What I Mean by “Peaceful Parenting”
This mini-essay is intended to be information to add to what you think and know, rather than replace or supplant anything, or to attempt to show “rightness” and “wrongness”. I am asking you who read this to please think of these paragraphs in the spirit of:
I like to think that the act of being a parent is that of a steward, or regent, who manages the “kingdom” of the child (a young sovereign, meaning that they own themselves, own meaning having exclusive control over their own body and mind). In this analogy, the parent (steward) is also self-owning, and it is their opportunity to teach the skills of autonomy to the child (the young sovereign). Unlike in kingdoms of the past, the ostensible goal is for eventual equality in decisions that affect each individual, rather than tyranny of any type of King/Subject relationship.
At first, all decisions are made on behalf of the child. This decreases as intrinsic methods of problem solving are taught and learned, and the job of the steward diminishes yearly, assuming they are able to deliver skills and opportunities for challenge and learning. By age 12 – 20, approximately, this is a young adult. Possibly, there is no need to think of single digit childhood being this, tweens being this, “adolescence” being that, etc. It seems that it all comes down to how much damage the child has had, if they have enough skills to adapt, innovate, collaborate and overcome many flavors of challenge. If they reach it all by 12, autonomy, purpose, entrepreneurship or employment, love, friendship, responsibilities…that’s an adult, regardless of age.
I highly doubt that spanking would positively contribute to quickly getting the young sovereign to the state of being such an autonomous adult in their teenage years, and I speculate that such humiliating and frightening damage (being hit by the person you love and trust and depend upon the most) likely leeds to many people never attaining such autonomy, even into their 30’s and older.
There are alternatives. Many of us are choosing to aim for win/win solutions with our children, and our partners, and our friends and family. We work to find the common values and desires that we all individually have, and we work to avoid making demands, but rather, make requests. We demonstrate cause and effect of choices, and this is learned intrinsically by young and old alike (for the moment anyone ceases to learn, there is probably something to be very, very concerned about). Some of us demonstrate the act of taking 100% responsibility (meaning the ability to respond, not obligation) for all of our actions AND for all of our own emotions that we feel, rather than denying responsibility for our feelings, or denying the cause and effect of our actions. Some of us also avoid speaking of deserving, and other words that limit choice and demand obligation, but rather we find ways to respect preferences, while still establishing our own individual boundaries (referring to boundaries of the parent and the the child). Some of us avoid giving labels, whether praise or punishment, to others, especially our children, and instead communicate authentically about what is alive in ourselves, relating to the events and goings on (and we attempt to be tasteful about how we express these things). Some of us talk together about the cumulative effects of these actions and choices to enhance respect, both internally and externally. These paragraphs are an attempt to show some of what’s been happening behind the scenes, within the meetings of peaceful parents, communicating across the world with each other.
Here are a few comments this generated, as this is actually a post from Google Plus:
(Someone who isn’t Darrell) ……Many of us grew up in circumstances where it seemed normal that our parents should spank us when we misbehaved. This makes it difficult for us to accept the recent research that indicates that spanking tends to cause damage. We face another problem in that the most obvious alternative to spanking and other forms of domination is some form of permissiveness, which seems even more likely to cause damage. I am eager to accept the hypothesis that a third alternative exists, one that charts a clear course between the Scylla of domination and Charybdis of permissiveness, but I’m not sure we are there yet. Alfie Kohn aimed to do that in his book “Unconditional Parenting”, but some of the comments made by readers on goodreads.com makes me think that he missed the target. My current favorite is “Parent Effectiveness Training” by Thomas Gordon, though it is not perfect. And of course there is “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg, though that does not treat parenting as a separate topic. I wish there was a good documentary showing a positive model of parenting in action.
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Darrell Becker9:45 AM (edited)Edit
I think that the strength of NVC, as opposed to all I’ve read on PET (from Gordon) is that it does not view children as separate from adults in the “feelings/needs” arena, as well as avoiding the casting of shame while preserving the focus upon cause and effect. NVC seems to me to be a done deal, and highly effective, as long as it is effected internally first, externally second, and applied consistently. Permissiveness is not usually a word that most people would think of when we look at the relationships we have with our contemporaries, rather that we look to see how consistent and respectful are the interactions that occur. I would suggest that a young child benefits from being extended the same respect that one would extend to an adult contemporary, with respect given to the differences in attributes and resources that a child has. In effect, the operative words I would emphasize in parent/child relationships are “respect” and “boundaries”, which both operate as 2-way streets, the parent communicating their personal needs for both, explaining them to whatever degree is understandable by the child, and vice versa.
It is the application of intrinsic learning and teaching that I would emphasize, where a child (who, I would contend is “hard-wired” with intrinsically based learning skills) gains the grammar of the world around themselves (knowledge) and gains the logic of cause and effect of their own and everyone else’s actions. This is in contrast to punishments and rewards of all kinds, which naturally emphasizes extrinsic motivations, and this method is known to lead to all kinds of problems. Also, “spanking” is just a euphemism for hitting, and as folks study the arts of consistency (such as voluntaryism, the Non-Agression Principle, etc.) we try to remove euphemisms (tax = theft, conscript = slavery, etc.) to gain deeper clarity.
If there is anyone who has been hit by their parents cannot understand, feel and see how this was damaging to trust, safety and security, I would contend that these are people who are perhaps in denial of what they actually felt or are unaware of what they felt at those times of being threatened or hit. I have clear memories back to age 2, but many people do not have such recall abilities. I avoid excuses and apologetic language when looking at all causes and effects, actions and intentions, but I strive for clarity, understanding. If there was a perceived need to see one’s parents as “Doing the best they could” this would cloud the clarity of vision I am referring to, in my opinion. I, personally, would prefer to understand what was specifically desired by all concerned parties, and what specifically occurred, and look at the short and long term effects. Any thoughts on any of this?
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______________(Someone who isn’t Darrell) Yesterday 8:44 PM
An NVC expert can deal with a child. An NVC novice might try the simple observation-feeling-need-request mantra and get nowhere. Someone who read Kohn’s book, starting with a conventional attitude will find it difficult to know how to proceed, and will feel tempted to fall back to what their parents used on them. I think that the ideas in PET are simple and concrete enough that a novice can benefit from them.
“Permissiveness” may not be the best word for what I was talking about. On the other hand, it seems pretty clear to me and gets the idea across. A person who was raised by parents who used techniques of domination (or experiencing other family problems) may be at a loss for alternative strategies for dealing with their own kids when dominance is taken off the table. In some cases, the result can be that the parent gives up and allows the child to dominate. Maybe they do this on purpose, to show that discipline and punishment are necessary after all. Maybe this permissiveness in the negative sense is rare, but it does exist, I have witnessed it. I had a quite terrifying experience about 16 years ago that made me recalibrate what I thought children are capable of.
Anyhow, I don’t think my original comment was denying anything you said in the post, rather I was wishing that it was easier for me to recommend a book that would really help a parent who wants to do without spanking, hitting, yelling, punishment, and all the other bad old crud but is having trouble knowing what to do instead. I did not spank my children, but I made many serious errors as a parent. My instincts were crap, and the few books I bothered to look at at that time were crap. If i was going to do it over, I hope I would yell a lot less and make fewer put-downs and other mistakes. If someone had handed me the NVC book, I doubt I would’ve been able to apply it to parenting. I have trouble applying it now to my intimate relationships, though I have gotten many important ideas from it. I think PET has some tricks that I might’ve learned and that they would’ve helped me a lot.
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Darrell Becker9:47 AM (edited)Edit
I wanted to express my understanding about “NVC novices”….. I find concerns about many aspects of how NVC is currently taught to many people, or especially, how many people learn small parts of this tactical science of empathy, while larger parts are often neglected or underemphasized. The commonly-taught focus seems to be upon O-F-N-R (Observations, Feelings, Needs, Requests). This seems to be taught as being usually external, but I fear that to communicate in such a way to a child is ridiculous and likely counterproductive. The beauty and grace of these methods, IMO, is the internal application of these skills, as well as an emphasis on understanding (and avoiding the parental use of) the 4D’s (Demands, un-asked for Diagnoses [labels, descriptive words about one’s self or one’s child], Deserve-oriented language, Denial of Responsibility, such as “You made me feel….”). It is my contention that too much NVC training (and the book) emphasize external O-F-N-R, does not give enough attention to the 4D’s, and does not give nearly enough focus on abundance perspective, win/win strategy forming, as well as the act of taking 100% responsibility for all of one’s own feelings, all of the time.
Also important is the aspect of “Never giving in” part of NVC, where explicit boundaries of parent and child are made (by each individual) and respect of those boundaries is demonstrated by each of them as well. I experienced examples of this with my own time as a parent, where I would explain my own personal boundaries to my daughter (for my own property or my available time and attention, for examples of this) and she would explain her boundaries. We would then extend respect to each other’s particular boundaries based upon how much respect of our own boundaries was delivered. As the parent, I would extend respect of her boundaries first, many times, and I got to see more and more of my own boundaries being respected as the years went by. Honestly, the ideas that I acquired from the Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff ( http://www.continuum-concept.org/cc_defined.html ) helped me immensely with these tactics, even before I knew and understood NVC.
PET, from my research, has some helpful tactics to get to a more harmonious and respectful method of interacting with children than punishments-and-rewards-style parenting. I see value in this as well.
I agree that Kohn’s book (“Punished by Rewards”) is more of a bearing-witness to the problem type book, and is not a tactical menu of options to help parents. Apparently, I will have to write such a book myself, until I find someone else who has done so already.
I encounter responses like this when my style of parenting is being defended.
“I was spanked and I turned out fine.”
or “I grew up watching TV and I’m fine.”
or “I went to public school and I turned out ok.”
My response for questions like these is always the same. I don’t want my kids to be just fine or ok. I want my kids to be better than ok and I incorporate these practices into my parenting so as to make my contribution towards making the world a better place to live in.