The peaceful parenting philosophy

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Overview of strategies pictureWhat is Peaceful Parenting?

The peaceful parenting approach gives a broader understanding of the dynamics between the parent / educator and the child.  To approach challenges in a more constructive way, it’s important for the adult to be aware of

(a)   what they’re modelling through their responses to their child, (

b)   the importance of trying to meet the underlying needs that may be driving the behaviour,

(c)   the skills that the child needs to develop for future situations and ..

(d)   that the connection, care and warmth in the relationship is the biggest contributing factor towards a child’s behaviour and needs to be preserved.

We need to aim higher than eliciting obedience.  This contrasts with traditional parenting approaches which often focus on the child’s behaviour in isolation, often using punishment as a strategy for modifying behaviour.  Although using punishments, rewards or threats may work in the short term, adopting a punishment-free approach is a key factor in establishing relationships that are based on trust and mutual respect, for creating a healthy team spirit in the family.  The Peaceful Parenting approach fosters more willing cooperation, integrity and self-discipline in children (slowly over time as their natural development allows) as opposed to fear based obedience.

Genevieve shifted the focus of her work away from teaching and counselling adults with a wide range of personal challenges (over the previous ten years) to specializing in the field of working more exclusively with parents and teachers.  Along with her husband Dan, she founded the Peaceful Parent Institute in New Zealand in 2004, and since that time peaceful parenting has been adopted by parents and professionals around the globe who resonate with this much more respectful and even therapeutic model of parenting.

The peaceful parenting philosophy that Genevieve teaches equips parents with the tools to transition to a non-punitive connection based parenting approach.  It's based on past and current attachment research and at it's core is the recognition that to bring about long lasting positive change, parents need to gain a better understanding of what their child needs in their growth and development.  A parent gaining a greater awareness of their child's attachment and developmental needs (when explained in simple enough terms), leads to a greater motivation to learn the parenting tools which hold the value of the parent child relationship at the core.

Genevieve understands that the necessary change needs to happen first and foremost at the emotional level, which is why peaceful parenting puts equal focus on helping parents develop the self-awareness and emotional self-regulation skills needed to change.   In supporting parents in their learning, growth and change, Genevieve shares her in depth experience and study of the many and varied tools for self-growth, self-healing, mindfulness and meditative practices.

The key principles of the peaceful parenting approach are based on a combination of:

  • research findings from attachment science,
  • providing a safe environment for children to feel and express strong emotions,
  • active listening skills,
  • maintaining the heart connection, warmth and open lines of communication,
  • facilitating problem-solving and creating agreements,
  • using “I” statements for parents to express feelings and requests non-aggressively,
  • setting limits with calm clarity while maintaining empathy for any consequent upset,
  • parent owns their strong feelings to avoid escalation and to model how to manage emotions, and
  • a deeper understanding of the feelings and unmet needs which drive a child’s behaviour

Read a little more about each of the above key principles here.

Parenting without punishment

Parenting without punishment is essential when supporting the child to make choices from a place of integrity, self-discipline and self-responsibility rather than fear of disapproval or desire for reward.  Creating a culture of mutual respect, empathy and respectful listening, sensitivity to each person’s feelings and diplomatic problem solving all help to foster communication in the family that’s based more on love, respect and compassion.  So, not only is there an alternative to punishment, it’s the only alternative that leads to long term peace and harmony in families and effectively meets children’s needs for emotional safety, security, developing emotional intelligence and unconditional love.

Clear communication, boundaries and limits

Peaceful parenting is based on clear and patient communication and trust in the child’s basic goodness.  When a child doesn't respond to their parent, instead of raising your voice or inserting a thread, instead make physical contact, come down to their level, touch them kindly, calmly get their attention, be clear about your expectations and ask them what they've understood.  And if it's an ongoing problem, it's likely indicative of needing to invest some quality time together to truly listen, to play, to generally rebuild the warm connection.

Setting limits are set by the parent with confidence, giving the child a very clear understanding of what the limit is, while maintaining a warm connected and supportive relationship with the child.  It is an approach that constantly models a much more mature form of communication that fosters connection, confidence, trust, lateral thinking, problem-solving skills, and conflict-resolution skills.  Peaceful parenting is a model that aims to meet the needs of both the parent and the child, while teaching and modeling flexibility and adaptability.  Peaceful parenting is NOT permissive parenting.  Permission parenting falls into the two categories of being either neglectful when a parent is disengaged or over indulgent where parents are unable or unwilling to hold limits thereby compromising the child's development of emotional adaptation - adapting to frustrations and disappointments.  Overly indulgent permissive parents may believe they're protecting their child from the frustrations, grief and disappointments that limits evoke, yet when a parent maintains warm connection and empathy while holding limits when limits seem reasonable and important to hold, they are greatly supporting their child adapt to dealing with limitations, while also helping them develop and understanding about the balance of needs.

Mutual problem-solving

Adopting a democratic, mutual problem-solving approach to parenting lifts both the adult and child out of the power struggle.  This approach teaches parents to relate primarily to the feelings beneath the behaviour and to respond primarily to the feelings.  When a child's response shows upset, rather than criticizing them, show care of their feelings "hey my boy, you seem upset, tell me about it", which helps children learn to identify their own feelings and increases their emotional literacy greatly. This contrasts with many traditional parenting approaches which focus on changing a child’s behaviour using techniques that involve time-out and creating artificial consequences for the child which tends to cause children to feel stressed, defensive, rejected and rebellious These responses create a tense and emotionally insecure environment for children to live and learn in.  This tension causes children to feel stressed, insecure and rejected and greatly increases their tendency to be resistant, rebellious and reactive.

Punishments fail to identify and attend to the underlying needs that drive out of balance behaviour and are no more effective in gaining genuine listening, calm communication and willing cooperation from our children as it would be from another adult.

Role modeling: Do as I do

One of the most profound ways that children learn is by watching our behaviour.  When we use manipulation, threats, bribes or punishments of any kind, we are modeling to our children that this is what they should do and how they should be in relationships.  Consequently, this will become their default mode in attempting to make others act the way they want them to act.  In other words, they will naturally think and feel in terms of manipulating, bribing, threatening and punishing.  If a child is then being told by their parents not to manipulate or coerce others, they are receiving two opposing messages: one from their parent’s words; the other from their parent’s actions.  And as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

Why children behave ‘badly’

Aggressive or hyperactive behaviour, or speaking with “whining” tones, are generally symptoms of unmet needs, the child may be hungry or exhausted, may be overstimulated or they may have a need to release their pent up stresses and frustrations.  It may well be an indication that there's too much chaos and aggressive tones in the family and the child is feeling disconnected, defensive or overwhelmed.  From the peaceful parenting perspective, we're always seeking to explore what the underlying needs may be that are driving the behaviour.  When we give children the safety and permission to feel and express their feelings, children can return to balance and again live happily in the moment.  When children are emotionally settled and calm, they can naturally give their full attention and enthusiasm to their daily play and learning.  On the other hand, the child who carries a backlog of invalidated and unreleased tears and fears is less available mentally and emotionally and will be generally frustrated, unsettled or inhibited – which of course manifests in the more chaotic and resistant behaviours.

Parents also have needs

The parent’s need for emotional support and release is just as big and just as valid as the child’s and the first is actually a prerequisite for the second. For this reason, we also offer understanding about how the patterns from the parent’s own childhood influence how we parent as adults. Although most parents endeavor to parent with patience and kindness, all parents understand that putting the principle into practice is no easy task and it’s unfair to “expect” ourselves as parents to just be calm and non-critical without a lot of learning, support and quite a lot of processing of our own emotional hurts.  It is important that we have the opportunity and support to process our own emotional hurts so that we can move in a more positive direction with our parenting.

The workshops, seminars, eCourses and parent coaching which Genevieve offers:

On the seminars, workshops and eCourses, Genevieve gives information and examples from her years of working with individuals, children and families. She also shares her in-depth study of the work of Dr. Aletha Solter, psychologist and author of “The Aware Baby”, “Tears and Tantrums” and “Raising Drug-Free Children”, the work of Daniel Siegel, psychiatrist, author of “Parenting from the Inside Out”, John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, Bruce Perry, founder of the Child Trauma Clinic and others in the field of cutting edge research in child development, the work of Robin Grille, author of Parenting for a Peaceful World and Heart to Heart Parenting.

We teach our children through modeling first and foremost.  When parents coerce children with punishments, threats and bribes, they condition their child to naturally think and feel in terms of manipulating, bribing, threatening and punishing.  If they are then being advised by their parents not to attempt to manipulate others (coercion), the child is receiving two opposing messages; one from their parent's words, the other from their parent’s actions and day to day communication with the child.


Recommended Reading:

If you'd like to learn more about peaceful parenting, as well as the articles on this website, you could get hold of some of the books on our Books page. They are all books that work from a similar value system of non-violent communication, parenting without punishment and parenting through connection. We particularly recommend one or more of the books of Dr. Aletha Solter. Dr. Solter is a Swiss/American developmental psychologist and author of four parenting books. Dr. Solter is recognized internationally as an expert on attachment, trauma, and non-punitive discipline.

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  1. Each generation steps a little bit away from traditional parenting techniques. I have seen this method up close for the first time a few weeks ago. I must say the results are not impressive so far. I fail to see how young minds can learn the difference between right and wrong with out some form of consequence. This particular situation seems to be fostering an unrealistic level of allowance. A mother takes her to preschoolers over to a relative’s home. The adults (who own the home and live there) are instructed to not even say “no” when they do something wrong….including a situation that was potentially dangerous. I see these children being raised with no respect for authority or rules. This is very problematic for situations involving someone else’s home or daycare situations. Needless to say, by the time they enter school, they may be very difficult to instruct. They end up in groups of peers that have to follow rules and instruction, while thinking they should not have to. Perhaps this parenting style can be effective for some: however, I dread the outcome that would be seen over time.

    • Shela, what you witnessed and what you describe isn’t peaceful parenting, it’s permissive parenting. Permissive parenting is shown by research to have similar negative outcomes as authoritarian parenting. This misunderstanding is normal at first glance, but it absolutely is a misunderstanding. It’s not about not having boundaries and limits, it’s about teaching them with calm confidence while helping the child feel supported in their learning instead of shamed, coached and cared for instead of punished and rejected. The best teaching and learning happens within a positive relationship. Children who have grown up in such a family culture, including my old children, now 15 and 20 would be the last people to act irresponsibly, let alone aggressively or disrespectfully. Punishments teach only fear and foster deceit. But when children are supported to develop their thinking and are treated with genuine kindness and respect, they are equipped with the confidence, the integrity and the communication skills that allow them to deal with life’s challenges very skillfully.

  2. Carissa says:

    It seems like this,approach is dependant on the child’s ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings. How would this,approach work with a toddler? If my son hits another kid because the kid took a toy of his and my son refuses to say sorry to the kid, what would I do in the immediacy of that situation? All that my toddler is,saying is no, how would I handle this situation using this approach?

    • Hi Carissa,
      this page gives a very broad sense of the philosophy, but in reality there are quite a few tools and approaches and when parents start to feel confident in knowing the different tools, they can trial and error using different approaches in different situations. But certainly I help a lot of parents with children of all ages, including babies and teenagers.

      Here’s a list of some relevant articles to your current challenge. It’s SO very very stressful when children become aggressive towards each other and many of the approaches are needed. I would first read “Helping children when they hit, push and bite” but many of those articles will give you some little gems that help you to help your son.

      Also very relevant is the active listening approach because the more each of our children feel truly heard, understood and cared for, the less stressed and frustrated they become and the more capacity they can have to follow our guidance. Even though your boy is only saying “no”, he will really understand and internalize how you respond to him in these situations. See this as another thing he needs to learn and although you want the habit to end asap, try to respond with kindness and patience, while also holding a strong limit, letting him know that you won’t let him hit and offering him emotional support because when you do you help to reduce all that frustration that drives him to lash out. Counter intuitive I know, but trust me this is the approach that brings about change the fastest, not instantaneously but gradually it will improve and in the meantime, he needs to be shadowed. Also pay close attention to the times when he’s more likely to lash out. It may be related to food or sleep or the quality and quantity of warm attention he can access from you on a particular day.

  3. Theresa H Hilbig says:

    I see a lot of positives in this philosophy. Where did this idea originate? Are you the writer of this or is it based on an already developed school of thought. I tried to practice a somewhat similar style 40 years ago. It is hard when only 1 parent is on board. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Theresa,
      I refer to some (but not all) of my influences in my about section of this website; There really are a lot of different influences and experiences that contribute to that which I teach. I like to introduce parents to different resources that are aligned with an attachment based non-punitive approach. I’ve run hundreds of personal development weekend retreats with different themes, but all largely focused on facilitating processes that help people get more in touch with what they’re really feeling and what their underlying thought patterns are. I’ve taught meditation and mindfulness and my work is very influenced by many of the leaders in the fields of healing trauma. I’m a trained Aware Parenting Instructor so I definitely give Aletha Solter a lot of credit for much of my learning journey.

      I grew up in a very dysfunctional, violent and neglectful family environment and luckily I started to identify the impacts and began my healing journey in my teens and have had a meditation practice since I was 19 and began counselling around the same time. Although I’ve mostly worked with adults, I’ve also facilitated some children’s groups and also leadership camps for teens with my husband and another colleague. And generally I’m learning all the time by tuning in to the parents that I work with individually and in groups, trying to put myself in their shoes to give them the support and the tools that they need.

      Some of my influences are Thomas Gordon, Haim Ginott, Marshall Rosenberg, Robin Grille, Peter Levine, Judith Hermen, so many really. Thank you for your question and feedback 🙂

  4. Bianca nash says:

    Hi I’m very interested in paying the money to sign up im just not sure if ill like it or not

    • Hi Bianca, I’ve just spotted your comment. Sorry I forget to check the comments at times. But I’ll send you an email about the membership. We’re going to very soon launch our new website with greatly improved membership resources and more eCourses, so it might be better to jump on board when that launches. And having said that, if you sign up now you’ll still gain the benefits of more videos etc when we launch. Tell me what you’re hoping to get from the membership and I’ll be able to respond more specifically.

  5. Jonathan GW says:

    Hi I just discovered this website. I came here because this morning I forced by 20 month year old daughter to get dressed against her will. This really ate at me since I am a convinced libertarian and think consent should be the bedrock of all human relationships, including between adults and children, and I want to raise my daughter to believe in the same principles. I’d heard about peaceful parenting before but never looked into it seriously before. We’re already pretty peaceful, e.g. no spanking, but sometimes we do force our daughter to do things she clearly doesn’t want to do e.g. get dressed, get vaccinated etc. I’m hoping to learn more about how to persuade my child to do what I believe is in her best interests without resorting to physical force. I’ll take a look through your site but if you have the chance would you be able to recommend anything specifically about these issues? Thanks!

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