This is probably the most important thing one can think about in this world – raising a child that will become an adult who is peaceful, who can be peaceful in the midst of whatever circumstances come their way, a child who can be a peacemaker with others.
To me, there are many ways to work toward this in parenting. For all ages, I believe the most important thing is to be calm oneself and to be able to model being calm. Children, especially children under the age of the 9-year change can be seen as having/being prone to “an excess of emotion”. Therefore, self-control is not the strongest point of a child under the age of 9…and logical reasoning begins around the age of 14….so, it is really up to you, the adult to model how to be calm and how to be a peacemaker while the child takes all these years to develop these skills.
Remember how big and huge and scary you can look to your child in your moments of highest anger. A giant, to be sure and an image that can be stuck in a child’s mind permanently. I am not suggesting that as parents we can be perfect and never get angry and always behave calmly. However, I am suggesting that we do as much as we need to do to keep ourselves as centered as possible.
For women, I truly think this means not wearing so many hats. Many women are not only working inside the home, but outside the home as well. They are running businesses, parenting, volunteering, trying to be perfect wives and mothers and neighbors – all whilst they have small children. Some women handle this beautifully, but many women find it to be a fast-moving train that is difficult to jump off. Priorities count: your children will only be little once and that is it. Wearing so many hats forces things to be hurried, stressed, anxious and can lead to less than calm moments. Is it worth it?
For women who work within the home, I find so many of them are trying to do everything perfectly. Keep in mind that people are more important than keeping things clean, than material things, than having the perfect home. Many of the mothers I speak with feel so isolated and despite so much information being available through books, radio, TV, the Internet, seem to have a limited grasp on developmental expectations, and positive tools for discipline. There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and it is confusing!
I offer this as a way to discern this information: you cannot err on the side of being too gentle (unless you are equating gentle with no limit setting). You can set limits and still be very gentle indeed. To me, connection and gentleness are of utmost importance as I travel this path. Any method or thing that recommends otherwise is not what I hold to be true.
The truth is that the foundation for connection and closeness is laid in the Early Years. You know, the ones we have so backward in the United States. The years where people ask you how fast you are going to push your child away to “be independent”. When are they weaning, when are they sleeping by themselves, why do they cling, when are you leaving them to go on vacation for a week alone, when do you need a break from that baby? All these questions that have things so wrong. A baby, a toddler, a preschooler, a child in Early Elementary really needs these years for connection, for compassion and empathy and for intimacy within the family. This leads to a greater ability later on to be independent at the proper time.
Frustration can be a key cause of feeling and acting not peacefully! If you can do your best to revise, reframe how you are thinking about something, sometimes that can be the key to heading off frustration and anger before it starts. Set limits in a peaceful way, and stick to them calmly. Listen to your child, listen to their point of view, understand their developmental level.
Work on your own anger, your own hostility, your own sarcasm. Try to model being able to step away, to bite your own tongue, to use less words, to step out of the room and breathe and come back in. Model finding solutions to problems, framing things positively. As you model emotional health, so will your children be able to handle things peacefully.