books + reading · parenting

How To Be A Peaceful Parent

I read a book a while ago called Peaceful Parent Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham. I listened to it during the first week of the school year.

I reached for this book because I found myself becoming impatient and snappy with Edgar. When I ponder about the kind of mom I want to be, I think of three words: peaceful, playful, and present. So this book seemed like it would be a wonderful resource.

The book focuses on three main things: self-regulation for parents, connecting with your child, and coaching rather than controlling.

One of my favorite takeaways from this book is the idea of Special Time with your child. The book describes Special Time as a period (around 15 minutes) of completely focused play with your child, and suggests alternating between parent and child for activity choice. Ever since Jonas came home, I’ve noticed how challenging it is to manage life with two kids – particularly play time with two kids. It’s been difficult to play with Edgar in a focused and intentional way with Jonas trying to climb onto the kitchen table and then jump off. After reading about Special Time, I’ve been using Jonas’s morning nap time as a time to engage Edgar in play that’s just for him. Sometimes I just devote my full attention to him and let him pick what we play; sometimes I facilitate a crafty activity that would be impossible to do if Jonas were with us, like painting or jewelry making. It’s been really sweet and wonderful for both of us.

One of the other concepts in the book that I really like was the idea of natural or logical consequences instead of punishment. Dr. Markham offers these six tips for effective consequences:

  1. Plan.
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Focus on what you control.
  4. Be matter of fact.
  5. Accept your limits.
  6. Use “I” not “you” statements.

Here are my other takeaways, in no particular order:

  • Be calm, kind, and patient. I mean, duh? But in real life, this is really, really hard!
  • Give fewer warnings and have more follow through. I love this. Sometimes I give so many warnings that by the time I follow through on a “consequence,” I’m way too frustrated to follow through with a calm and loving voice.
  • Engage in rough housing or giggly play so that your child can release stress. 
  • Make things into a game whenever you can. It’s time for bed, but let’s take a horsey ride to get there!
  • Have child-directed play every day.
  • Give hugs and maintain the connection!
  • Look out for situations you can prevent.
  • Have regular end of day feelings talk and gratitude practice.
  • When we stay calm, we calm the situation down.
  • You can break a cycle. You can press a restart button anytime!
  • Figure out why you’re getting angry. Sometimes, I get super frustrated with Edgar, and then I realize that I’m frustrated because I’m tired or hungry. Sometimes I realize it’s because I’m beating myself up for not being better at some aspect of being a mom. Sometimes I realize it’s because I want him to be able to do something independently that he just can’t do yet. When I realize why I’m getting angry, I can either plan around it, fix it, or just allow that insight to help me with increasing my ability to accept the situation and be patient.
  • Wait before disciplining. You do THIS while I think about this.
  • STOP YELLING. If you find yourself angry or yelling, drop it immediately! Kids can’t learn if you’re yelling and they’re scared and insecure.
  • Ask yourself – when I’m losing my patience and my temper – what thought am I having?
  • Tell yourself and your kid – “We got this.”
  • If you are resolving to be more patient, it’s a sign that your cup isn’t full enough to begin with. What can you do to increase your capacity and energy when you’re NOT around your kids?
  • Don’t leave or abandon him if he’s tantrumming – he needs you! This one is tricky for me. I like the idea – but Tamara and I usually make an exception for when Edgar’s kicking or hitting, since time away from us usually helps him to de-escalate during those moments.
  • Turn things into a game or a joke (while still enforcing the rules). I love this. Sometimes, I can sense when either Edger or I or both of us are headed in the direction of frustrated, and I can quickly come up with something silly to change the mood – like pretending that we’re washing our hands with maple syrup instead of soap. HILARIOUS to a three-year-old.
  • You don’t yell at a flower that’s not thriving – you water it! I am fairly firm and boundaried as a parent; I think it’s good for kids to have limits and structure. But I don’t think yelling is ever helpful, at least not for me – it just makes me feel bad and doesn’t seem to correct any behaviors. (Don’t get me wrong – I have moments when I yell!  Well, not yell, but raise my voice. But it’s never my intention.) Instead I believe in trying to find out what need is not being met, at the moments when I start to yell. Like, Edgar using ALLLLLLL the soap in the bottle to wash his hands – really, he often shows signs that he can’t wash his hands independently yet. He loves water play, and I think it’s just too tempting. So I need to stay with him during hand washing time. Annoying – but more helpful than yelling at him after the behavior happens!)

I loved this book. I’ll end with this bit: Dr. Markham writes that you, as parent, are your kid’s most trusted source for information about the world and himself. And that the parent is the kid’s secure base so that he can feel safe enough to explore the world.

That’s huge, impactful, and it makes a lot of sense to me. Reeeally hoping it helps me to keep my cool the next time Edgar fills the bathroom sink with soap, water, and cars and tells me that he made his own car wash. Fingers crossed!

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Photo by Steven Arenas on

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