So often it can feel like getting our kids to do what we want is a never-ending struggle. Surprisingly, the trick to creating a more chilled-out environment may actually mean doing things your child’s way, or at least, to consider his wants and needs along with your own. Over the past few years, this parenting approach has been cropping up under different names—like Consensual Living, Peaceful Parenting, and Socratic Parenting—along with books, websites, and discussion groups that delve into the philosophy.
The main idea behind it? Parents should work with their children when making decisions that affect them, instead of adhering to the typical reward-punishment style of parenting many of us rely on. “This philosophy focuses on authenticity rather than authority,” explains Laurie Gray, the founder of Socratic Parenting, LLC, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which teaches moms and dads to develop their parenting philosophy and share it with their children through open dialogue. “Parents who consistently love and nurture without all of the rewards and punishments help their children to develop intrinsic motivation, self-reliance, and healthy relationships, including a healthy parent-child relationship,” says Gray. Below, three difficult situations you’re likely to encounter with your kid, and expert advice on how to navigate them using this parenting approach.
You’re trying to decide where to go for a family vacation—and not everyone is in agreement
You and your husband want to go to the city, but your kid would rather be at the beach. In this case, you should talk to your child about what she wants to do at the beach, while considering what you’re hoping to get out of a trip to the city, suggests Nancy S. Buck, Ph.D., founder and president of Peaceful Parenting, Inc., in Denver, and author of How to Be a Great Parent. For example, maybe your child loves swimming, and you want to go museum hopping—acknowledge what it is that your child is looking to get out of the trip, then work together to plan a vacation that gives everyone part of what they want, like a trip to a city that’s close to the beach, or staying at a hotel with a pool.
Your toddler has a meltdown in aisle 4
When we’re worrying about what other shoppers are thinking of us, we tend to try to manipulate our screaming toddler into behaving. Although it’s best to avoid situations that invite a tantrum—like shopping trips with a tired or hungry child, for example—it’s not always possible. “If, despite your best preventative efforts, you find yourself in the grocery store with your child rolling on the floor in a tantrum, you may be able to reconnect right there by sitting down on the floor beside him and inviting him to sit safely in your arms until he feels calm again,” says Gray. “Yelling, threatening, demanding, and bribing will only make the situation worse.” If your child won’t calm down, then pick him up and find a quiet place (in the back of the store or in your car) to give him some time to regroup. “At this point, your child is more important than your shopping cart,” notes Gray.
Your tween brought home her report card, and it’s pretty, well, meh
Although your first impulse may be to ground her or take something away, this can backfire—your kid will be thinking more about how you took away her iPod Touch than how she can improve her grades, says Anna Brown, who has a degree in Family and Child Development and has written extensively on consensual parenting. Instead, have a collaborative conversa- tion about why her grades were low, how this can impact her future, and what she can do to bring her scores back up. You may discover, Brown notes, that the course material is too hard, your kid is being bullied at school, she’s bored in class, or the way the instructor teaches doesn’t match her learning style—and then you can both work on solving the problem.
Would you try this parenting approach? Tell us in the comments.