(Not spending every waking minute with your child)
When I was first led down the connected parenting path, I was feeling rather fragile. My dream of becoming a Mother had finally come true but I wasn’t as good as the super-nanny I had been. I wasn’t finding it easy at all and I had now come to this point which people were telling me was focal. They were saying we had to start “disciplining” our child as soon as possible.
My child was 2 and I had absolutely no idea where to start.
But it felt important. That’s what they were saying. Like, if I didn’t get this right, my kid was headed for a life of debauchery.
I remembered Toddler Taming that had sat upon my parent’s shelf for years and pulled it out and had a read. There were a few things in there that didn’t fully align with the sort of attachment style I had inadvertently been cultivating but one thing stood out and freed me – Children under 3 have no impulse control and discipline is not only useless but can be detrimental to connection.
So this led me down a path towards a Peaceful Parenting style and a group in which I found a lot of knowledge but every time I asked a question I found someone saying “Your child obviously needs connection.”, “This is a connection issue not a behavioural one.”, “Bedtime is separation when your child craves connection.” and I mentioned before that I was fragile going into this. To me, this seemed like these people were calling me a bad Mum. Like my child was sitting floundering in isolation whilst I was clueless as to their needs. I found myself fighting back with responses such as “ACTUALLY, I spend every waking minute with my child!”
What these people were trying to say is that no matter how beautifully you’ve set up your bond in the beginning, children will always have forces outside of their control that throw them off-track or fill their metaphorical “emotional backpack”. Some of us are also human and sometimes we have interactions that do the same. What they meant to say was that my child was very healthily signalling to me that they needed me to pull them in close and connect and in actual fact, the reason my child was able to do this in whatever way I was concerned about was BECAUSE of our close bond. It meant I had created a safe environment and great attachment allowing my child to signal their needs.
A child’s need for connection will be bottomless, as their days are always going to be filled with moments outside of their control, inconveniences and power inequality.
The parenting style I was most aligned to was Attachment Parenting. Which is a very broad term that encompasses a lot. My basic definition is prioritising a close bond between carer and child and this can include (but is not restricted or limited to) baby-wearing, co-sleeping, bed-sharing, breastfeeding, child-led weaning, home-schooling, Peaceful/Gentle/Empathic/Connected parenting.
I know for some this can be a murky area going forward. We have taken such delicate care of our children and spend a lot of time and devotion nurturing them and I think many expect that this alone should make for an angelic child.
Then along comes the reality of toddlerhood and throws a spanner in the works and it can be confusing to many from hereon in as to how to keep that gentleness and connection without becoming a “permissive parent” meaning one lacking in boundaries and ability to set healthy limits for their child. This parenting style has been known to be somewhat as detrimental longterm as the authoritarian parenting style most are very clearly moving away from.
And this is where we need a model like Hand In Hand Parenting‘s Parenting By Connection.
With the five tools:
Listening Time – Where a parent has a loving listener hold space for them in person or over the phone whilst they work through their deepest darkest fears, specific issues, triggers or concerns.
Special Time – This is one-on-one child-led play time in which your child leads and you simply delight in them with no distractions.
Playlistening – Following the giggles, using play to work through issues and hard tasks whilst laughing off the layers of fear or sadness or anxiety.
Staylistening – Based on the understanding that offloading of emotions is our children’s innate way of clearing the emotional backpack, the parent comes in with warmth and eye contact and just empathises (mostly non-verbally)
SETTING LIMITS – Based on children actually needing guidance from someone who has their best interests at heart. They can’t “do whatever they want” when it’s unsafe or unhealthy and so we use the Hand In Hand Parenting method of:
LISTEN, LIMIT, LISTEN
Listen: By coming in close with warmth and connecting first
Limit: State your limit eg. “I can’t let you jump from there…”
Listen: Know that this limit may bring up feelings and be ready to Staylisten to these
All of these tools have a connective basis. Staylistening, Special Time and Playlistening keep the connective strong and fill the cup whilst Listening Time does the same for the parent.
To be a connected parent, you HAVE to be looking after yourself in the background and that can be hard if there’s no space between you and your child. It’s important that you get the time to be Listened to to clear out your own emotional backpack and work through any struggles and it’s important to be around other supportive adults. Self-care needs to be prioritised as you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Daily Special Time is one of the best ways to keep connection between parent and child strong and yet that only need be 10-20 minutes per day. I also love to throw in daily roughhousing as a form of Playlistening and a great way to work through aggression issues and have your child enjoy some power reversal (they are always the victor and you the bumbling fool). So even if you have no other time in the afternoon or evening, this 10 minutes will go a long way in maintaining that connection.
Obviously, we all do our best to check in with our kids and interact with them as much as possible but it’s good to know there are simple, quick and easy ways to keep that connection flowing and growing strong and that there are simple things to tweak if it feels like the connection is struggling. Don’t underestimate Staylistening and Playlistening if your child is signalling they are off-track through whining, tantrums, pushing boundaries, not listening and/or aggressive behaviour.
You don’t have to have all the time in the world or be some sort of mentally and emotionally elastic superhero to maintain a good, healthy connection with your child. It’s also so crucial to remember that there’s lots of outside forces that impact your child despite how hard you may be working on that connection too so it’s ok to feel like it’s hard and remember that it’s not a reflection on you if it seems like you really have to work hard on these things.
And remember to reach out and get yourself supported!
I’m here! Just Ask xx