I am thrilled to be kicking off the Peaceful Parenting Series with Torsten Klaus of Dads Talk Community. Torsten is a father to three children, a Parenting Coach, and the author of The Empathic Father. He has been working with children and families for more than a decade.
The founder of DadsTalkCommunity.org, Torsten runs successful online and in person support groups for dads and grandads. He also teaches Developmental Baby Massage in his local community. Torsten writes for The Good Men Project and The Huffington Post.
Joanna Steven: If you had to define peaceful parenting in a sentence or two, what would you say?
Torsten Klaus: For me peaceful parenting is all about respecting my children the same way I respect adults. Showing empathy, being present, listening to them actively and loving them unconditionally are the main ingredients for being a peaceful parent.
Joanna Steven: You meet a parent interested in peaceful parenting. List 2-3 baby steps to help them move away from mainstream patterning.
Torsten Klaus: Example 1: Often we (that’s me included) judge things before we actually look at them closely. Our children or our partner say or do something and in an instant we put a label on it: good, bad, annoying, funny, true, false. You name it. By doing so we easily forget to really watch and observe what’s going on around us. What is it my partner or kids (really) want to tell me? How do they feel? What is it that makes them feel x, y or z?
Try to respond with empathy. Empathy to me means the ability to pause, to step back and to reflect. Then, once that’s been achieved, to really listen without judgments and labels. If your partner says things like ‘You never help wash the dishes’, don’t respond with ‘That’s not true’ or, even worse, ‘And you always leave all your stuff in the bathroom!’. If you carry on this way, both of you’ll just get more frustrated, angry and, in the end, disconnected. Your children will watch you and observe the way you and your partner talk and solve problems. Reconnection and empathy starts with listening and forgiving.
Example 2: Apologize to your child/ren! Parents mess up from time to time. More important than the kick-off itself is the aftermath. What do you do next? And that’s where the key lies for me. When I have messed up, I go and find my children. I look them in their eyes and apologize. The apology doesn’t have to be very long, but should show respect and empathy. I see the very moment of the apology also as a great example of authentic parenting. I’m authentic because my kids can see that I make mistakes. That’s fine. Because I take responsibility for them and show how to deal with them.
Joanna Steven: Peaceful parenting isn’t always easy. List 1 or 2 challenges you faced as a new parent while trying to parent peacefully, and how you overcame them.
Torsten Klaus: One of the greatest challenges was and is for me to stay calm in the heat of the moment. When I feel overwhelmed or helpless, often I feel anger bubbling up inside me, which then makes me judge, blame or hurt others. Over time I learned to handle such stressful moments by leaving the situation for a moment (and to ask my wife to take over) and then, when I feel less stressed and angry, to come back. This way I avoid shouting or being unjust and hurtful to the people I love.
Joanna Steven: Often, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! List one parenting book that influenced you and that you’d recommend to others.
Torsten Klaus: Definitely Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn. Read this for the first time seven years ago and it’s still my number one parenting book!
Joanna Steven: Name 1 or 2 people who inspire you to be a peaceful parent. Famous or not!
Torsten Klaus: My wife.
Joanna Steven: Parenting is easier when you’re happy! List 2-3 things that bring joy to your parenting journey.
Torsten Klaus: Example 1: Going wild and off road is so much fun for my sons and me. We take a tent, a fire kettle and a few things to ‘survive’. I always find that spending time with my kids in the woods awakes the most powerful feelings inside me. I slow down, I feel a strong bond to my children and I feel somehow home. And it doesn’t cost me anything.
Example 2: I try to have a just-before-bedtime-talk with my children. It’s a win-win for my sons and me. This way I learn about what’s going on inside them and they see how I talk about emotions and feelings, that I take responsibility for them and reflect on my actions and words. Love it.
Example 3: Spontaneous food-preparing-and-singing-and-dancing parties in our kitchen.
You will find a list of all the interviews in the Peaceful Parenting series here.