Peaceful Parenting – Because Punishment Is Not Enough

Parents and daughter

Imagine for a moment being at home, with all of your family present, and finding peace. A couple is enjoying a nice conversation over a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. Having eaten their breakfast and put their dishes away, the children are playing together on the floor in the living room surrounded by Legos, dolls, and action figures recreating a scene from the latest comic book flick. Peace. It isn’t just the absence of conflict but the presence of harmony. Perhaps this scene appears unrealistic. Maybe for another family it could happen but it is hard to imagine for your own.

How could such a vision be realized? Nearly all parents seek to create peace, but what is the path to get there? Peaceful parenting recognizes peace is not just a goal to be reached but informs the parenting approach as well. Peacemaking is part of the strategy which creates peace. When peace is considered as the presence of harmony rather than just the absence of conflict, parents pursue peace by positively, constructively engaging with their children. Research by Lori Roggman and associates* suggests that children’s early development is promoted by interactions with both mothers and fathers especially in the context of play.

Peaceful parenting practices include parents:

  • On the floor playing with kids
  • Asking questions and exploring deeper in conversation
  • Modeling controlled emotion and self-composure
  • Utilizing appropriate touch with the kids
  • Reading to and with the kids
  • Sharing cultural values, family traditions, and beliefs
  • Demonstrating virtue
  • Communicating supportive messages
  • Balancing the use of “yes” and “no” responses

Non-peaceful parenting practices include parents’:

  • Uncontrolled emotion
  • Not investing appropriate time and energy
  • Unbalanced criticism
  • Ambiguous or inconsistently enforced boundaries
  • Unpredictable or exaggerated consequences
  • Modeling values that conflict with the expectations for the child

There is a serious and mistaken notion in American parenting culture that peace can be created by emphasizing the punishment of undesirable behavior. The other end of the spectrum tries to ignore misbehavior as long as possible until the parent cannot contain themselves any longer or something serious happens. Both of these approaches fail to appreciate that positive parental engagement is necessary for creating a peaceful foundation. When this is in place children have a desirable alternative to correct back toward after misbehavior. When a lack of peace and harmony is the norm, misbehavior fits right in.

Peaceful parenting is not easy, especially when this was not a parent’s own childhood experience. Parenting is a skill that can be taught and learned – few people come by it naturally. For more resources on how to create harmony at home, check out the Parenting category of our blog. Another relationship-based parenting method recommended by Fuller Life Family Therapy is the Nurtured Heart Approach developed by Howard Glasser. The link provided includes a description and introductory video. For more in-depth guidance please feel free to consult one of our resident therapists and take advantage of their years of experience promoting healthy family and child development.

*Roggman, L. A., Boyce, L. K., Cook, G. A., Christiansen, K., & Jones, D. (2004). Playing with daddy: Social toy play, early head start, and developmental outcomes. Fathering, 2(1), 83-108.

Scott Rampy

Scott Rampy, M.MFT, LMFT Associate

Resident Therapist at Fuller Life Family Therapy Institute

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