I don’t spank my son. I also don’t punish or shame, or do time-outs, or make my son stand on a naughty-step.
“What do I do instead?” is usually the question that comes next.
I want to start off in this blog post by challenging the underlying assumption that there even is something I am always supposed to be doing instead of spanking and punishing. As if there is some kind of corrective action I should be taking, whether it’s via use of force, toughness or harshness, or if I’m supposed to find a more peaceful way of going about it.
I’m just asking, find a more peaceful way of doing what, exactly?
A gentler, more peaceful way to discipline? To manipulate? Control? Make kids obey?
Maybe there are times that a parent needs to exert a bit of control or coerciveness. But very often, I think parents just need to back off. Not meaning be completely permissive and hands-off either, but to let kids learn from their own mistakes, and to have enough trust in them that they have the ability to learn without our constant input and advice.
I believe it is entirely possible for parents to offer instruction and gentle guidance sometimes, and not ever have to spank, shame, punish or resort to any use of force. This has become one of my guiding principles as a parent – that there is always a non-violent, loving, respectful approach in every situation, that leaves our children’s sense of dignity and self-worth unharmed.
Challenging Conventional Assumptions
In order to challenge conventional parenting assumptions, we need to have some awareness of what those assumptions are in the first place. So to even think those thoughts and to question our own programming is a good place to start.
One assumption that I think needs challenging is the idea that we’re always supposed to correct, enforce, control, or reprimand. When we question that, it opens us up to considering some of the deeper goals in peaceful parenting.
What really needs challenging is the idea that a child can’t learn any other way than to be forced and pushed around. The fact is that children truly learn LESS when being forced or spanked or smacked or made to sit in a timeout. And they learn much more quickly when they are treated with respect, honored, appreciated, and very often, simply left alone.
Children’s Learning Processes Are Hindered by Spanking, Punishing and Shaming
We have to get this as parents. We just aren’t doing our kids any favors whatsoever by spanking, punishing, shaming or even threatening those things.
I understand that many parents are insistent to wonder, what do you do instead of punishing, spanking, shaming or threatening? See here for more on that: Peaceful Parenting Techniques That Work
I think that very often, peaceful parenting is looked at as a kind of gentle control. It’s still a form of manipulation, but just done peacefully and without violence.
Although I can see that this is without doubt an improvement over hitting, to me there’s a much deeper layer to peaceful parenting. We’re still at the surface level if we’re only looking for gentle forms of manipulation and control, in my view.
The Peaceful Parenting Deep Dive
The deeper dive is when we let go of needing to control, and of learning to trust in our children’s inherent wisdom and in their developing intellect. Sure, they will need our help and our gentle guidance sometimes. But what I like to ask is, how can we interact with our children in ways that are less manipulative, less demanding, and less controlling?
Can we parents just let go of insisting our kids sit still throughout each and every meal? Must we scold and issue warnings every time we perceive back talk? What is back-talk anyway? Don’t we want our children to develop a capacity of speaking up for themselves?
Can we accept our children exactly as they are?
Can we learn to accept our children exactly as they are in each moment? Even as hurried as we are – and as stressed as we are in trying to meet the demands of our every day lives? Can we just let our kids be? Along with trusting that they will learn on their own time, just by observing us?
To me, those are the deeper questions of peaceful parenting. It’s about letting go of control and coercion, and in it’s place, accepting, validating, honoring and respecting.
In my own experience, something magical happens when I let go, and when I let my son simply be who he is. We both find ourselves just getting along with each other, and in turn, there is no need to demand or force or threaten. I may or may not ask for help with something, and if I do ask, it doesn’t come with a threat of “and if you don’t” (then some punishment will happen).
In an ironic twist, when I let go of control is when I perceive my son actually listening to me the most. But the challenge of this approach is that I can’t have any expectation in the first place of getting him to listen. The moment I have that as an expectation is when the resistance in him starts to develop.
But when I let go of control and trying to fix and manipulate my son’s behavior, and when we are feeling deeply connected with each other, is when resistance in him fades. I might say “ok time to clean up!” and then we both eagerly get to it. Or he might say “no! a few more minutes of our game!” and I might reply, “one more round then,” and he agrees, and then we finish, and then we clean up. There is a give and take between us, and we are without hierarchy. There is just us, two human beings, one older and one younger, not in competition or in any kind of opposition with each other.
I believe this to be one of the deeper goals in peaceful parenting. To consciously keep returning to that non-coercive, cooperative, attuned place of connection between parent and child. That’s where we can make our greatest impact as parents. By showing our children how much we appreciate, honor and respect who they are, and by preserving their innate sense of self-respect, confidence and self esteem they will need when they go out into the world as adults.
The deeper goal in peaceful parenting is to think bigger picture, beyond how to get children to pick up their toys or make them learn to help with dishes or finishing their homework as soon as they are home from school.
What’s really best for children is the question to be asked. Don’t we want them to be able to think for themselves, instead of doing as told by authority figures in their lives? Don’t we want them to have resilience, confidence and assertiveness? Well how is that confidence being helped by shaming them, punishing and spanking? How is assertiveness cultivated if we’re simply screaming at them to go their room and think about how shameful they are?
We need to model (as best we can) what we want for our children out of life. Not demanding it of them and threatening punishment if they don’t follow orders. Model it, offer gentle guidance sometimes, and then respect our children by backing off and trusting that they have full capability already present within themselves to learn, grow and evolve. Just like we do.
I offer peaceful parenting coaching at my website www.PeacefulParentingCoach.com
My ebook on peaceful parenting essentials will be available soon.