As I grapple with my commitment to being peaceful and gentle with my children I often wonder: Why is it so hard to raise my kids without yelling, bribing, spanking, punishments, control and manipulations? Why, if I know those reactions are damaging and hurtful, do they come out of me anyway? Why do I default to those reactive ways whenever I'm tired or cranky? Why do I have to work so damn hard to keep myself in line? Why does it demand good sleep, good friendship, good yoga, good food and a ton of reading and meditation to keep myself calm, kind and connected to my children? Isn't it supposed to be "natural"?
Perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn't. But the fact is - it doesn't come naturally to me. Or to the hundreds of parents I encounter, coach and befriend. Something about the convergence of our current culture, our emotional climate, our own upbringing and our mindsets - doesn't lend itself to a deep, slow, zenful approach to children, but rather to a frazzled, angry and begrudging atmosphere in our homes.
And, to add insult to injury, our cultural distrust of peaceful parenting tends to question us and disintegrate our confidence and commitment further with comments like:
"Time outs work, you know"
"You're his parent, not his friend"
"You give him too much power. You should show him who's boss."
"That's how brats are raised. That's what's wrong with today's kids."
"Children need consequences, how else will they learn?"
So yes, peaceful parenting is difficult because it's still a fringe choice. It's still considered radical to raise children with respect. I say that without sarcasm. But all of those, whilst challenging, aren't the real reason peaceful parenting is hard, I think. I think the real reason it's hard to step away from control (punishments and rewards) is because it forces us to raise our own selves. It's so much easier to externalize the problem, project issues onto our child and, essentially, blame the child for the problem - than it is to turn our glance inward and ask:
How am I instigating this issue?
How am I manifesting this behavior?
How am I responsible for this dynamic?
How am I contributing to this challenge?
...and then of course: what can I do?
Peaceful Parenting is about turning the spotlight inwards at least 50% of the time, and hopefully much, much more.
Peaceful Parenting is about realizing that the child is simply "acting out" a behavior to point us to the arenas in which we need more resolution, clarity and mindfulness. Peaceful parenting is about taking control of our own selves, raising ourselves, giving ourselves a timeout when necessary - rather than controlling and manipulating our children. And that's hard. Constant self evaluation and self work is hard. And good. And disheartening. And also intriguing. Just like anything worth doing in life...
So next time you feel like a failure because you grabbed your kid and yelled in their face about pushing their baby sister too hard, or you feel dismayed because your child said something bratty to grandma about the gift she kindly bestowed, or whatever it is in you home that makes your hair light on fire - remember this: Peaceful Parenting may just be the hardest thing you have to do in your life.
But also, the worthiest.
Peaceful parenting changes the world, I really believe that, it makes a generational shift from control, threats, punishments and bribery - to respect and healthy communication that will radiate onwards. There are most definitely tools we can use to better ourselves along the way (*ahem* my Set Empathic Limits eCourse is a great place to start) but even with all the yoga, meditation, mani-pedis, vacations, binge reading, audiobooks, courses, mentors, coaches and therapists - we're all going to feel disheartened from time to time, and that's, well, appropriate.
I would love to hear what makes peaceful parenting hard for you - make me feel normal over here!