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Parenting The Permaculture Way

Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

A few years ago we thought up examples for parenting (and other systems) to illustrate the principles of permaculture and how they can be applied to all systems. When we did this our own children were young, so most of the explanations were for parents of small children. This article expands those ideas for parents of older children; it is a mixture of practical and philosophical examples of parenting according to permaculture principles.

1. Observe And Interact

Look for signals from your children about what developmental stage they are at, and support them to learn what they need in this stage.

Observe your children’s behaviour to discover what they love and engage in these activities with them – this will facilitate greater connection and better relationships.

Observe your children in their difficult times, to assist them in finding their triggers and patterns so that they can learn from them.

2. Catch And Store Energy

Sleep well so that you have enough energy to play with your children.

Save up and treasure the good experiences you have with your children – this will help you get through the hard and uncertain times.

Children have a lot of stored energy – for learning, creativity, physicality – nurture and support the expression of this energy.

3. Obtain A Yield

Teach children how to do something rather than doing it for them – this will result in a repeating yield over time.

Use their stored energy wisely (see previous principle) – get them to collect and chop the firewood!

Recognise the unique qualities of your child, and make best use of those attributes to contribute to the family.

4. Apply Self-Regulation And Accept Feedback

Illustrate to your children the consequences of their actions, especially their effect on other people’s feelings.

Teach them that choices come with responsibilities, and that decisions often have far reaching and long-term effects.

Encourage communication about their feelings, opinions and self-awareness.

Examine your own expectations of your children, and whether these are putting unrealistic pressures on them.

5. Use And Value Renewable Resources And Services

Make meals (including your own baby food) from home-grown produce.

Model a sustainable lifestyle to show what you value in your life.

Help your children understand the difference between non-renewable (e.g. fossil fuels) and renewable resources (e.g. solar power).

6. Produce No Waste

Reuse washing water to soak nappies. Feed food scraps to backyard chooks or worms.

Model that mistakes are useful – life experiences are never a waste if they are seen as an opportunity to learn.

Don’t waste your energy giving yourself a hard time if you make parenting mistakes.

7. Design From Patterns To Details

Babies often respond well to a daily pattern of sleep, feed and play.

Step back and look at the big picture of teenagers’ lives – don’t get caught up in the small stuff.

Modelling patterns of behaviour in your daily life sets up a good foundation.

Then you can allow your teens to make their own choices knowing they have a solid foundation.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate

Enjoy meals together as a family. Have family meetings where each person’s contribution is valued and heard.

Allow family patterns to stretch and accommodate individual expression as the children get older – encourage flexibility and adaptability.

Make friends welcome in the family home. Become an integral part of your local community.

9. Use Small And Slow Solutions

Children will respond to gentleness (with firmness) rather than a heavy-handed approach.

Rather than meeting an explosive issue head-on, look for ways to meet it indirectly.

Trust that your children will learn what they need to over time – allow the pace of development to reflect the child, not society’s expectations.

Provide opportunities for teens to reveal their thoughts and feelings (e.g. on car trips, when working side by side or bed time chats), rather than forcing conversations.

10. Use And Value Diversity

Treat all children as individuals and respond to their particular needs.

Use the ‘multiple intelligences’ model, where everyone in the tribe has something to offer and everyone’s strengths are equally valued.

Model an openness to diversity and difference in your life.

11. Use Edges And Value The Marginal

Value the spirited and sensitive children – they have much to offer this world.

Provide measured challenges for your children that stretch their comfort zones and allow them to develop.

Support situations that provide managed risks for older children – give them more freedom, but within set boundaries.

12. Creatively Use And Respond To Change

Recognise when your children have moved on to a different developmental stage and adjust your treatment of them accordingly.

Encourage resilience development by embracing all changes that happen, and all thoughts and feelings (whether ‘bad’ or ‘good’).

Don’t expect linear progression in your children, allow the maturing process to happen at its own pace.


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