Written by Kathryn Tonges
Parents yearn for the peaceful sound of silence. The soothing balm of quiet solitude. An inner calm.
Family life is so often a cacophony of sounds, activity and busy-ness that floods and overloads the senses of each family member. Parents giving commands, children resisting, the incessant background noise of television or music, computer games, vacuum cleaners, washing machines. Constant bombardment. Constant hurry. Constant anxiety.
Leaving the house families are bombarded at shopping centres where music drowns the aisles. What attempts to connect people seems to alienate and distance.
Overloaded, parents push on. Stretching, straining, accommodating. Nervous systems pulled taut. Trying to control children, surrounds and themselves. Their very being becomes disconnected from an unfamiliar calm. Their new normal.
The Benefits of Seeking Peace
What is society teaching children when a frenzied life is normalised? When children experience sensory overload and are hurried from activity to activity, children’s intuition, creativity, mindfulness and empathy are muted.
Importantly, when a frenzied life changes to one of calm and peace, psychologically children have the chance to flourish and there are resultant physiological benefits of increased energy for both parent and child.
Open your senses, and your child’s, to a new world and an appreciation of stillness, observation and quiet. A new mindfulness that releases insight.
Connecting with Nature
Nature is a panacea for the busy lives of working parents and children who spend most of their time indoors. The effort to go outdoors will be worth it.
- Lie down in the grass
- Look up at the clouds and watch change or imagine shapes
- Watch the rain come
- Notice the spider and its web
- Smell the fragrant flowers
- Listen to the wind rustle the leaves
- Sit and watch the trail of ants
- Watch and listen to the waves form and crash to the shore
- Smell the rain, the ocean, the forest
- Feel the different textures of bark.
Take time to commune with nature to expand senses and feel peace.
Increasing Outdoor Activities
Go to a park or a beach wherever there is a wide open space. Children naturally and explosively want to move. They run with the wind. They release pent-up emotions. They feel free. The confines of a room, a home, the minutiae of family life dissolve.
If you have the space, set up a sandpit in your backyard or on your deck. Have you noticed that your children become absorbed when playing with sand, water, dirt and nature?
Sit back and watch. Parents do not need to direct this play. Children need the opportunity to play freely within a safe environment. Encourage the use of nature to create and play – water, a few twigs, seed pods, shells etc. Buy some clay and let children create what they imagine with no judgement or direction.
When tensions run high, encourage deep breathing and finding a place to cool down. Before going to sleep talk about this relaxation tool to calm the body and mind and practice deep breathing and relaxing muscles together.
Discipline for Peace
Do you sometimes want to yell “QUIET!”? Are you sick of the commands, the repetitive nagging, the breaking up of fights? Learning how to communicate effectively with your children, and teaching them how to communicate effectively rather than fighting and yelling, inevitably leads to a more peaceful and harmonious family.
Children are always behaving to get their needs met. Often this behaviour is unacceptable to you and you immediately feel the tensions of deciding what to do about your child. Unfortunately, parents are bombarded with ‘disciplinary techniques’ that do not lead to peace and harmony.
When discipline is equated with punishment as a tool to get children to change, the very opposite of peace creation occurs. Have you ever threatened and carried out ‘time-out’ forcing your sobbing or rebelling child to his room and telling him to think about what he has done, only to find his relationship with you seems more distant, or he screams how he hates you?
If society wants to eradicate bullying in schools then every adult needs to demonstrate peaceful assertive alternatives.
Change your thoughts about discipline and the way you relate to children. Be a loving and respectful guide to your ‘disciples’, your children. Check what you need to change by asking yourself whether your children look up to you with mutual love and respect or are they frightened or dismissive of you?
There are effective parenting skills that can be learnt that are neither permissive nor autocratic. They are non-violent, assertive and help children and parents get their needs met and convey values, through actively listening, confronting assertively and problem solving. Mutual respect is the key within these families.
Award-winning psychologist and three times Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Thomas Gordon created such a course for parents of all ages of children – the internationally renowned Parent Effectiveness Training. It offers effective communication skills that benefit parent-child relationships but also adult relationships both at home and the workplace.
The long term benefits of children raised this way have been documented for half a century as have the long-term damaging effects of punitive methods. Children’s emotional intelligence (EQ) and social and moral development is raised.
Teaching Children About the Brain
The new frontier is learning what goes on within us. When parents and children learn about how the brain works they begin to move from reactivity to responsiveness and self-regulation of emotions and actions. Dr Daniel Siegel in his book The Whole Brain Child shows parents how to do this whilst simply explaining the neuro-science behind it.
An awesome programme for schools and families is MindUP. The MindUP curriculum is “a universal program that teaches social and emotional learning skills that draw on cognitive neuroscience, positive psychology and mindful awareness training. The program is comprised of 15 lessons in which students from pre-school to year 8 are taught to self-regulate behaviour and mindfully engage in focused concentration required for academic success”.
Innsæi, a Netflix documentary, impressively reports on the results of the MindUP programme in a UK school interviewing the remarkable changes of insight for eight year old children. Renowned thinkers and spiritualists also discuss the Icelandic concept of innsæi, which enables humans to connect through empathy and intuition.
A Revolution for Peace
Create a revolution for peace in your family. Work on yourself first then involve your children in problem-solving ideas for more peace, calm and joy in your family life. You will likely be surprised at their responses. Happy parenting.
Kathryn Tonges is a parenting and personal development instructor and coach. She is a National Trainer for Effectiveness Training Institute of Australia Ltd. and has conducted parenting courses for over 30 years. She trained as a pre-school/ primary teacher and has taught from early childhood to tertiary level focusing on child development and effective communication skills. To learn more about Kathryn and her work visit The Parent Within.