I’ll start with a disclaimer and say I’m not perfect. But I will say that peaceful parenting is something I am committed to. I wanted to share a few essential points on what I feel is important to nurture a child as they grow into little people. As my girl is now a toddler, I am faced with a new set of lessons that we all seem to be learning. But core to this is, how does one remain peaceful, respectful and raise children to be the same?
Firstly, I don’t believe in hitting, or yelling, or simply dominating a child. There are too many other ways to guide children, that it would never make sense to me to hurt a child or be aggressive in any way shape or form. There are many reasons not to hit, but I wanted to touch on a few other things that I also feel are important. Toddlers hitting other toddlers is something I feel needs a close eye! Firstly, I do agree that most often, any aggression is a sign that a child could be hungry or tired. But if all needs are met, and aggression still takes place, I feel not only is prevention and protection essential, but correction!
No…I do not mean discipline or meeting a child’s aggression with aggression. I mean…meeting it with guidance, not distraction, not shame, but a learning opportunity, just as you would study your surroundings to teach a toddler. I feel that to observe the impact of a toddler’s actions on others, when hurting and hitting are involved, is key to instilling or encouraging empathy and compassion, by simply leading the way. What i mean by leading the way is: being an example. Saying sorry to the hurt child. No: I don’t mean force the child to say sorry. I mean…say sorry as the parent. Not because it’s your “fault”, but because you sincerely are sorry that it has happened. Not to shame…but to acknowledge the hurt.
I feel this has the potential to go a long way in teaching and modelling humane behaviour. I think there is a line between peaceful and permissive. I think allowing a child to be hurt without offering an apology, while only offering an excuse as to why the child may have acted in that way, only perpetuates such behaviour, by normalising it. At the very least, I feel you can remain a peaceful parent, even if not wanting to apologise for any hitting or threatening behaviour, by asking is the hurt child ok…and demonstrating compassion, rather than distracting the children.
I feel distracting children from such incidents, is a lost opportunity for a lesson in how we can impact the way others feel. I know we are ultimately only responsible for the way we feel, however, relationships are vital in life, and if we can offer guidance to young children about how our actions can impact another, then we are giving them solid foundations. As a peaceful parent, I feel that we can still show where we draw the line, in a loving and respectful way. I don’t feel distraction is respectful to the child that is doing the hitting, or the child that has been hurt.
If a child wants space, and hits because of that, I don’t feel that stating the reason why the child has hit, does any service. I feel this is somewhat permissive, and demonstrates to the child that it is ok and understandable that they acted in a harmful way towards another. If the focus is on the hurt child, to ensure they are ok and demonstrate care, I feel there is no shame. I don’t feel this is anything other than peaceful. This is where opportunities to learn compassion and empathy, vital to human relationships are. These are the foundations for awareness. Children are often far to underestimated for their capacity to feel and sense other’s feelings.
I don’t agree for a moment that talking gently with a child about how someone can be hurt or feel when being hit or pushed as “intellectualising” behaviour or beyond a toddlers comprehension. There are ways to communicate at a young child’s level. I think it’s worth a shot!
I wrote this blog, because there didn’t seem to be anything written on this particular topic that I could find specifically. So I hope that if there is anyone going through this testing time, my perspective may offer some insight. I feel we can remain peaceful in the face of testing behaviours that become unsafe. But I feel its essential that safety is treated with the respect it deserves.
That is where I become very clear and have no issue calling it as it is. I know we are setting our children up for their expectations for life. And there is not one moment that I feel talking with a toddler about what is not safe, sets them up for thinking the world is unsafe…(as I have read in certain philosophies). I love taking aspects of certain philosophies and adapting them to my own wisdom of the world.
I keep the word dangerous to a minimum, but I certainly use appropriately language around behaviours that potentially hurt my child or another. I don’t think for a moment that such discussions will cause damage to my child’s view of the world. I just had to get this one thing clear.
I know as a gentle and peaceful parent, that there are certain principles and philosophies we may come across, that make us question what is innate and natural or what our intuition, even wisdom would direct. That’s why I wanted to write on this topic. When it comes to toddlers hitting, I do resonate with the Respectful Educaring approach (RIE). Janet Lansbury writes about this as has Magdar Berber who coined the term Respectful Infact Educaring.
While I don’t take every aspect of the RIE model, I especially like the language building, conversational educational approach, as I feel it goes a long way towards building a child’s understanding of and confidence in the world. I have witnessed this in my own child. She is certainly very confident and has a lovely understanding of feelings and the world around her. It’s my only wish to continue to nurture this part of her, so that she too can grow into a peaceful and gentle adult.