Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: A Parenting Book Review
So a couple of months back I started toying with the idea in my mind of starting a "virtual" book club for moms on Instagram. I had debated not only about the logistics of doing this, but also wondered if there would actually be moms out there who would want to participate. I decided to give it a try and about a month ago I debuted my idea on Instagram stories and introduced the first book we would be starting with - Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. I figured, if nothing else, this was a book that I could desperately use advice from in my life so even if no one else wanted to read it with me it would be worth it! Well, I was quite frankly shocked at the number of moms who reached out and said that this book sounded like something they were interested in reading as well and wanted to join along with me. So what I decided is that I would write all my thoughts and opinions here on this blog review post in conjunction with having a "live session" on Instagram. And now that you know the back story, let's get to heart of the matter.... was this book worth the read, and if so, how exactly did it help things for my family?
Can I let you guys in on a secret without being judged? Okay, I'm hoping you nodded your head yes because here it goes. Truth: I used to be a mom who yells. Very few would maybe expect that from me because I am typically on the quieter side and I also have never ending patience in my job as a kid's dentist. But the fact of the matter is, by the time I was done with work and "life duties", the patience that I have left for two little girls was very little which led to never ending frustration. I ALWAYS felt bad about this and have tried numerous times to be better in this area but never quite had the right tools to achieve this.
So, I will start by saying that, without exaggerating, this book has been life changing. Since beginning this book (I read about 100 pages the first time I opened it because I just could not get enough) I have not raised my voice at my kids. To be honest there have been more than a few occasions where I have gotten frustrated and too stern with them (which I am still working on with the tactics described in the book) but I have been able to maintain my composure which used to be extremely hard for me to do. Dr. Laura Markham, the author of the book, mentioned at one point that she believes that "yelling is the new spanking" in this day and age's discipline as most parents (like me) believe that yelling is better than physically disciplining your child. She even states that most parents are just under the assumption that yelling is part of parenthood and there is no way around it. Yes we all likely feel bad right after yelling, but that bad feeling is not always enough to stop it from happening again. These are all things I knew and realized prior to reading this book, but the real help that this book gave was helping to answer these two important questions : How Do I Actually Stop Raising My Voice In The Heat Of The Moment? and What Do I Do To Discipline Instead of Raise My Voice?
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Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Book Outline
The book is broken into three parts that all circle back to each other. Part One is Regulating Yourself, Part Two is Fostering Connection, and Part Three is Coaching, Not Controlling. The first part, although the shortest, was the most important for me as this is what I personally had the issue with- it was a matter of me controlling my own emotions when things got tough. I've always loved the quote by L.R. Knost "When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, its our job to share our calm, not to join in on their chaos" and I never have really been able to understand the full meaning of that until reading this book. As a parent, it is so vital that we regulate out own emotions before reacting to a child's behavior or speaking with them in the heat of the moment. Part Two reviews some fantastic ideas for truly connecting with your children and growing that connection over time, even when kids get older and begin to be interested in their peers and spending time outside the home. Part Three is by far the meatiest part of the book yet one of the most important to answering the question "how else can I discipline my children yet still be kind and compassionate?".
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: Key Takeaways To Remember
"Usually in parenting and in life, the best response to upsetting emotions is to reflect, not react." - again, a great reminder to pause and reflect before speaking or taking action... granted this is one of the hardest things to do but can save so much heart ache on both sides
"It isn't a mistake if you learn from it." - Use each misstep as a chance to change
"There is always another side to every story." - this is definitely a key point that helped me, give your child a chance to explain the situation the way they viewed it, their response may be surprising
"Choose Love." - my absolute favorite quote from this book, and one that I now remind myself of on a daily basis
"The most important parenting skill: Manage yourself." - again, this all goes back to controlling our own emotions as a parent, yes our children's behavior can drive us batty, but often times our reaction to it makes the situations much harder
"All misbehavior comes from basic needs that aren't met." - and again with another eye opening revelation, anytime your child acts out think about the other basic reasons why he/she may be upset as children are often not acting out just to "be bad"
"We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth." (quote from Virginia Satir, family therapist) - I have always been a hugger with my kids, but these numbers were pretty astounding to me and yet such a simple thing that we can do as parents to help our children through their hard times
"To children, bedtime is the time they're forced to separate from their parents and lie in the dark by themselves." - man, oh man, have we had our share of bedtime and sleeping issues. Luckily much of that is past us now, but had we still been having trouble at this time I think this idea from Dr. Markham really helps parents to see this situation from the child's perspective so I added it in here for some thought. Yes, this time can be utterly frustrating, but in the eyes of a child it's as simple as laying in the dark by themselves which makes it understandable that they would fight it so much!
"All we need to do is remember: connect." - even when we don't especially want to: connect, connect, connect
"In the end, it is always about love. Love never fails." - such an important theme reiterated throughout the book so I had to make sure and throw it in again here
Coaching, Not Controlling:
"... when we think of ourselves as coaches, we know that all we have is influence- so we work hard to stay respected and connected, so our child wants to "follow" us." - yes we are parents to our children, but thinking of ourselves more as guiders instead of authorities is crucial in having children that want to do right and please us
"You can help your child with her anger by remembering that an angry child is is showing you that she's scared, disconnected, and hurting inside." - always keeping in mind that there are deeper reasons and emotions that need addressing when a child is mad and angry
"While your child is vulnerable after the meltdown is not the time to have a discussion about his transgression." - another change we have made here, I used to explain to my child their faults and what to do better next time after a tantrum was over, now I wait until the situation is more calm and unforced and I get a much better response
"You want your child to follow your guidance because he loves you and would never want to disappoint you, not because you scare him." - The scare tactic surely works, but this surely isn't the reason why we want our kids to behave is it? I never want my child to grow up feeling scared of me and that's something that was really important for me to reflect on.
"What kind of human being do you want to raise?" - in the end its as simple as this, we are trying to raise good human beings and yes we will falter but as long as we keep trying to do the best we can every single day then we are doing our job
"The word discipline actually means "to guide"." -very interesting to read this and Dr. Markham's thoughts on the "non-discipline" discipline
"...children live up or down to our expectations, meaning that children who think they're bad will act "bad"." - it's a cycle, and if you are on the wrong path in this cycle it's one you want to end quickly!
"Punishment actually keeps the child from taking responsibility, because it creates an external locus of control..." - another interesting thought to reflect on, yes punishment makes the child upset and scared to do the transgression again- but in the heat of the moment it likely will not stop them from doing such a thing again
"... no one every really wins in a parent-child power struggle." - so very true
"And that's the biggest secret of setting limits. You can't really make anyone do anything." - as much as we may not want to realize this as parents, ultimately it's the truth, and the older our children get the more we will realize this and that is why it is so important to foster a relationship in which children actually want to please us
"No one is born with good judgement and the ability to make wise decisions; those develop from experience combined with reflection." - always give and guide your children (and yourself) in reflection after situations that require it, allow them to see how to do things better in the future
"...our kids will remember little of what we say to them. The memories that color their lives will be about how we made them feel." - such a profound thought to remember
The Importance of Self Care in Parenting
Just a final note to leave you all with - self care is so, so important for us mothers. Dr. Markham brings this up and I agree with her wholeheartedly. She says "Having to summon up your patience is a signal that your cup already dangerously empty.". How true is this? Think back to your biggest and worst melt downs as a parent. Was it because you were exhausted from a sleepless night or working too hard at work and/or home? Was it because you had a list of chores and errands to run and weren't making a dent in it because your kids constantly were in need of your attention? Was it because you hadn't had a moment to yourself in months. This is an empty cup my friends and this is something we mamas need to work hard to avoid - because as the saying goes - you can't pour from an empty cup.
So what do you do? You ask for help - you ask parents, grandparents, family, friends, trusted babysitters to step in for a bit so you can rest or recharge. You ask for help with that mile long chore and errand list. You find a hobby that Just.For.You. And most importantly? You BE THAT FRIEND. You be that friend that you want to have. The one that says "bring the kids over while you go get your nails done", or the one that says "call me when the kids go to bed and tell me all about it". Be the one that let's other moms unload their emotions on so that they don't have to do that to their children and spouse. Just be sure you are asking for that in return to fill your own cup up. We're all in this motherhood thing together, let's help each other out and hold each other up!
If you haven't already, be sure to get your own copy of this amazing, life changing book. All of these wonderful insights I have shared do not even come close to scratching the surface of the knowledge that Dr. Markham shares. The best part about having this book on hand is her wonderful Action Guides which are so helpful when you are feeling stuck and need ideas of how you could have reacted better in a situation that you know you did not handle the best. While this is a book that focuses on building the foundation as the children are young, it is a book that can be used for any aged child and I plan to have it handy to use in the years to come... especially those teenage twin girl years AKA the Glory Years (LOL... totally joking, but one can hope right!?). I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am so grateful that I came across it at the perfect time in my life (thank you Candice)!
Markham Laura. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. How To Stop Yelling And Start Connecting. Penguin Group, New York, NY. 2012.