Menu

How peaceful parenting saved our parenthood

Things are different now. Not perfect—not even remotely close. And not even always good. Sometimes we still have bad moments. And by moments I mean days. And by days I mean weeks. But still, mostly better.

How peaceful parenting saved our parenthood

My love—

Remember that night a few months ago? When the sight of us putting our three kids to bed most likely looked like a tiger trying to swaddle a freight train. There was screaming, tears, and tantrums. And the kids were pretty bad too. I cried to you while I nursed the baby and wondered why it was all so hard.

Things are different now. Not perfect—not even remotely close. And not even always good. Sometimes we still have bad moments. And by moments I mean days. And by days I mean weeks. But still, mostly better.

When we decided to switch our parenting style from "OH MY GOD JUST PLEASE DO WHAT I ASK ONE TIME" to a more peaceful approach, things started turning around. I had decided to dispense with my previous philosophy of, "Don't read parenting books! Just go with your gut!" and started reading everything I could get my hands on.

Raising Your Spirited Child seemed like a good place to start, seeing as how the other day I had caught my oldest child yelling at his brother, "Just do it! I'll catch you! I promise you're not going to die!"

From there, I moved on to Peaceful Parent, Happy Child which seemed like a good antidote to the working title of my autobiography, Hot Mess Mom, Feral Children. I read every article I could find on peaceful parenting. And while some of it made you roll your eyes when I started reading it out loud to you, slowly, it all started coming together.

While we've made a lot of changes (hello, earlier bedtime), looking back, here are the three things we did that I think helped the most in creating a more peaceful, and less chaotic, home:

1. Start taking care of ourselves.

Self-care doesn't have to mean a spa day. But you have to do a few things: Get as much sleep as you can. Eat three meals a day. Participate in some sort of exercise that isn't picking up toys. Go outside regularly. Drink water.

For you, it's working out. For me, it's getting out of the house alone. Deciding to protect that time with the ferociousness we do our kids' bedtimes has meant we snap less. It's easier to not lose your temper when I know in a few hours, I have a break coming.

But self-care can be even simpler than that. Taking a deep breath before I dive into the age-old dispute of 'but-I-was-playing-with-it-first' can help me remember that this is not an emergency, and we're all doing just fine.

2. Start appreciating our kids for who they are.

Remember when our second kid would call colors by the wrong name for so long we thought he was colorblind? And then we realized he knew the correct names, but just enjoyed being stubborn?

Sure, our kids are stubborn, demanding, and wild. But when we finally tuck them into bed at night, pull out our phones and start flipping through pictures of them, we remember their other sides.

They aren't stubborn—they have plans that they like to see through. They aren't demanding—they are inquisitive and want to know exactly how the world works. They aren't wild—they are enthusiastic and energetic.

(Okay fine, they are a little wild.)

Too often, at the end of a long day, it had been us-versus-them in the dinner, bath, and bedtime battle. We forgot to enjoy our kids—to laugh and play with them. Taking time to set aside the long game of raising good humans and remembering to enjoy them in the moment has shifted our perspective immensely.

3. Stop trying to win, and start trying to work out solutions.

Remember having this conversation a million times?

Kid: I want to go to the park!

Us: Okay! That is actually a feasible request. Put your sandals on and let's go.

Kid: NO! I DON'T WANT TO PUT ON MY SANDALS! Us: PUT YOUR SANDALS ON OR WE WON'T GO TO THE PARK.

Kid: (Dissolves).

Whenever we start trying to win a battle of wills with our children, we've already lost. In a power struggle, kids have the upper hand.

They say idiocy is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But nevertheless, that was our primary parenting approach.

So instead of getting into power struggles, we decided to start focusing on solutions. At first, it was a little weird to start giving them the power to make some decisions. We were the parents and shouldn't they just do what we say? I mean, yes, preferably, but we tried that tactic and it didn't work so onto plan B.

Us: Why don't you want to put on your sandals?

Kid: The wood chips at the park get stuck in them and hurt my feet!

Us: Oh, well yeah. Totally makes sense. How about your tennis shoes?

Kid: Okay! That is actually a feasible request. (Puts on sandals.)

Us: (Sigh from here to eternity and head to the park.)

I started looking for other opportunities to solve things that we were constantly battling over. They got dressed for the day before breakfast to lessen the leaving for school battles. I took out all the clothes in the drawers they were refusing to wear anyway. When they argued over a toy, I asked them to come up with a sharing plan of their own to satisfy both their needs.

When we take a problem solving approach, rather than our tried and failed power struggle approach, I remember to ask them why they are finding the task at hand so offensive. Seven times out of 10, the answer breaks my heart. They're scared of the dark, or they are worried about school tomorrow. The other three times they are usually over-tired or hungry. Or both. (Usually both.)

Are things perfect now? No. Did. I call you and beg you not to work late again tonight because I was going to lose my mind? Yes. (Self-care, honey. Self-care). But are things getting a little calmer at our house? Yes.

I mean, I set off the smoke alarm regularly while making dinner and someone is usually yelling at me to wipe their butt and the baby is taste-testing crumbs off the floor left and right. But I can handle that.

When I was big and pregnant with our first kid, we couldn't really comprehend the chaos we were bringing into our lives. We dreamed about walks in the park and reading Goodnight Moon while we snuggled in bed. Life isn't like that all the time.

Maybe our loud, rambunctious, and at times challenging family isn't what we pictured originally. But this is what we've always wanted. A family where we work through the hard times together. A family that chooses, first and foremost, to put love first.

You might also like:

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

These kids dishes don’t look like kids dishes

And that's exactly why my toddler loves them. ❤️

My 4.5-year-old is, let's say, spirited in his opinions. He very clearly knows what he wants and doesn't want (oh to have the confidence of a stubborn preschooler!). And what he doesn't want right now is anything that looks too babyish. "That's for babies," he'll say if I give him anything with primary colors or looks too miniature. He doesn't want the baby fork and spoon, he wants what grown-ups use. He doesn't want the baby plastic cups and plates, he wants the glass and ceramic ones.

Well, you can see where this is going.

I had to find something that would satisfy his "not a baby" opinions but still not shatter to pieces if he accidentally drops it on the floor. I had to find him something that's made for kids but doesn't feel made for kids.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

Keep reading Show less
Life