I must admit I still get a little nervous when I tell people I’m a parenting instructor. I mean, what on earth does that mean? Who do I think I am? Can you even have the answers to something so nuanced and changeable as parenting?
And then this approach… it brings up so many different things from one person to the next. There’s a few who just embrace it, there’s a few who don’t want to hear a thing about it, there’s a few who totally misunderstand it and need a bit of help understanding, there’s a few who totally misunderstand it and refuse to be led to knowledge, there’s a few for whom it restimulates deep pain and they will either work their way through that or not and there’s a few who get it but feel some fear around it. Or maybe all of the above feel some fear around it.
Does parenting this way scare you?
I’ll admit I have had many moments along this journey where it has scared me or felt like the harder option.
I certainly find it harder in the presence of certain people or when explaining to certain people. I absolutely find it harder when my kids aren’t doing what I need them to do in public or when I’m in a hurry.
What is that fear about?
To explore this I first want to give a snapshot of what I am talking about in case you’re completely new. I am a Hand In Hand Parenting instructor, HiH is also known as Parenting By Connection which gives a good indication of the approach. It’s based on the knowledge, truth and understanding that both you and children are innately good, kind, wise and helpful and just need to be supported in navigating parenting and childhood with connection being the cornerstone. We know off-track behaviour is a signal that more connection is needed (not less and not isolation) and that punishment and reason when our brains are in disconnect (or offline) is useless and even detrimental.
This is not, however, a permissive parenting approach. We know children thrive with good guidance, Loving Limits and boundaries but our way of instilling these is through connection, empathy and understanding.
So one of the hardest things for me is to make sure people do understand that it is not a permissive approach. There are people who hear that you don’t use punishment and assume your children are wild and out of control and you do nothing whilst they create chaos. I agree that this would not be beneficial to parent nor child. Children don’t want to hurt you, break rules or be left to their own devices. We are wired for connection and children thrive with their brains and limbic systems in communication with a safe carer. Ironically, it’s through trying to disprove that I am a permissive parent that I often find myself doing things that go against this approach and I know that I, myself, am off-track in that moment and I need help and support to come back online in order to better advocate for and support my kids.
When people hear you don’t believe in punishment (or rewards) that can be a big trigger too. There’s comments like:
“Nope… children need a firm hand!”
“I completely disagree, in the real world there are punishments and rewards and that’s just the way the world is!”
or “That’s why our jails are filling up and the youth are running riot!”.
These sorts of feelings are so clearly “old” feelings. The same sentences have been uttered for years and yet the mainstream style of authoritarian parenting has been dominant all this time. These are just old messages passed down from generation to generation and yet they instil us with shock and fear. One of the Hand In Hand Parenting tools is parent-to-parent Listening Time and often when I’m sitting on a fear surrounding a certain behaviour or even just questioning my parenting choices and approach, I know those same phrases are the ones I need to get out of my mind chatter by just uttering them aloud to my loving listener.
Another common phrase that haunts my psyche, instils fear and constantly triggers me is – “You need to get these kids under control!“
I HATE the word “control”. The imagery it brings up for me is so rigid and so punitive. I can literally picture a soldier at attention.
My aim is never to “control” my kids. Controlled kids can become easily controllable tweens, teens and adults. My children are individual human beings on their own path, not my own personal robot creations. I want them to grow up to be free-thinking, self-guided, autonomous human beings who will dare to make a difference in this world. That can’t come from a place of me (or anyone else) controlling them. And yet, that’s one of my constant old messages that keeps running through my head when things aren’t going well, when one of us is off-track, when I’m in the presence of an authority figure or in front of people I feel would subscribe to this notion.
It’s again, something I have taken to my Listening Time and I’ve even had a listening session in which I explored the concept of them being controllable robots and what that would look like and I was able to benefit from the laughter release that that prompted!
Some people also feel like this approach is harder. The reality is that it is MUCH easier but of course, being human, our triggers can often create a roadblock that gets in the way of our best thinking and doesn’t allow us to reach for a more playful approach such as HiH’s Playlistening tool or just gets in the way of us remembering “Our child is not a problem, our child is HAVING a problem.”. There’s often times when you’re in a hurry or just don’t have the capacity and it’s easier to bribe or threaten and it’s hard to remember the consequences that will exist later as a result of that approach, actually making life A LOT harder than if you had been able to connect and handle the situation differently.
This is the most important work we will ever do with the highest stakes, of COURSE fear is a natural emotion to be feeling as you go through your parenting journey and as parents we are unsupported in many ways so it’s not an easy job. We all want well-adjusted children who mostly enjoy life, who have nourishing relationships, who have admirable values and move through life comfortably. We know we do have a lot of an impact on this outcome so of course we fear and of course we fear more if our parenting style is vastly different from our own caregivers or our peers or our co-parents and care-givers.
Hand In Hand Parenting was built by Patty Wipfler based on the understanding that we all need and deserve good attention and good support and the tool that inspired her movement was Listening Time. She was given the gift of an attentive Listener and that’s also what helps me get through my fears around this too. I will be honest, there are certainly times I have questioned this road and I have then gone to my Listening Partner and explored the alternative path. If I didn’t parent like this, what would I do? What would that look like? How would my kids turn out? And every time the truth comes out, I circle back and I KNOW, undoubtably, that I AM on the right path!
And so are you!
With love, warmth, support and understanding,
Aunty Ask xx