Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids - Dr. Laura Markham - Book Summary
Main ideas: In the book there are 3 big ideas:
* A Parent needs to regulate her feelings
* Cultivate a connection with your child
* Guide your child by coaching - not controlling
As parents we are many times nervous about how to raise our children - because we don’t always know what to do, and because the stakes are very high. This makes us anxious, and many times we act out of fear or doubt. Children also have a tendency to hit our weak spots, triggering our own childhood traumas that sometimes causes our lashing out and losing control.
The good news is that this is an opportunity to surface those issues that we have and fix them - by talking to friends and family, in our community or using professional help. When we are presented of the choice to act out of fear or love - we should always choose love.
When we are upset - we should never act as it will usually be the wrong response. The best thing to do before anything else is to regulate ourselves and calm down. By doing this - we will handle the situation better, but also teach our child how to regulate her own feelings and in turn - improve her behavior. This takes time, but by being mindful - we can practice noticing our feelings and not acting on them.
Whenever we feel strong emotions come up - manage it: take 5 minutes timeout to calm yourself. wash your face. Say: “I am too mad to talk now”. Say a mantra to yourself. Remind yourself that there is no emergency and settle the “fight or flight” reaction. Humm. Tell a joke. smile. Shake your arms - anything that will help you calm down. Remind yourself that your child is acting act because she needs love and she is asking for your help. Stop rushing.
When you are calm - be respectful to your child. Don’t yell. Don’t hurt your child - emotionally or physically. Instead - hug them. Tell them you love them. If you fail and yell or get mad: apologize, suggest a do over. With practice - you will improve catching your emotions before they got out of control. This approach is very rewarding.
Make sure to feel your cup: you get irritable when you are tired or hungry. Make sure you fill your needs - both physical and mental. Take time for a walk. Take a bath, Ask your partner for a hug - whatever you feel you need. If you are content and happy - you will find it much easier to be there for your child, and you will not end up venting on your child. Don’t sacrifice yourself. Focus on what matters. Treat yourself and be compassionate.
Remember that you do not have to be a perfect parent. What your children need from you is that you will be devoted and not hurt them.
Discipline and punishments do no work. The way to get your children behave is by having them want to behave because they feel connected to you and want to please you. Don’t be authoritarian or permissive - give empathic borders. Expect a lot from your children and give them support while guiding them - step by step. Children want to succeed - if they don’t - it’s a relationship problem that you should fix.
Add Rituals for connecting - especially around separation - saying bye bye, or going to sleep (also a separation) - of hugging and cuddling. Understand that being with the parent is a natural need of a child.
Spend 15 minutes of “special time” with your child. No structure. No distractions, and make sure you *listen*. Alternate on who of you chooses the activity - and when it’s your turn - choose roughhouse and tickle fight. Allow your child to release her aggregations - and make her laugh - as it sometimes replaces crying - by releasing the same hormones to eliviates strong feelings.
If you can’t get her to laugh, and she is dealing with a strong emotion - may be triggered by something you did to bring it up - let her break down in your arms. Allow the strong emotion - let her cry, and yell and let it out. Tell her it’s OK, and even remind her what she is upset about - don’t try to “fix” it for her. Be a safe place for her to show those emotions. Show you are not scared of them, and you accept her with all of her messy emotions. Validate her and let her emotion be heard.
Suppressed emotions tend to cause acting up in other places. Name the emotions, and talk about what made her upset - to allow her right brain to process them and deal with them in the future, and when she is calm - problem solve to prevent it from happening again. Never walk away or send her away when she is having a tantrum - it’s too big for her to handle on her own and you don’t want to signal her that she is bad, or that no one supports her in this effort.
Happy kids are more open to your influence when they feel loved and secured and that you are in their side. Coaching doesn’t work if there is no connection. Children then turn to seek love elsewhere, and usually end up more vulnerable to peer pressure than securely attached children.
Parenting constantly evolves - be sure to help your child in her different age appropriate behaviors.
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A bit deeper: During the first year of life - your brain learns trust. The child is hard wired and learns to emotion regulation, and expression. Content baby grows to be a happy children. Co-sleeping help regulate a child’s breathing. Once they can trust their caregivers - they are free to explore. Attachment parenting - responsiveness to needs (in infancy - physical closeness) is what needed for optimal development. Research shows that regulating their emotions also helps children regulate their weight later in life.
Helping children to calm down as infants (like when getting ready to sleep) stimulates the neurological pathways, and wires the brain so it will be easier for them to calm down later as adults. Letting a child cry to sleep is not letting him learn to calm herself down - rather exhaust her - while leaving her upset and release stress hormones that hurts healthy development. Eye contact and closeness helps your child heart rate sync with yours. Responding to your infant’s cues shows your baby that she is safe and she express her needs that you will meet - and learn to trust you.
You can see that you have a secure attachment if your child is
When prompting your child to do something - ask nicely - with calm voice. Avoid threats. Choose your battles and if you can’t grant your children what they want - grant it in fantasy (“I bet when you grow up you will stay up all night”)
Misbehaving is an SOS - your child is suffering. Help him express his emotions. don’t punish her or let her deal with it by herself. When you are both calm - because children don’t learn as well when they are stressed or threatened - and when you yell - your children become less open to your influence.
The most important rule is to be your child advocate and never give up on her. Guide kindley, set limits on behavior but always empathize with feelings (including feeling about the limits). You child needs to express his emotions - while you listen.
You child is acting childish because - well, she is a child. Expect age appropriate behavior - not perfection. Don’t take it personally. Cultivate a sense of humor. Remember that misbehavior comes from needs that are not met. Stay connected and never withdraw your love.
Bond is the reward for the hard work, and the deep connection is what causes children to cooperate enthusiastically when they believe you are on their side.