I’ve been on a quest to develop gentle parenting skills. I have read countless books (check out my Books page) but one of my favorite mentors is Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and AhaParenting.com. Her website is full of THE BEST, MOST USEFUL information for parenting with loving guidance.
One of the things I’ve learned is Connection Before Correction. What that means is that when we see an act of misbehavior in our child, we should connect with them before we try to correct them. My first instinct is to go right to the correcting, but as Dr. Markham explains in this article on How to Use Positive Parenting, kids misbehave when they feel bad about themselves and disconnected from us.
All of us, including kids, are always trying to get our needs met. At the moment we see bad behavior from our child, it is their attempt at getting some need met. If we can pause and, instead of punishing the misbehavior, try to figure out the need behind the behavior, we can move towards understanding the need, maybe help filling the need in another way, and create more loving connections.
Dr. Laura Markham says:
Parenting is 80% connection; otherwise kids can’t accept our guidance.
How’s your ratio?
I try to connect with each of my kids daily – for at least 15 minutes, as Dr. Laura recommends. This creates the base of connection with you.
But you can also connect with your child in a challenging moment, too.
Connection Before Correction – In Action
In the few years I have been trying this method (trying it, but I’m not perfect) I have witnessed the power of simple empathy shown towards my son. When he’s upset about something (and possibly misbehaving) I offer some empathy along the lines of, “You are mad. You wanted to stay home and play but we are doing errands. I understand.” It’s amazing how I can see him physically relax once I have correctly identified and understood his feelings. Sometimes that is all that’s needed to diffuse a tough situation.
And it makes sense. We all like our feelings to be validated.
I wanted to share the most recent story of this success with my daughter.
The Jelly Bean Story
I was putting our three year old daughter to sleep and had just snuggled her into our bed after some bedtime stories. She started asking for “something”. “What can I have? I want something.” (This is her code for a snack.) We can usually get past this by offering one single cashew nut. But not this night. No nuts would do for her. She wanted jelly beans.
I started to explain that there would be no jelly beans tonight. It was bedtime. Maybe tomorrow. You know, all the reasoning I could find.
That didn’t work. Her demands, and voice, were escalating – fast.
I knew where this would go, based on past experience with her. If I kept the same hard line and either just kept saying NO, or ignored her demands, or left the room, she would end up in a full-blown tantrum.
So I decided to try connecting with her instead. Here is our conversation:
Me: You really like jelly beans don’t you?
Me: So do I. They are yummy.
A: (nods head)
Me: Which color is your favorite?
A: I like the red ones.
Me: Really? They aren’t too spicy? (I know she spits out the spicy ones.)
A: No. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are spicy.
Me: I like the purple ones and the brown ones, because those are root beer.
A: I like the pink ones.
Me: I tell you what, maybe tomorrow we can share some jelly beans. How does that sound?
Me: Let’s lay down and go to sleep.
And she did!
I ended that fast-approaching meltdown in just a few seconds with sincere connection. (I have tried connecting other times, but when I am rushed it comes off as not really sincere – and they can tell. “I understand you are mad but you have to go to bed right now” hasn’t been as effective.)
Take the time to really connect with your child. And if you can create more connection time with them when things are going well (attention=love) your relationship will strengthen.
How About You?
Have you tried connecting with your child before offering a correction? Have you noticed that the connecting often times eliminates the need for correcting? I’d love to hear your experiences!
Learn More About Connection Parenting
If you want to learn more about connecting with your child, start with these great articles from Dr. Laura Markham:
- What’s connection parenting? – Q&A
- Build a great relationship with your child
- Staying connected with your child
- Nurturing intimacy with your kids
- Playing with your child: Games for connection and emotional intelligence
Wendy – ParentingTips365.com
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