Practical Parenting Series: Dr. Laura Markham

Sabrina Marasovich talks to Dr. Laura Markham in today’s seminar. I was quite looking forward to this one as I have been an avid reader of Dr. Markham’s blog for a while now and a believer in a lot of what she writes.

Dr. Laura Markham is a clinical psychologist and she blogs and writes about peaceful compassionate parenting. Although she’s a clinical psychologist, she works with parents to help them parent peacefully everyday. She wrote a book called “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to stop yelling and start connecting.” You can buy it here.


What can we do within ourselves so that we can approach our children with patience and understanding?

If we’re happy and everything is going well in our life, we can parent in a responsive manner, less reactive and calmly. As adults, we always have the capacity to change the weather: either calm that storm or blow it up into a tsunami.
She urges parents to realise life is not perfect and to wake up being mindful. Notice your mood when you wake up, breathe through it, know what is causing the mood and then embrace yourself with compassion. Try and figure out what it is that is causing our mood/anger. We may be feeling anger, fear, trapped, etc. As parents we don’t have a lot of time BUT in that moment of craziness, if we are mindful, it’s easier to change that situation around.

When babies are born, their brain is pretty unformed. They grow their brain in the context of their environment. So if you have a very excitable parent (who is always getting their buttons pushed), the child will learn that. If you have a very calm parent who responds to the child in the way that they need (without always giving in to them), they will learn that. Neuro transmitters are released in the child’s brain when they are soothed by us. As those neuro transmitters are released, receptors are received on the other end. As more neuro transmitters are released, the more receptors we build in our brains which allows us to learn how to soothe ourselves.

As parents, we need to calm ourselves first before reacting to our child and then approach them in a calm manner. Get into the habit of checking in with yourself. You don’t need to change things, you need to accept what is.

When we are in fear, we hunker down and shut things out. When we’re not, we’re more open and curious and we let things in. We’re able to stay more playful with our kids. Inspiration about how to better handle things comes to us and parenting gets that much easier.

Coaching instead of controlling: We can’t control anyone (including our children), but we can change the way we approach them, the way we show up and by changing the way we do that, they change their response to us.

Connection – Children are born seeking connection and their brains develop in response to the human interaction they have. On many many occasions, our children act out purely because they want attention. It could be because they are jealous of a younger sibling or crave the attention you’re not giving them when they want it. It’s important to connect with your child by giving them one on one attention and building that connection, just being with them and really noticing what they are doing. When you laugh together, the body releases oxytocin which is a bonding hormone (and your child is also releasing their anxiety).

The most important thing for a child is their relationship with their mom. When you want to get your child to do something (take a bath, eat their food, change their clothes), getting them to do what you want will depend on their relationship and connection with you. Their desire to please you (because of that connection) will be far more important than not doing what you are asking them.

Punishment erodes the connection you have with your child. Because they’ll keep doing what you don’t want them to do (as they have no desire to please you) and you’ll punish them more and more. The kids who have a strong relationship with their parents will be the kids who grow into teens not breaking the rules and being honest and open with their parents.

Hitting – Fear and powerlessness drives most hitting. This behaviour is very common with toddlers because they are unable to communicate what they want/need. And instead of berating and punishing them, we need to create safety for our children and give them an opportunity to go through the emotions they are feeling.

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