Speaking peace

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorEditor’s Note:  This post was originally published on 2/9/2015.  Written by Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson, API cofounders and coauthors of Attached at the Heart  — this article captures the essence of Attachment Parenting, and this year’s AP Month 2016 theme, “Nurturing Peace: Parenting for World Harmony.”

We often reflect on whether or not API has made a difference in our efforts toward peace. API isn’t about promoting just parenting strategies: We have a broader long-term vision we have often described as “peaceful parenting for a peaceful world.”

We are living in a time in history that is both grave and great.

I heard a commentator say once that “stumbling into peace is better than rushing to war.” That is not a strategic plan for peace, and we know that governments and nations are less likely to make that a priority. It is the citizens, each and every one of us, who will create lasting change.

We know that, like punishment, war provides temporary results. So, as our world goes through its painful transformations, we continue to do the work of peace each and every day in our homes. We tend to want to have a quick fix, but the most lasting and effective peace will take generations.

Those of us involved with API do so because we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and to have an anchor in our own lives to help us transform, to undo our own negative internal programming, to learn to live — and speak — peacefully.

1286508_dandelion_weed_or_wonderIn a real sense, we are pioneers in creating a new paradigm in parenting and living.

It isn’t easy, and as we learn, we will make mistakes. But from those mistakes come wisdom. We can’t let our mistakes immobilize us, but let us look at those times as opportunities to understand ourselves. Our support group community provides us with a net of safety to share, to be validated and supported.

API Support Groups are a foundational community for practicing peace, with our children and each other. These communities provide the opportunity to practice and engage in the language of peace: Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

This language style has and continues to teach me so much. I wish I had known about NVC when my children were small. Still NVC benefits me as an adult, both in talking to my grown children and other adults. NVC creator Marshall Rosenberg gave all of us a gift of skills that teaches us to:

  • See the need behind the behavior
  • Give us the vocabulary for our feelings and needs
  • Teaches us to use “power with” rather than “power over” our children
  • See each other’s humanness at the need level
  • Move away from punishments
  • Bring about peaceful change that begins with working on our own mindsets

Gordon Neufeld of the Neufeld Institute and Gabor Mate have also made major contributions to our understanding and skills to parent peacefully. They have taught us to look past our child’s behavior to find the unmet needs and strengthen parent-child connections.

That’s a radical departure from our culture where we feel we have to punish for every misdeed.

What we say and how we say it can make the difference between building relationships or breaking them down. We have to learn this new language of peace to accompany our actions toward peace, beginning in our own families. It is the essential component toward creating a peaceful world.

Staying centered despite your child’s public meltdown

pixabay - hands holding tantrumming childYou can tell a lot about a person by their shopping cart — and also how they deal with their toddler’s tantrum in the middle of the store.

Clean-up needed in Aisle 9 — 3 year old having a meltdown after being in the store for 2 hours while Mom is looking for gravy packets. Wouldn’t it make sense to put the gravy packets next to the instant potatoes and boxed stuffing?!

The clean-up needed isn’t from the once-nicely stacked boxed pasta now strewn across the floor from the flailing arms and legs of the child. It’s needed to unclog the aisle from passersby, so Mom can fully focus on her child without the distraction of what can seem like annoyed, judging looks of others.

I have seen many a stressed-out parent in the store try to keep their patience with a tired-out, hungry child in the store. Even timing shopping trips between naps and snacks doesn’t always work to prevent public tantrums. How much more patience parents might have if they didn’t feel pressure — real or perceived — from others to do something now with their seemingly out-of-control child!

I have been that parent, who is otherwise able to empathize with my child’s strong emotions but who second-guessed herself after a decade of Attachment Parenting, because of an old lady’s furrowed brow when my kid — with an especially high whine — complained about the length of the grocery trip.

The good new is, though we may sometimes still second-guess ourselves, the longer we practice Attachment Parenting, the easier it is to get back to the values we strive to espouse and pass down to our children, such as that responding with sensitivity and positive discipline is more important than pleasing a disapproving stranger.

It helps me to think that others aren’t necessarily disapproving. We don’t know each other after all. We don’t talk to each other, other than the polite “excuse me” when passing in front of the chips shelf she’s studying. There is no appropriate opportunity to get deep with the person to ask why that person has such a seemingly unhappy disposition at that moment. It very well could be that it has nothing to do with my child — even if the person, if asked, would disagree. Each of our world perspectives is made up of countless factors — current environmental stimuli are actually a small fraction of how we perceive the world at any one time. So much of it depends instead on our values, our background, if we’re hungry or tired or feeling unwell, our relationship health with others, and so on.

I learned this through Nonviolent Communication. Learning the premise of this communications style can be life-changing.

Another life-changing skill is mindfulness — the art of being present in our lives.

API Live logo - newjon and myla kabat-zinnAttachment Parenting International (API) is offering you an opportunity to learn more about mindfulness and mindful parenting on Monday, September 12, through an API Live! teleseminar with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, and his wife Myla, mindfulness experts and coauthors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. It’s as easy as listening in on your phone. The live teleseminar starts at 9 pm EST, and all registrants will receive a downloadable recording after the event. Register here.

Research shows that being mindful can reduce stress and have profound effects on physical and mental well-being through a greater sense of balance, empathy, clarity, and peace.

Peace seems over-rated sometimes, with how much the word is used, but it’s actually underestimated in how much striving toward peace can improve your life. Peace implies that you feel content with your life — a nice, constant happiness — rather than riding life’s ups and downs in the search for the peak of happiness…which of course feels good, but it never lasts. But peace lasts.

Peace makes it easier to get through the grocery store with a cranky child, and easier to look past that stranger’s glare to empathize with her unknown situation, and easier to stick to your values of Attachment Parenting.

Using NVC in the Family

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

barbara nicholsonNVC-language-for-lifeOver the last several years, I have been reading Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s classic book, Nonviolent Communication, and sharing some of his pearls of wisdom with my adult sons. Oh, how I wish I had this book when they were very young! And how I wish I had the wisdom to model this kind of communication for my children as we were dealing with sibling rivalry and other normal challenges of family life.

When we’re all together eating, playing games, or watching TV, my husband and I are amazed at how the “old tapes” can get played: The same dynamics that you think adults outgrow can rear over such insignificant comments! Four adult children with four very unique temperaments, talents and interests make for interesting combinations, to say the least. But no matter what the issue, it’s affirming to see how well the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) tools work!

There were several times when a simple misunderstanding could have escalated into a full-blown argument; however, reminding ourselves of what the core issue was — the feeling that was felt, the need that was identified — diffused the situation into an opportunity to really see the big picture. So often we don’t want to take the time to dig a little deeper, thinking that it’s too time consuming, yet arguments can linger over the rest of the day, creating a pall over what should be a loving day of connection and respite from our busy lives.

In my ideal world, not only would parents model these communication tools for their children, but teachers would be taught these methods in all training programs. What a gift for a teacher to be able to help her students who are having an argument on the playground to identify their feelings and unmet needs, to see that we have a universal vocabulary of feelings that are web of strength, not a weapon of name calling and division.

If this became our language of connection, we might even be able to change the way we communicate in business and government, changing our whole society in such a way that mediation becomes more the norm than the exception.

When I see my sons using NVC tools, even though it might be a little stiff and even though I usually have to initiate the conversation, I see the potential that all families have to greatly improve their quality of family life. It’s even a great tool to use with grandparents and other family members, especially over the holidays or other events when we’re in close quarters for extended periods of time. It’s a reminder to be a good listener, take the time to go a little deeper in our understanding of each other and truly bring some peace into the home.

Many communities now have NVC practice groups, and I encourage all API Support Groups to look into inviting an NVC-trained group leader to visit and perhaps lead a practice session at a meeting. It is a simple technique that we can use in every relationship, increasing our vocabularies at the same time! As Dr. Rosenberg states, this is a whole new language and essential to creating a more peaceful society. Of course, that — peace — is what we all want in our homes and communities.

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