hurt feelings.

Still wondering how anyone makes it through even one evening parenting peacefully? Here's your plan. Take it step by step.

1. Start with yourself

The "peace" in peaceful parenting comes from you. Specifically, from your commitment to regulate your own emotions. That means that when you feel upset, you stop, drop your agenda (temporarily) and breathe. You notice the sensations in your body, which helps you be more present, so you don't get hijacked by anger. You refuse to act on that urgent "fight or flight" feeling that makes your child look like the enemy. Whenever possible, you delay taking action until you feel more calm.

This takes practice—both in the moment with your child, and in general, as you become more aware of your own thoughts and emotions. It's not easy. In fact, it's really, really, hard. Every time you do this, though, you're building gray matter in your brain, which develops impulse control. And you're excavating those triggers, so you don't get upset so often.

2. Focus on connecting

Peaceful parenting doesn't work without connection. So before you change anything else with your child, start building up your bond. Otherwise, you'll drop your punishments, but your child still won't feel motivated to "do right" and you'll just see more testing behavior. Start spending at least 15 minutes connecting one-on-one with each child daily, just following his lead and pouring your love into him. You'll be amazed at the difference in the way he responds to your requests.

3. Explain what's happening

Once you see more connection and cooperation, initiate a discussion.

"You know how I used to yell at you and send you to your room when you broke the rules? Have you noticed that I've been yelling a lot less? I'm so sorry that I've gotten into a bad habit of yelling so much. I love you so much, and I know you try hard. You don't deserve to be yelled at, no matter what. No one does.

We still have all the same rules. So it is never okay to lie or break promises or hit your brothers. But we think you'll learn more from cleaning up your messes and repairing your mistakes than from being punished, don't you? So when you damage something, including a relationship with someone in our family, we expect you to make a repair. We'll always be there to help. And when you're upset, we want to help you with whatever problem you're having. Let's begin by having a family meeting about what household rules are important to us."

4. Ask for cooperation

"Our most important rule is that in this house we treat each other with kindness. I'm going to work very hard not to yell at you, and to really listen and be kind. Do you think you can work on this rule, too, and be kind to your sister?"

You can count on your child losing control sometimes and breaking the kindness rule. Resist the temptation to use that to justify your own yelling—you're the role model, after all.

5. Offer support and model win-win solution

"I know your little sister gets on your nerves sometimes, and she always wants to play with your things. That's really annoying to you. You deserve to be able to keep your treasures safe. But it isn't okay to yell at your sister or hit her. Why don't we work together to find a safe place for your treasures where your sister can't get at them? And if you start getting annoyed at her, what can you do instead of yelling?"

6. Keep setting limits

You become more flexible as you see it from your child's point of view more often, and that's a good thing. But you'll still need to set plenty of limits. The key is to set the limit BEFORE you get angry, while you still have a sense of humor and can empathize with his perspective.

"You wish you never had to stop playing and get ready for bed, don't you? I bet when you grow up, you'll play all night every night, won't you?! And right now, it's time for your bath."

Acknowledging your child's perspective as you set the limit is what helps them cooperate with you.

7. Teach reparations

If you've been punishing, you'll feel unfinished if your child breaks a rule and you don't punish him. So train yourself to think in terms of repair, instead.

After everyone has calmed down and is feeling reconnected, have a private discussion with your child about what happened. Be patient, listen and really empathize. That's what will help him past it. "You were pretty mad when he did that... I hear you."

Resist the urge to teach until after your child has opened up to show you all that upset that caused him to act out. Then, point out the cost of his actions, being careful not to shame or blame. "When you said that to your brother, it really hurt his feelings... I wonder if it made him not feel as close to you."

Ask your child if there is anything he can do to repair the damage. "I wonder what you could you do to repair things with your brother?

Resist the urge to punish or force an apology. Instead, empower your child to see that he can repair his mistakes. "You know we always clean up our own messes, right? This is just a different kind of mess, like spilled milk. I know you'll think of just the right thing to make things better with your brother....I can't wait to see what it is."

Just as with matter-of-factly cleaning up the spilled milk, the process of cleaning up his messes will teach him that he doesn't want to cause those hurts to begin with. Just remember that this isn't a punishment. It's his choice.

What if he resists? That means that he needs more help from you to heal his upset before he can move on to repair. Double-check to be sure you aren't lecturing, and that you're really seeing his perspective. If old resentments are creating a chip on his shoulder, then make a commitment to yourself to start the repair work today to melt those resentments.

8. Expect emotions

When children are punished, they learn that those big emotions that drive them to misbehave get them into trouble, so they try to stuff those "bad" feelings down. That doesn't work, of course. The jealousy, frustration and need are still there in your child's emotional backpack, popping out at the slightest provocation. The only reason your child keeps them under wraps is because she's afraid. So once you stop punishing, those emotions are bound to bubble up to get healed.

Acting out is not a personal challenge to you. When your child "acts out" she is acting out feelings that she can't express in words. Like "All those times you yelled at me, and I was so scared...I acted like I didn't care, but I was terrified inside....That fear is still inside me and it eats away at me and feels awful....So I lash out to keep those feelings down." No child could tell you that, so she acts out.

Train yourself to see misbehavior as a cry for help. Emotions are never the problem; humans will always have big emotions. And, of course, that doesn't give her license to hurt anyone else. The key is to help your child work through the hurts and fears that are under her anger, so they no longer drive her behavior.

How do you help your child with those emotions? Connection, laughter and tears.

9. Create safety

When your child shows you his upsets, stay calm. Don't take it personally. The more you stay compassionate and accepting, the more he'll feel safe enough to show you the woundedness behind his anger. (Anger is just the body's fight response to those threatening feelings.) Expressing those tears and fears is healing. Once he shares them with you—and he doesn't even need to know what they're about, or to use words—those upsetting feelings will evaporate, and he won't need that chip on his shoulder to protect himself.

If he's stuck in anger, create more safety by being as compassionate as you can about what's upsetting him. If that isn't enough to help him cry, and he stays angry, it's a sign that he needs more daily empathy, and more daily laughing with you. Both build trust.

10. Help your child make sense of her experience with a story

"When you were little, I was having a hard time... I yelled a lot... I didn't know what else to do... That frightened you.... So you got very very mad sometimes... Nowadays I work really hard to be kind, and not to yell... You don't get so frightened... And you are learning better ways to show me when you are scared or mad... We work together to solve problems in our family... Everyone gets upset sometimes... We try to listen to each other and be kind... Then we always repair things between us... There is always more love."

All children benefit from using words and stories to understand their emotional life. Just be careful to empathize, not analyze so she feels understood, not invaded or lectured.

11. Model apologies

Don't force your child to apologize, because it leads to resentment. But if you model apology yourself, your child will learn to follow your example. When something goes wrong, take as much responsibility as you can to model how to step up and take responsibility.

"I see two upset kids... I'm so sorry I wasn't here to help you work this out before you both got so upset and started hitting... and then I got worried someone was getting hurt, so I started yelling, too... I'm so sorry... Let's all try a do-over... I know you don't want to hit each other, hitting hurts... And I hear how mad you are... Let's start over so you can tell each other what you need without attacking each other."

Notice there is no blame or shame here, which makes it easier for everyone involved to consider how they might have contributed to the problem, and to acknowledge that.

12. Expect setbacks

You're human, so you aren't perfect. The secret of making this transition is having compassion for yourself, just as you do for your child. Expect to make mistakes. Expect some days to be a huge struggle. Parenting is hard, and this kind of parenting is even harder when you start. But it gets easier. And even while it's hard, you're healing your child's old wounds and your own so you'll feel the difference. Quite simply, there's less drama and more love.

13. Every morning, make the commitment

"For me, this type of parenting is a daily choice. Every morning I have to make the commitment not to yell, to stay calm, to chose love. And there is something very empowering about that. I apologize to my kids when I make mistakes and slip. I see that when they accept my apology, they feel empowerment and generosity of spirit. This influences their behavior with each other - there are more kind words and gestures, more "I'm sorry" and more "Don't worry, I know it wasn't your fault" that they extend to each other, than before. There are days when things are a big struggle, but I really feel that something is changing deep within our hearts AND I feel us grow closer together when we choose love, and when in the middle of a tantrum I hug my child and genuinely tell him that I hear his pain and that I'll help him work through it."

You're on a path now that leads to a happier, more peaceful family. Two steps forward, one step back still gets you where you want to go. Soon you'll find yourself in a whole new landscape. Enjoy the journey.

Originally posted on Aha! Parenting.

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    7 hacks for simplifying after-school snacks

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    Monthly deliveries keeps the pantry updated without a trip to grocery store. Many kids are big fans of popcorn, granola and pretzels. We like to DIY our own snack packs with a little popcorn, pretzels, nuts and whatever else is in the pantry so there's always something different!

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    • Avocado crackers: Use a cracker and then layer with thinly sliced avocado, a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese topped with roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
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    Even 5 hours of screen time per day is OK for school-aged kids, says new study

    Researchers found screen time contributes to stronger peer relationships and had no effect on depression and anxiety. So maybe it isn't as bad as we thought?

    MoMo Productions/Getty Images

    If you've internalized some parental guilt about your own child's screen time usage, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to significant amounts of screen time in children leads to an increased risk of depression and behavioral issues, poor sleep and obesity, among other outcomes. Knowing all this can mean you're swallowing a big gulp of guilt every time you unlock the iPad or turn on the TV for your kiddo.

    But is screen time really that bad? New research says maybe not. A study published in September 2021 of 12,000 9- and 10-year-olds found that even when school-aged kids spend up to 5 hours per day on screens (watching TV, texting or playing video games), it doesn't appear to be that harmful to their mental health.

    Researchers found no association between screen usage and depression or anxiety in children at this age.

    In fact, kids who had more access to screen time tended to have more friends and stronger peer relationships, most likely thanks to the social nature of video gaming, social media and texting.


    The correlations between screen time and children's health

    But those big social benefits come with a caveat. The researchers also noted that kids who used screens more frequently were in fact more likely to have attention problems, impacted sleep, poorer academic performance and were more likely to show aggressive behavior.

    Without a randomized controlled trial, it's hard to nail down these effects as being caused directly by screens. The study's authors analyzed data from a nationwide study known as the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD Study), the largest long-term study of brain development and children's health in the country. They relied on self-reported levels of screen time from both children and adults (it's funny to note that those reported numbers differed slightly depending on who was asked… ).

    It's important to remember that these outcomes are just correlations—not causations. "We can't say screen time causes the symptoms; instead, maybe more aggressive children are given screen devices as an attempt to distract them and calm their behavior," says Katie Paulich, lead author of the study and a PhD student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Also worth noting is that a child's socioeconomic status has a 2.5-times-bigger impact on behavior than screens.

    Weighing the benefits with the risks will be up to you as the parent, who knows your child best. And because we live in a digital world, screens are here to stay, meaning parents often have little choice in the matter. It's impossible to say whether recreational screen time is fully "good" or "bad" for kids. It's maybe both.

    "When looking at the strength of the correlations, we see only very modest associations," says Paulich. "That is, any association between screen time and the various outcomes, whether good or bad, is so small it's unlikely to be important at a clinical level." It's all just part of the overall picture.

    A novel look at screen time in adolescents

    The researchers cite a lack of studies examining the relationship between screen time and health outcomes in this specific early-adolescence age group, which is one of the reasons why this study is so groundbreaking. The findings don't apply to younger children—or older adolescents, who may be starting to go through puberty.

    Screen time guidelines do exist for toddlers up to older kids, but up to 1.5 hours per day seems unattainable for many young adolescents, who often have their own smartphones and laptops, or at least regular access to one.

    Of course, more research is needed, but that's where this study can be helpful. The ABCD study will follow the 12,000 participants for another 10 years, following up with annual check-ins. It'll be interesting to see how the findings change over time: Will depression and anxiety as a result of screen time be more prevalent as kids age? We'll have to wait and see.

    The bottom line? Parents should still be the gatekeepers of their child's screen time in terms of access and age-appropriateness, but, "our early research suggests lengthy time on screen is not likely to yield dire consequences," says Paulich.

    Children's health

    Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo: ‘It was so beautiful’

    The new mothers shared a special moment at a Boston zoo.

    Franklin Park Zoo/YouTube

    Motherhood knows no bounds.

    When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

    The gorilla spent nearly five minutes happily pointing and staring at baby Canyon.


    Emmelina's husband captured the sweet moment on his phone, in a video that's now gone viral.

    Mother shares unique maternal bond with gorilla (FULL VIDEO) www.youtube.com

    Why was Kiki so interested in her tiny visitor? Possibly because Kiki's a new mom herself. Her fifth baby, Pablo, was born in October.

    Near the end of the video, Kiki scooped up Pablo and held him close. The new moms held their baby boys to the glass and shared a special moment together: just a couple of mothers, showing off their little ones.

    "When I walked into the zoo that day, I never could've imagined that we would have had that experience," Austin told ABC News. "It was so beautiful, and we walked out just over the moon."

    We can't get enough of the sweet exchange. There's something special about sharing your little one with the world. Mothers of all ages, races–and it turns out, species–understand.

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