Dr. Laura Markham, the author of the renowned Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting (renamed Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets of Stress-free Parenting by the British publisher) and founding editor of the blog Aha! Parenting.com, was re-invited this year to the Online Positive Parenting Conference hosted by Sumitha Bhandarkar. The latter, also founder of the blog A Fine Parent, gathers annually a variety of experts focusing on different angles of the positive parenting philosophy – such as conscious discipline, exposure to screens and family rituals. Sumitha is a big fan of Dr. Laura Markham and it’s easy to see why.
Dr. Markham earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University and has worked as a parenting coach with thousands of parents across the English-speaking world. Her extensive experience as a speaker exudes through the interview; she is relaxed, passionate about the topic and communicates her energy to the audience.
In the hour-long interview from which the short video below is based on, the parenting expert discusses the necessity to foster emotional connection with our child. This connection, she argues, is the only true way to have influence on our child as opposed to making him listen out of fear. This video highlights some lines of conduct Laura Markham urges parents to adopt when children are not displaying their best behaviour.
While Dr. Markham antagonizes punishments, threats and bribes that society once recommended as disciplinary practices, she is not supporting a permissive style either. She alleges the key to raise a self-disciplined child is to have healthy limits clearly communicated, but also enable the child to take ownership of his responsibilities. She illustrates this balance between limits and trust by describing a personal example, where she agreed her daughter could have a sleepover with a friend only if lights were out at 9pm. Laura Markham explained the reason for the rule, then mother and daughter shook on the agreement. When the daughter’s friend tried to bypass the curfew rule, the daughter took a stand and said to her friend she had a deal with her mother and would stick to the plan.
The daughter respected the agreement because she values the relationship with her mother and had her integrity on the line. This is what Dr. Markham posits as key to a healthy relationship.
As everyone does, children make mistakes.
After understanding the situation from our child’s perspective and getting our own emotions in check, we are better able to deal with difficult situations, Dr. Markham reckons. As parents, we need to let our children clean up their own messes and learn from their mistakes, but we are here to support them and offer a helping hand when needed. In the interview, Laura Markham reveals to parents that modelling positive behaviour and being playful when applicable to turn situations around really makes a difference. She also pinpoints the importance to discuss family values and word meanings with our children.
When asked about how to deal with a lying child, Laura Markham tempers the seriousness of the behaviour according to the child’s age; “A child isn’t evil” she claims. “He’s likely to lie mostly to escape punishment but also not to disappoint his parents,” she answers about a 4-year-old boy. However, when it comes to a 11-year-old girl lying about serious matters and stealing, the parenting expert sees the situation as a signal of a wobbly relationship and advises to seek professional help. “It is not about getting her fixed”: counselling will bring the parent and the child closer as they go together.
Although Laura Markham discusses at great length the different ways of dealing with bad behaviours, she strongly recommends “preventive maintenance” principles taken from her new book* to keep the relationship aside of the breakdown line.
- Being empathetic to how your child feels
- Seeing the situation from your child’s perspective and stating his point of view
- Laughing together to change the body chemistry: it reduces stress hormones and release bonding hormones
- Letting your child cry and discharging his “emotional backpack” in a safe environment (your arms); being present and understanding
- Developing games and rituals to incorporate connection in the daily life; routines are highly-reassuring for young children
- Have special “one-to-one” time
She finishes this highly educative interview with a hope message, reflecting on how wounded our world is and how crucial it is now to bring more love and healing to the places where there is plain.
*She published an action-packed guide with scripts, activities, worksheets and practical tips named Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook: Using Mindfulness and Connection to Raise Resilient, Joyful Children and Rediscover Your Love of Parenting.