In writing this review of Laura Markham’s book “Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids,” I begin with the perspective of a grandparent who is reflecting on his own childhood. Both of my parents loved their seven children. My mother was a “saint” in her children’s eyes. She was loving, giving, sacrificing, a good listener, and someone who we felt understood and accepted us for who we were. My father was a man of his time. He was the patriarch of the family, the disciplinarian, the boss, the final word on how things were to go in the family. Dad used his hands and often his belt to measure out the consequences for our childish or disruptive and sometimes “bad” behavior. When my father yelled, it was the volume and the tenor of his voice that brought fear to my heart, and that rippled under my skin. He was not a man who talked a lot about his feelings or encouraged us to talk about our feelings. His authoritarian parenting style was clear cut with little nuance.
When I became a parent many years later, I was determined to take the good parenting qualities that I experienced in my mother and combine these with a “gentler” and “kinder” approach to parenting. Although I focused on this, there were times when I was triggered by my children’s behaviors. This book provides tools for parents on how to be more mindful, make life easier, and more peaceful without yelling.
Dr. Markham divides her approach to healthy parenting into three major ideas and sections of her book. First, she encourages parents to develop self-regulation of their own emotions. When a parent can reflect on their child’s behavior and not just react to that behavior, this allows the parent to be more peaceful in their parenting approach. “Parenting isn’t about what our child does, but about how we respond. In fact, most of what we call parenting doesn’t take place between the parent and child but within the parent themselves.” When a parent can be peaceful and present in the moment, they can have a greater impact and influence on their child’s life. This is a “modeling” of a state of mind that produces children who are more emotionally regulated, respectful and responsible. Learning to “be in the moment” with your child is a significant life skill.
The second big idea in this book is to make connections with your child. Children will thrive and grow when they feel connected and understood. Making and maintaining connections with your child is the fabric that keeps a relationship healthy and alive. “Children need to feel deeply connected to their parents or they don’t feel entirely safe, and their brains don’t work well to regulate their emotions and follow parental guidance.” The author takes us through each of the developmental stages in a child’s life, from infancy, toddlerhood, pre-school, and elementary school years and highlights the emotional, physiological, and neurologic impacts of each stage of development.
In her third section, Markham encourages parents to learn the skills of coaching their child rather than directing or forcing their child into being obedient. “What raises great kids is coaching them to handle their emotions, manage their behavior, and develop mastery-rather than controlling for immediate compliance.” Because emotions are a large part of almost everything that a child will do in their life, it is essential that they understand and can manage them.
Having children is a great joy in our lives, and we all experience parenting challenges. I highly recommend this book, Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids. It’s a fun read and provides many excellent points, tips, and tools on how to be a mindful parent. It will help you coach and build your relationship with your child. If children are emotion-coached by their parents, they develop their emotional intelligence. They are better able to manage their feelings and learn to make wise choices.