Introducing to you Nicola Farr. She is married to Matthew and has three beautiful children 3, 5 & 7 years. Nicola studied child development and child psychology to doctorate level, and spent a number of years working with children and families. When Nicola became a mum herself she realised that there were still big gaps in her understanding of what it truly meant to be a parent and raise thriving kids. After a lot of exploring and studying (and using her own kids as guinea pigs!!) she has adopted an approach that truly resonates, and best of all, works! Nicola explains ‘It changed things for me so much that I decided I had to share my experience and help others on their parenting journey. So I went about gaining further qualifications in coaching and NLP, and last year set up my own coaching business, Heart Parenting’.
Intrigued? Lets find out more…
LJ: What do you mean when you use the term peaceful parenting?
I use the term ‘peaceful’ for want of a better umbrella term really! It refers to a non-punitive, respect and connection-based approach that emphasises the long-term goals of parenting. So rather than coercing our kids into automatically and unthinkingly obeying adults because we ‘say so’, a peaceful approach teaches them to be internally motivated and develop skills and thinking that they need for life (such as emotional intelligence, empathy, solution-seeking).
It starts with knowing that children only have positive intentions and that when they ‘misbehave’ it’s because they are trying to get their needs met. By looking for the ‘why’ behind the behaviour and meeting the unmet need in a different way, the undesirable behaviour will quickly cease.
LJ: But what does this look like?
I think it is about…
Connecting rather than punishing
Responding (pausing) rather than reacting
Guiding rather than controlling
Encouraging rather than demanding
LJ: Is that even possible?!!!
Ha, definitely! But it’s a journey not a destination, and about striving for good enough rather than perfection. And I’ll be honest, I do think parenting without punishment and harsh discipline is harder in the short-term. It requires us to stay calm, to not let our strong feelings take hold, to work on our triggers, to not have our own tantrums, and to accept that it is rarely our child who is ‘causing’ us stress or purposely winding us up.
It also requires of us to undo and overwrite a great deal of our own conditioning and upbringing, and in doing so, come face-to-face with the buried pain inherent in these experiences (see here).
All of this is huge! But the long-term benefits make it so worth it – both in terms of the relationship and connection that is developed and maintained with our children, and the way in which we are actively promoting their brain development for the better.
LJ: Can you give the readers your top tips on peaceful parenting
Connection is the foundation of peaceful parenting. Spend 1:1 time with your child/ren as much as you can, and pour your undivided love and attention into them (with no phones, distractions or other children). Just doing this for 10 minutes at a set time every day (using a timer and calling it by your child’s name – e.g. ‘Edward time’) will reap big benefits.
Love them at their worst – We often think and say we unconditionally love our kids, but our actions do not always reflect this. For your child/ren to have a deep knowing of this, stay present and calm when they are experiencing strong emotions, even when they have done something ‘wrong’. This is when they need you most – to help them regulate their feelings, feel loved, and reflect on solutions/ideas to repair or apologise.
Reduce control – Just as most of us don’t like being told what to do and will dig in our heels if we are ordered around, so will our kids. They are so much smaller than us that they tend to feel very powerless (because they generally are!). So readdress the balance a little by giving as much ‘power’ to them as you can; give them choices, let them decide the order of things (e.g. which shop you go to first), have a ‘yes’ day where they are in charge and you try (as hard as you can!!) to say yes to all their requests, play silly games where they always win or have magical ‘powers’ over you, make you fall over etc.
Have fun and get your child giggling. It’s a massive tension reliever for them and so much more fun for you. Use play, imagination and games as much as you can, and integrate whatever they are currently interested in to make the mundane routine things more interesting. E.g. my 3-year-old is much happier to leave the house and pick his siblings up from school if we go on a dinosaur hunt on the way, and the transition up to bed is much easier if we all pretend to be soldiers and march up with our air instruments!
Get to know yourself – This is one of the biggest gifts you can give your children, in particular, identifying the things that trigger you or drive you nuts and examining why and where these feelings come from. If you find/develop ways to stay calm, not only will you find yourself responding entirely differently to your child, you will also be modelling to them how to handle themselves. Children learn much, much more from how we are and how we behave than from what we say or tell them to do. Let me say again, I absolutely know this is extremely hard… but it’s also worth it for the long term.
LJ: What advice would you give if the reader suffers from any kind of mental health issue and is struggling to parent effectively?
Seek professional support. Sounds obvious and common sense, but so often we just don’t. And I know only too well how hard it is to ask. But speaking to a trusted person is the very best thing you can do for you and your child/ren
Build a support network of good listeners into your life. These don’t have to be professionals, but anyone who will give you time to just listen to your feelings and all the tensions and frustrations of your day – and crucially, without trying to fix or solve or do something about the things you speak about. You can even set up regular listening partnerships where the sole aim is to take it in turns to offer and receive listening time (see here for more about how to do this)
Know that there is truly no such thing as a perfect parent, even one who is 110% well. We all mess up, and I certainly mess up, a lot! But that’s okay. I’ve come to see that the key is in the reparation process; owning your part in it, acknowledging and apologising straight away, talking openly about how you plan to do things differently. By striving to do this, we are living and modelling exactly how we would like our children to deal with their mistakes. There is great comfort in knowing that they don’t need us to be perfect or completely consistent; we are showing them what it is to be a real, fallible human and so there is no need to ‘pretend’ to be all-knowing and flawless.
LJ: How can the readers connect with you should they wish to access your services further?
I’d love for you to pop over to my website if you’d like to learn more about me and how I can help you: www.heartparenting.co.uk
And do check out the link there to my blog for much more on peaceful parenting, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I am also in the process of developing a program for fuss-free eating and mealtimes based on the principles of peaceful parenting. Having struggled with an eating disorder for many years myself, I feel strongly about helping parents set up their kids with a healthy relationship with food for life. So if you have picky or fussy eaters or other worries about your kids eating habits or relationship with food, keep an eye on my website for updates or please do get in touch by email: nicola@heartparenting,com
LJ: Thanks for your insight Nicola. Here at The LJ Project we are keen to hear more from you. Stay tuned folks.
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