“Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but also one of the most rewarding,” said Dr. Laura Markham as she addressed a crowd of parents and teachers gathered in the Bay Meadows gym at the recent Common Ground Speaker Series event, Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids. “As a parent of a strong-willed child, I understand the struggle with showing unconditional love and acceptance of our kids, while still needing to teach them to be successful in the real world.”
As a clinical psychologist, author, and founder of the website AhaParenting.com, Dr. Laura offered expert advice to parents on how to help their kids want to cooperate without yelling, bribes, threats, or punishment. Telling stories of her own “imperfect” parenting, Dr. Laura shared tools she has used through the years to build an emotional connection with her two now-grown children, including Stop, Drop, and Breathe. “When facing a challenging situation or conflict with your child, remember to stop and drop what you’re doing, and then take a deep breath. Turn off the stove … put down your work … nothing you’re doing is more important than your child. Deep breaths stop the flood of adrenaline rushing through your body that makes you think this is an emergency. You’re not running from a tiger! Give your body a chance to calm down first so you can connect with your child and help calm them down too.”
Reminding parents that no one deserves to be yelled at — and that yelling doesn’t make anyone feel like doing a better job — Dr. Laura continued sharing her principles of peaceful parenting when one parent admitted, “I am not a peaceful parent trying to get the kids out the door to school in the morning!” The principles include mindfulness and self-care (so parents aren’t running on empty), using empathy to guide children towards cooperation, and emotion-coaching your child so they feel safe to come to you, have their own feelings validated, and then be empowered to work them out. Dr. Laura also suggested taking a “time-in” with your child instead of punishing them with a time-out so you can connect with your child and help them solve their problem. She explained that kids shouldn’t be sent to their room alone when they are emotional or they won’t come to you in the future for support when they need it.
“Kids act out a lot more when they feel disconnected from us,” Dr. Laura continued. “Peaceful parents raise children who are emotionally healthy, take responsibility for their actions, apologize, and make amends.”
According to Dr. Laura, parenting is 80 percent connection between the parent and child. To help with this, she encouraged empathy, special one-on-one time with each child individually, unstructured, child-directed playtime together without screens, and laughter. “Laughter changes the body chemistry, lowers stress, and builds connection,” Dr. Laura said. “Send your child off to school laughing and they will be happier and less anxious!”
The Common Ground Speaker Series is a parent education program designed to inform, engage, and inspire school communities with speakers, topics, and special events on the Peninsula. Representing more than 10,000 families from 30+ schools, Common Ground offers a forum for parents to share experiences and connect with each other.
“The journey of being a parent is a wonderful one,” said Mike Peller, assistant head of upper school student life at Nueva. “The most important work that I do is alongside my partner as parents to our two-and-a-half-year-old son.”
To learn more about Dr. Laura’s peaceful parenting techniques, visit AhaParenting.com or check out her books Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.
By Louise Schultze, Editor/Writer
February 7, 2018