In this comprehensive guide, we delve into an approach that can transform your relationship with your little one: PACE Parenting. PACE, which stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy, offers a holistic framework for building trust, fostering emotional connection, and promoting your toddler’s well-being.
As we explore seven invaluable ways to apply PACE Parenting with your toddler, you’ll discover practical strategies to enhance communication, deepen understanding, and create a nurturing environment where both you and your child can thrive. So, let’s embark on this journey of connection, embracing PACE Parenting as a powerful tool to enrich your parenting experience.
A Refresher on PACE Parenting
I wrote a post on PACE parenting last week that goes into greater detail about how the theory relates to gentle parenting and attachment.
Here’s a little refresher if you aren’t familiar:
PACE parenting, which stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy, is a powerful tool that can transform your interactions with children, especially toddlers. This approach focuses on building secure attachments and promoting healthy emotional regulation. Here’s a breakdown of PACE parenting principles and how to apply them with toddlers:
Playfulness: Engage in imaginative play, encourage pretend games, and use humor to diffuse tension. Make everyday tasks fun by turning them into games or using playful language.
Acceptance: Show unconditional love and let your toddler know their feelings are valid. Create a safe space for them to express themselves without judgment.
Curiosity: Be genuinely interested in your toddler’s thoughts and experiences. Ask open-ended questions and encourage them to explore their surroundings.
Empathy: Tune into your toddler’s emotions, reflect their feelings, and offer comfort and support when they’re upset.
It’s important to note that PACE parenting falls under the gentle parenting umbrella, which is characterized by empathy, respect, understanding, and age-appropriate discipline. By using PACE and gentle parenting techniques, you can strengthen your connection with your child and nurture their emotional well-being while also benefiting your own inner dialogue and nurturing yourself in the process.
I use this style of parenting on my daughter and I credit it to making her the kind, gentle, and curious kid she is today.
How to use PACE parenting with an infant
Playfulness: Even with an infant, you can engage in playful interactions. From day one, I made a point to turn routine activities into fun moments. During clothing changes, I’d use playful language, make funny faces, and engage in peek-a-boo games to keep Baby M giggling. Car rides became opportunities for singing silly songs or narrating the passing scenery in an animated way. Nail cutting, which can be a dreaded task, was transformed into a game where I’d count each tiny finger and toe as I gently trimmed her nails.
Acceptance: Infants communicate through their cries and body language. I always responded to Baby M’s needs promptly and with love, especially in the middle of the night. If she was upset, I’d hold her close, soothing her with gentle words and comforting touches. This showed her that her feelings were valid and that I was there to provide comfort and security.
Curiosity: As Baby M grew, I encouraged her curiosity by looking at life through the lens of a child (and still do). We spend time exploring the world together, and I’d narrate our discoveries, encouraging her to observe, touch, and explore the world around her. One of our favorite places to go was the “free zoo” aka Petco. I’d count the fish and show her all the adorable animals, and it’s one of my favorite things that we’d do together.
Empathy: Empathy is at the core of PACE parenting. I’d pay close attention to Baby M’s cues and respond empathetically. When she was teething and cranky, I’d empathize with her pain and offer soothing teething toys or gentle massages. By tuning into her emotions and responding with empathy, I helped her develop a sense of trust and security in our relationship.
7 ways to use PACE parenting with your toddler
- Imaginative Play: Engage in imaginative play with your toddler. Create scenarios or stories together using toys or props. For example, you can have a tea party with stuffed animals or embark on a pretend adventure with action figures.
- Silly Songs: Sing silly songs during everyday activities. Turn tasks like getting dressed or cleaning up into a musical game. For instance, create a “cleanup” song with catchy lyrics to make tidying up more enjoyable.
- Validating Feelings: Let your toddler know that their feelings are valid, even if you don’t always agree with them. If they’re upset about leaving a playdate, acknowledge their sadness while explaining the necessity of going home.
- Safe Emotional Space: Create a safe space where your toddler can express their emotions without fear of judgment. If they’re angry, offer a quiet corner or a designated “cooling down” spot where they can calm themselves. This is really different than a time out- it’s not a punishment or meant to induce shame
- Open-Ended Questions: Ask open-ended questions to encourage your toddler to share their thoughts and experiences. For example, inquire about their favorite part of the day or what they’d like to do tomorrow.
- Exploration: Foster their curiosity by exploring the world together. Go on nature walks, visit museums, or simply examine interesting objects in your home. Encourage them to ask questions and explore their surroundings. We love to take walks and listen for specific sounds or find objects like small rocks, acorns, etc.
- Reflecting Emotions: Tune into your toddler’s emotions and reflect them back. If they’re feeling sad because they can’t find their favorite toy, say, “I can see you’re feeling sad about not finding your toy. Let’s look for it together.”
- Comfort and Support: Offer comfort and support during challenging moments. If they’re frightened by thunder, hold them close and reassure them that you’re there to keep them safe. Ask if they want a hug and provide gentle touches to calm their fears.
Embracing playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy in my parenting journey has not only strengthened our connection but also brought genuine joy into our daily routine. It’s not about grand gestures; it’s about those simple, heartwarming moments.
I know that PACE parenting is key to creating creative, emotionally balanced kids. I wish I could take this blog post and send it to parents I see sitting on their phones while they play with their kids at the park or invalidating their kids feelings (sends shivers down my spine).
Do you use PACE parenting?
Let me know below!