One of the resources I have used most often since having babies is my moms’ group, both in person and online. I am lucky enough to have both an awesome mom tribe in real life, and a group of local moms on Facebook, to answer any question I need to ask. When my oldest son was born, I was new to the area, and the Palm Beach Moms group was full of helpful advice: where are the best toddler playgrounds? Is there a baby music class you recommend? When is library story time?
I love to read, and when I became a mom I found myself skimming articles, reading mom blogs, and browsing parenting books. Now that I am navigating parenting a baby for the second time, I have turned to the same resources. One of the best parenting books I have read is Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Dr. Laura Markham. I first heard about this book in a moms’ group, and one mom said it literally changed her parenting style.
The main theme of the book is creating a loving relationship with your child, while setting empathetic limits. Dr. Markham talks about managing our own emotions as adults, so that we can model compassionate behavior for our children:
Your first responsibility in parenting is being mindful of your own inner state. Mindfulness is the opposite of “losing” your temper. Don’t get me wrong–mindfulness doesn’t mean you don’t feel anger. Being mindful means that you pay attention to what you’re feeling, but don’t act on it. Anger is part of all relationships. Acting on it mindlessly, with words or actions, is what compromises our parenting.
The book is divided into three sections: Regulating Yourself; Fostering Connection; and Coaching, Not Controlling. In the first second, Dr. Markham talks about how to parent consciously by taking note of our emotions, understanding how those feelings work (like being in “fight-or-flight” mode), and developing good emotional habits. She writes, “[o]ur children don’t need perfection from us. What they need is a parent who embraces growth, makes amends, and opens her heart when it wants to harden.”
The second section discusses building a strong relationship with your child, and offers strategies for babyhood, the toddler years, preschool, and elementary schoolers. Dr. Markham also includes helpful “action guides,” that give specific advice on how to connect and implement strategies. She concludes the section by saying:
It may seem impossible, but if we feel the slightest glimmer of desire to turn things around, we can grab it. We don’t even have to know how. We can just choose love. We can always find a way to reach out to our child and reconnect. We can always find a way to heal things, even when we’re in a cycle of negativity that’s gone too far.
So stop berating yourself for letting things get out of control. Hug your imperfect self. Reach out for your child.
In the end, it is always about love. Love never fails.
The third section of the book deals with coaching our children to handle their emotions. Dr. Markham discusses empathy, and developing emotional intelligence at different ages, from infancy through the elementary school years.
She provides more actions guides, and scripts, both in the book and on her website, for dealing with problematic behavior. Even if your child does something that “crosses a line,” so to speak, the book offers a way to set loving, compassionate limits.
“Because the healing miracle of unconditional love is that there is no line.
There is only love.”