By Hannah Watson Kline
We had a great time together at our first parent group meeting! We opened the meeting introducing ourselves and sharing some things we love about parenting and some things we struggle with.
It’s interesting how much overlap there was; lots of head nodding and agreement as we shared about the constant demands, the potty training struggles, how easy it is to lose control with our kids, and how it can be pretty difficult to navigate each child’s unique needs in the family.
Thanks to all who came and shared openly, it felt really good to connect with other parents and create a safe and non-judgmental space for that. To all those that couldn’t make it, please read below for a summary of what we talked about!
Vision for the Group
It is my hope that this group would be a support to you. Parenting is HARD work. We’re all going through the same types of struggles and joys, whether we talk about it or not. This group is here to be a place where we can share in that with each other and learn some new things along the way.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the constant needs of parenting young kids? Do you find yourself just trying to survive the day and get everyone fed and to bed at night? Do you find yourself yelling at your kids when you feel out of control and wish you had some better ways of communicating and dealing with those hard moments? Do those feelings of shame creep in and tell you that you “aren’t good enough” or that everyone else is doing it better?
If so, you aren’t alone. We all struggle with these same types of feelings when it comes to parenting. There is not nearly enough support for parents and add to that the overwhelming amount of judgment and competition and you’re bound to deal with self-doubt every now and again.
In my coaching, I come alongside parents to support and guide them towards connection and growth, both personally and in their parenting role. I provide connected parenting tools that build the parent-child relationship and help families thrive, rather than just survive. We work on self-regulation and self-awareness so that you can better model that for your kids and create a supportive and more peaceful home environment for parents and kids.
My approach is based around Conscious Parenting (also known as connected parenting). See below for how conscious parenting differs from more traditional approaches.
A key aspect of connected parenting is viewing behavior as the communication of a need. It’s helpful to pay attention to what’s underneath the behavior – what’s driving it? Behavior is like an iceberg where all we can see is what is above the surface, but there are numerous other factors influencing our child’s behavior at any given time. This image depicts some examples of factors driving behavior, but there are many, many more.
When we take into account the numerous variables affecting our child at any given time, we are recognizing them as a whole person, not just a behavior.
Why Parent This Way? What are the benefits?
1. A legacy of love. Attachment research tells us that meeting your child’s core need for love and connection in the early years will positively impact the rest of their relationships for their entire lives. The effects don’t stop there, however. When you model empathy and connection in your parenting, you influence how your own children will parent your grandchildren (and so on). You’re leaving a legacy for future generations!
2. Children do better when they feel better! When you parent with connection and empathy, making your child feel loved, accepted, and truly heard, the level of cooperation increases significantly.
3. Greater emotional intelligence. Parenting with connection encourages you to pay attention to your own emotions in order to model mindfulness and self-regulation for your child. Studies show that social/emotional intelligence in children is a key predictor of success in later life. You are laying the foundation here!
We had a great discussion around this and people asked some really thoughtful questions that I want to mention here because I think many parents wonder the same thing.
“Where is the line? Can being too empathetic be counter-productive? Don't kids need to understand that they can’t always get their way and that other people have different points of view? Isn’t it our job to teach them that it isn’t all about them?”
These are totally valid and important questions. But I just want to emphasize that we are not talking about being permissive. We are not giving children free reign and letting them “walk all over us”. That’s not healthy for anyone!
We are empowering you, the parent, to implement clear boundaries with calm confidence. When these boundaries are explained and consistently held, the child knows what is expected of him/her.
We are pausing to thoughtfully respond, rather than react.
We are seeing the child as a whole person, not just a behavior to be corrected.
My other answer is that it isn’t an either/or issue. You can be both empathetic in your responses to your child (validating their point of view and their feelings), while also guiding them towards the behavior you’d like to see instead. In fact, a child who feels heard and senses you are in their corner will be much more likely to cooperate with what you’re asking them to do. Remember, children DO better when they FEEL better.
In addition, what do you think is the most effective way to teach our children to be empathetic and kind? Guess how they learn to be less egocentric in their thinking and able to take other points of view into mind? By seeing their parent model empathy and kindness towards them and others. You are the model for the behavior you want to see in your child.
Zooming Out and Thinking Big Picture
Finally, we talked about the overwhelming messages we receive on a daily basis about parenting. That information overload can easily lead to self-doubt and a lack of clarity about the kind of parent you “should” be.
I help parents ask the question: What does it mean for ME to be a mom, what does it mean for me to be a dad? What do I bring to the role? What do I want to bring to the role?
We’re usually pretty clear about what we don’t want to do as a parent – things from our childhood that may have been damaging to us, but unless we have a clear vision for what we do want to do we will fall back into the patterns of how we were parented.
Without that clear vision we either parent just like we were parented OR we swing the pendulum in the opposite direction and parent as a way to rebel against our own childhood. Either way we are parenting out of reaction to something, not deliberately.
So, then we ask: how do I parent deliberately? How do I parent “on purpose”?
Zoom out and think about the big picture. Specifically, ask yourself:
In our group people mentioned things like confidence, compassion, kindness, empathy, and perseverance. All great goals to have for your kids!
Then ask yourself; is what I’m doing now consistent with these values and long-term goals? Are my everyday practices likely to help my children grow into the kind of adults I’d like them to?
This is something to always come back to. It provides a framework for the way you interact with your children and the way you treat yourself. It also provides clarity and self-assurance in those moments of self-doubt that we ALL experience in parenting.
If this is encouraging to you and you’d like more support in implementing connected parenting tools, I’d love to chat with you about my coaching services!
You can sign up for a free discovery call by emailing me at Hannah@insideoutparentcoaching.com
By Leigh Gannon Feld
Rules. We spend a lot of time talking about rules in Early Childhood Circles. Ask parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators… they all have a different take on rules. They’re important… without them, we fear mass chaos (and let’s be honest… even a perfectly managed preschool classroom can border on chaos!), but too many rules can be confusing to kids and teachers alike and they can create a restrictive learning environment. At the CDC, we understand the delicate balance between “good” rules and “bad” rules. A bad rule focuses on negative behavior and often starts with “don’t” or “no.” Even gently issued, a rule that focuses on the negative often misses the target, but a “good” rule – one that focuses on reinforcing positive behavior has the power to effect real change and build a classroom and school community.
I’m coming up on my one year anniversary as director at the CDC and I’ve been able to spend time in every classroom, learning and playing with your kiddos and developing more and more respect for your children’s teachers. I’ve said it from the beginning… the staff at the CDC is dedicated, smart, funny and determined to give their students the very best. As I’ve spent time in classrooms, I’ve seen teachers employ positive reinforcement and I’ve witnessed tough teacher/student conversations. Those conversations are always delivered with love, but they can still leave an icky feeling if the focus is on what a child shouldn’t do or can’t do or won’t do. Also, I’ve noticed that we all have the same goals for the kiddos -- we want them to be independent, caring, kind, curious, conscientious, hard-working and we want them to be good friends to others – but every teacher has a different way of explaining and reinforcing those rules and goals to their students.
Last week, I asked the teachers at the CDC to embrace three rules… just three rules that will always focus on the positive, rules that can, in their simplicity, address any infraction or situation that might arise in a classroom, and rules that we can use to create a common language throughout our school. Without further ado, here are THE CDC BIG THREE:
I wish I could take credit for these brilliant rules, but I learned about them from my friend, Molly, who teaches at a Reggio-inspired preschool in Vermont. These rules have been a part of the fabric at her preschool for years. I brought them to my old classroom in Nashville and shared them with our staff. In very short order, using these “rules” changed the way our students and staff interacted with each other. I’m excited to watch these “rules” work their magic at the CDC, too.
Here’s how a sample conversation might go…
Joey: Ms. T… Billy pushed me!
Ms. T: Billy… are you taking care of Joey when you push? We take care of our friends at the CDC. How can you take better care of Joey?
Ms. T: Joey, it’s time to clean up so we can go to the playground.
Joey: I don’t want to!
Ms. T: We take care of our school, Joey. One of the ways we do that is by cleaning up. Which part of the classroom would you like to take care of before we go to the playground?
I’m not a Pollyanna (okay, I kind of am!) and I know that these oversimplifications won’t always get the desired results the first time around. But the more we use this common language and the more we focus on what we do do and not on what we don’t do, the more we empower kids to, you guessed it… take care of themselves!
When I taught Pre-K, we always spent part of our first week together talking about the “Big Three.” At the end of that week, I’d ask the kids if they had any other rules we should add to our rule chart and they would start spouting specifics… “We don’t hit.” “We listen to our teachers.” “We share toys.” “We don’t throw things in the classroom.” “Running feet, inside voices…” You get the picture. As the kids shared these rules, I asked which “big three” rule they belonged to. “We don’t hit” falls under taking care of friends. “Running feet, inside voices” falls under taking care of the classroom. But wait, maybe it also falls under taking care of ourselves. The point is this… these “rules” are really best practices, used gently and consistently with kiddos who are our most important “customers.” By arming them with positive rules, we’re arming them for a future of kindness, compassion, empathy, independence, curiosity and so much more.
I invite our families to join us on our “big three” journey. How might you employ these rules at home? Is there one rule that you think will be harder to instill than the others? How long does it take before your children start talking about the “rules” at home? Let us know how they’re working for you and your family.