Parenting by Connection
We are raising children at a time when there is an abundance of information about what children need, and how to build and sustain the attuned connections that provide the foundation for everything else. My resources page identifies some of the key authors and organizations that have shaped my thinking about parents, children and the art and science of connection. Despite my growing knowledge about the resources available for parents and parent educators, I continue to return to Parenting by Connection as the approach that offers something I don’t get elsewhere.
There are two critical perspectives that I get from Parenting by Connection that are especially unique:
1) Parenting by Connection teaches parents how to understand what is happening in our children’s biggest emotional moments, and how to respond in a way that gives the child what they really need to regulate and find inner balance again. And,
2) Parenting by Connection takes seriously the limbic capacity of the parent, and our need for support, connection, and chances to integrate their own narratives, in order to be able to be so present to children’s experience. This approach teaches a parent-to-parent listening practice that makes all the difference between good information and an actual increase in capacity to connect. For these reason, I will continue teaching this a central approach in our work, with the understanding that there are many, many other approaches that augment it beautifully.
These are some of the foundations of the Parenting by Connection Approach:
Children are neurologically wired to seek out emotional connection with their parents and primary caregivers; when children feel emotionally connected, they have their greatest access to their inner resources and abilities. When a child feels emotionally connected–the neuroscientists use the term “feeling felt”–their limbic systems and nervous systems become flooded with a feeling of being safe and secure. From this place of emotional connection, children’s physiological processesa (temperature regulation, heart rate, immune system, etc) optimize, their emotions become regulated (what was scary feels like less of a threat), and they can now access the (still developing) rational parts of their brains (planning, delaying gratification, having perspective on feelings, remembering the “rules,” etc,).
Children are naturally cooperative except when they are disconnected. Parenting by Connection offers five listening practices that will help your child stay connected longer and reconnect with you when she feels that she no longer has you. These listening tools have been develop over several decades of work by Hand in Hand, a non-profit located in Palo Alto.
Disconnection is a normal part life for a child. For babies, it can happen with something as simple as a parent walking out of the room to answer the phone. For an older child, a long day at preschool can drain away his sense of connection to you. At any age, something in the present moment can unconsciously remind the child of an earlier trauma or difficulty, undermining his sense of connection and safety in the here and now.
Disconnection throws the child’s brain out of whack. When a baby gets disconnected, the natural response is to cry. With older children, they oftentimes signal that they are disconnected by “acting out”—refusing to share, biting another child, whining, or having a tantrum. Your child is acting this way because he cannot access the part of his brain that has good judgment, an ability to delay gratification, be reasonable, or remember the rules. He is spinning out in his own emotional whirlwind.
Crying and acting out are your child’s pleas for help. Your child is telling you, “I feel alone here! I’m too upset to think!”
Luckily, there are many ways to deepen your connection to your child and help him heal. Parenting by Connection teaches five:
- Special Time is a listening tool designed to recharge your connection with your child.
- Staylistening is a way of being with your child during an emotional eruption; this mode of listening helps your child heal from past hurts and reconnect in the present.
- Setting Limits is a listening tool that you can use when your child is showing you with her off track behavior that she is disconnected.
- Playlistening is a lighthearted way to connect with your child and help heal his fears.
- Listening Partnerships form your way to offload stress so you can be more present with your child.
We all want to be loving in relationship with our children.
Parenting by Connection provides the concrete tools to put love in action in the day-to-day, as children face the normal struggles of growing up in a complex world.