Dr. Laura Markham on Peaceful Parenting – The Knowledge Project

Check out The Knowledge Project Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • The three keys to peaceful parenting:
    • Regulate your own emotions
      • “Our ability to self-regulate might have the biggest impact on who our child turns out to be compared to anything else we do”
    • Connect with your kids
    • Coach instead of punishing
  • When your child has an outburst:
    • Take a deep breath and acknowledge your own feelings
    • Remind yourself there’s no urgency
    • Remind yourself that the child is just experiencing a feeling and it’s not permanent
    • Remind yourself that the child is actually allowed to have feelings
    • Just be curious – you don’t have to jump in with a solution
  • A great way to think about parenting:
    • Think of it as executing it from a place of where you’re the leader, leading from the heart with compassion, all the while supporting your child to be their best self
  • All kids need the same things from their parents:
    • To know they’re acceptable exactly as they are
    • To know that no matter what, their parents will be there to help them, take care of them, protect them, give them food and shelter, and emotional/physical love
    • To be delighted in
  • Consider that the next time your partner comes to you with a problem, maybe they don’t want a solution – perhaps they just want someone to listen to them and someone to vent to
  • If possible, try to work out your conflicts with your spouse/partner in front of the child…peacefully of course
    • This allows the child to see how a conflict should be handled and mitigated
  • Spend more time in nature
  • Kids should be waking up on their own, without an alarm clock, and without you waking them up
    • If they aren’t, they’re not getting enough sleep

Intro

Key to Parenting #1 – Regulate Your Own Emotions

  • “What matters most in how kids turn out is who we are as parents”
  • Parents are the role model/the guide/the mature brain/the example setters
  • Children are born with incomplete neural systems
    • Their limbic system (aka the emotional part of the brain) takes shape through interaction with their parents (and other close adults in their life)
    • As the child ages – they begin to model themselves emotionally after the parent
  • By being able to stay calm, and not overreact – your child sees this and learns from this
  • “Our ability to self-regulate might have the biggest impact on who our child turns out to be compared to anything else we do”
  • Here’s something interesting:
    • When your child yells and is defiant with you, saying something like, “I want a new daddy!!” or “You’re not the boss of me!!” – this brings up the parent’s anxieties of when they were that age and had similar feelings
      • “It brings up all of the unconscious stuff that we don’t even know about from when we were that age”
      • For this reason – “Young children have a way of pushing our buttons like no one else”
  • Some advice:
    • Notice what kinds of situation cause you to lose your temper with your children, and examine them
      • As mentioned above, the anger/anxiety that results is often a result of similar feelings/situations you experienced when you were that age
      • Just noticing these situations, will make you less prone to reacting with the shield of your past
        • “When we shine conscious awareness on anything, it loses the power of the unconscious fear that’s attached to it, and things begin to melt away”
    • Specifically, label the emotions you as an adult are feeling
      • “There’s research that shows that when adults label what they’re feeling, it gives them more control over the emotion”
      • This allows you to better notice the feeling, but not be controlled by it
  • Another tip
    • Your thoughts create your feelings
      • If you believe that children shouldn’t raise their voices to the parent, every time this happens, you’ll feel like danger signs are flashing – and thus react/fight back
      • “If you notice the thoughts that create those feelings, you can nip those feelings in the bud”
        • So instead, think: “My child is getting defiant. I notice I’m angry. Let me take a deep breath. I can choose what to do. There’s no emergency. My child is allowed to be defiant.”

Key to Parenting #2 – Connect With Your kids

  • “Parenting is a relationship. It’s not a set of strategies.”
  • It’s been found that babies as young as 14 months have formed opinions about the adults who are important to them, and whether or not that adult is trustworthy
  • Connection with dads vs. moms
    • When the mother and father are both in the household:
      • The mom is often the tender/nurturing parent
      • The father is the more playful/exuberant parent
      • It’s natural that the child has e a preference for who they go to when they’re hurt emotionally for comfort (usually mom)
        • This tends to shift more neutrally was the child ages

Key to Parenting #3 – Coach Instead of Punishing

  • Common intuition is to force a small child to do what you want them to do by through actions like picking them up/moving them, yelling “No!!” and slapping their hand etc.
    • Other parents use bribes and rewards
    • “All of this supposes that our child is an object to be manipulated” – This isn’t the case
  • What does “coaching” look like?
    • Set up the environment 
      • Ex. – If you don’t want a child to grab at your earrings, don’t wear them
      • Ex. – If you don’t want your child to knock over a vase of flowers, move it to where they can’t get to it
    • Emotional coaching/helping the child learn certain skills
      • Ex. – This might involve explaining to your child how it’s wrong to draw on the wall with crayons
      • Ex. – Teaching them to ask for a turn using a siblings toy instead of throwing a fit
      • Whatever the case, you’re helping the child to realize the why/why not behind their actions/or lack thereof
        • “You’re opening the conversation to real communication. You’re establishing safety, you’re allowing the feelings, and modeling that even when things get tense, you’ll always work it out because you’re family.”
      • What does “coaching” not look like?
        • Shaming them – Saying something like…. “How could you say something like that? You know how much I do for you.”
        • Denying their outbursts – “Oh stop. You don’t wish you had a new dad.”
        • Punishing them – “Time out!! You know you can’t speak to me that way!”
    • Why don’t parents emotion coach and prefer to respond to their children with punishment, denial, and shame?
      • “Parents get anxious when their children have big emotions. They think emotions are dangerous. They get scared because no one ever helped them with their emotions.”

Let’s Sum Up

  • When your child has an outburst…
    • Take a deep breath
    • Remind yourself there’s no urgency
    • Remind yourself that the child is just experiencing a feeling and it’s not permanent
    • Remind yourself that the child is actually allowed to have feelings
    • Just be curious – you don’t have to jump in with a solution
      • You might say – “Wow, you sound so angry at her. I guess it must have really hurt your feeling when your friend said that.”

Guide Your Child to Their Best Self

  • “It is completely possible to provide loving guidance to your child while you say ‘no’, while you set boundaries, and while you enforce rules. We can do all that, and not only can we do that, we need to do that.”
    • Children need guidance, especially as they’re younger
  • Don’t think of parenting as who’s right/wrong
    • Think of it as functioning it from a place of where you’re the leader, leading from the heart with compassion, all the while supporting your child to be their best self
      • “No child is their best self when they spend all day on technology. No child is their best self when they go to bed at 11 PM.”

Parents Shape the Children

  • “How parents relate to the child, and how they make all of the decisions in daily life, will shape who the child is in very visceral ways”

All Kids Need the Same Things From Their Parents…

  • To know they’re acceptable exactly as they are
  • To know that no matter what, their parents will be there to help them, take care of them, protect them, give them food and shelter, and emotional/physical love
  • To be delighted in
    • They need to be valued, just for who they are
    • It’s obvious, but your love as a parent for your child shouldn’t be dependent on accomplishments or other external circumstances
    • “All children need unconditional love”

A Recipe for Happiness

  • “A recipe for happiness is to help our child over and over again choose to give up what they want, at that moment, for something they actually want more.”
    • An example – Perhaps they don’t want to help clean up the dishes, but still desire a way to feel like a person who contributes to the family 
      • Help them realize the trade-off – “Doing so, helps them realize they can give up something in the immediate moment, for something they want more”

Emotional Coaching for Adults

  • All humans just want to be listened to
    • The next time your partner comes to you with a problem, maybe they don’t want a solution – perhaps they just want someone to listen to them and someone to vent to
  • “When we get uncomfortable with someone else’s feelings, that’s when we handle them in a non-optimal way”
  • The rule of thumb whether you’re dealing with an adult or child – always accept the person’s feelings as they are
    • Remind yourself that their feelings aren’t permanent and they’re actually allowed to have whatever feelings they’re experiencing

What effect do marital or relationship problems have on kids?

  • When voices are raised, a child’s blood pressure will increase (this is true for babies as well, even if they’re asleep)
  • Ongoing conflict between parents will raise a child’s anxiety levels
  • If possible, try to work out your conflicts with your spouse/partner in front of the child…peacefully of course
    • This allows the child to see how a conflict should be handled and mitigated

How can you encourage kids to take more responsibility?

  • Develop systems that start out with you working together, so through time, the child learns and comes to accept the responsibility as their own
    • For example – At the start of kindergarten, you might pack your child’s backpack with them. They’ll come to learn what they need to bring every day, and after a week or so, they’ll have it covered.
      • If they forget something, such as their lunch, be accommodating at first (so maybe leave work and bring them something to eat), but be direct – let them know that this was an exception, and you can’t do it ever again
    • In general – you’re very involved in the beginning, and over time you’re not involved at all
  • Aim to come up with solutions cooperatively that help your child remember what they need to (such as packing their lunch)

The Importance of Nature and Family

  • “When we are in green spaces, it calms us down and our immune systems work better”
    • Laura says that when we spend time in nature, our immune systems are more effective
  • “We all need to be in nature more often than we are”

How can you prepare your child for new step siblings?

  • Very much the same way you would prepare them for a new baby in the family
  • Have periodic check ins/family meetings
  • Let your child know that there’s no possible way the new step siblings will alter your love for them

More on Merging Families

  • Aim to still keep control of the discipline for your blood-related child
    • Often the new stepparent doesn’t have your child’s true best interest at heart
  • On being a new stepparent – “If you can step out of the role of disciplinarian and connect with the child in a warmer manner, you will build a relationship that will allow you to influence the child and make it more likely like your stepchild will follow your guidance.”

Evening Routines for Children

  • They’re important, as the routine helps them to act out less
    • Children like to know what’s expected 

How much sleep should kids be getting?

  • It depends how old they are
  • Kids should be waking up on their own, without an alarm clock, and without you waking them up – if they don’t, they’re not getting enough sleep
  • “By the way, if you have to use an alarm clock [as an adult] you’re not getting enough sleep”

Random

  • In general, always aim to understand your child’s reasoning and to see things from their eyes 
  • Shane hasn’t used an alarm clock since he’s had kids

These notes were edited by RoRoPa Editing Services

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