Thank you for your comments and emails throughout this journey. You have shared a lot of yourselves – successes, realizations, and requests for guidance, empathy, and support.
Because yes, this is the hardest job ever, this parenting gig. Many of you have reached out to say that even with more peaceful parenting strategies this is still really hard work. And I think that was a surprise for many of you.
Peaceful parenting isn't an instant fix to transform your home into one of perfect harmony.
Your kids will still lose it, and in all likelihood you will still lose it sometimes too. Even with peaceful parenting it is still hard work. Your kids will continue to whine, scream, fuss, and cry. (The latter they may even do with more gusto as they let out all that they've been holding.)
But it's bigger than that. There is a method to the madness. (More on that below.)
Are you ready? Onto Step 5! Your parenting mission statement.
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While I was not intending to bring that concept into this conversation, I realized that one part of the peaceful parenting series that was missing was the big picture of why. Why bother with peaceful parenting? Change can be hard and if we already know a different way of parenting, why make the switch?
Indeed, through our experiences as children and as observers most of us learned to parent in a way that's very different from the picture I am painting here. In that version adults are very much in charge and children learn to obey. There is punishment and reward and a clear hierarchy of parent and child.
But this path doesn't look like that at all. (It doesn't look like anarchy or an out of control kids-in-charge home either.) This path that I'm inviting you on looks less like obedience and more like mutual respect. It looks less like hierarchy and more like cooperation. It is built on connection and understanding, not on "because-I-said-so".
And in my opinion the path I am outlining here leads to a very different place. That place is what this mission statement is about.
It's also about remembering why we're doing what we do.
Because during the hard moments it's easier to stay on the peaceful path if we know why we're doing it. (Or return to it more quickly as the case may be.)
Choose Your Destination
When you write a mission statement for parenting you are looking far down the road and choosing your destination. What kind of grown-ups do you want to help raise? If you had firmly in your mind that (for example) you wanted to raise kids who know what they want and aren't afraid to go after it, you might allow them more power and autonomy in choosing how they spend their time. That's what I'm talking about.
Because when you take a road trip you usually know where you want to end up before you start driving. It's like that.
A mission statement will serve as a reminder of your goals – your destination. Yes, you will stray from the path sometimes. We all do. But by creating a map now you will have a solid path to find your way back to. And from here you can make mindful decisions about your parenting choices. For those of you with a GPS in your car, the mission statement can call out, "At the next intersection make a U-turn."
One-size does not fit all for parenting.
I have a friend who sometimes calls for parenting advice and our kids are so different. So I tell her, "I'm not parenting a child with the same needs as your girl. I'm not sure what will work for her." And we throw around a variety of ideas that might be a fit. In truth, I'm different from my friend, too. And you need to find a path that fits not only your child's needs but yours as well.
My goals and yours will probably have some overlap but differences too. And that's great. That's why your kids chose you and mine chose me. Because we will each be the parent they came here seeking. That's what I believe anyway.
Make a List
A parenting mission statement answers the question, "When my children are grown, I want them to be…"
Find some quiet space, and begin by jotting down a list of the traits or skills you want your children to grow up having learned and lived.
What do you want them to embody from their childhood when they are out on their own? There are countless directions to take this. Some ideas include:
- Unconditional love
- Sense of humor
- Value of hard-work
Create your Mission Statement
From this list you will create your mission statement. Take the priorities you jotted down, and then expand on them. (Peek at my example again if you need a little guidance and make it as simple or expansive as you wish.)
Keep in mind how we learn. We lean by living. By feeling safe. By knowing well these characteristics in our own lives. If we want to raise children who are kind, we treat them with kindness. If we want to raise hard workers, we demonstrate finding joy in our work and allow them to find their own passions to dig into.
It's pretty simple, isn't it? And it serves as a clear reminder that we can only teach patience by being patient. That we can only teach "you are loved" by loving without conditions. We can only teach respect by treating out children with the respect that we all deserve.
Revisit your mission statement often to revise and review. It's your map. And it will help you remember that no matter how hard this job may be, it's the most important job you have. You won't always stay on track, but at least you'll know your path when you are ready to find your way back to it.
P.S. If you missed the rest of the series, here are links the complete Peaceful Parenting Series: