In our family we have made a committment to do our best to parent in a peaceful way. We want to provide our children with a nurturing home, with positive relationships, and with unconditional love. We want our children to feel deeply loved and connected because it’s hard to think of anything that matters more.
When I think about peaceful parenting, I feel that the most important element is connection. Your connection to your child is the most important thing in the world to her. It’s what allows her to feel safe and secure so that she can free up her energy for learning and exploring. Your connection to your child can’t be seen, but it is her home nonetheless.
People are complicated social animals, and much of the learning we have to do in life (not just childhood) is around relationships. Our earliest relationships set down patterns that will repeat themselves later on. It is in your relationship with your child that you have your most lasting impact. It sets the tone of his life, his view of himself. It’s his first arena (along with sibling relationships) for learning social skills and traces of your interactions now will show up later in his personality and his marriage. He will unconsciously imitate you later on when he has his own children.
Your connection to your child is a powerful tool, and I suggest that you wield it with care and intention. If it is broken, fix it! Re-connection is a tremendously valuable experience. Connecting isn’t all or nothing; it isn’t always easy. Making it your priority will have a lasting positive impact.
When you think about discipline, focus on connection first. A child with a strong connection to her parents is easier to parent. She’s calmer, more cooperative, easier to influence. She is more likely to share her thoughts with you, rely on your judgement, and look to you for an example of how to be in the world (children imitate unconsciously until about age 9; I’m referring to the conscious imitation of an older child). A child who doesn’t feel connected can be very hard to parent because he is hard to influence. That’s the situation in which parents are most likely to use harsh punishments, to judge the child as having negative characteristics, to depend on threats, rewards, and bribes in order to get cooperation. Instead of going down that road, try winning your child’s heart first.