How Listening Partnerships Can Help You Make Parenting Decisions


Have you ever read a parenting article and thought that the advice sounded great, in an ideal world where you had the emotional strength and energy to be the parent you want to be?

Hand in Hand Parenting is different to almost any other parenting approach because we don’t just offer you parenting advice on how to deal with behaviour struggles, we help you to build your own strong foundation of support, so that you actually have the patience and energy to put everything you have learnt into practise. We do this through the tool of listening partnerships where parents take it in turns to talk and listen about how parenting is going and release the feelings that make it hard.

As well as giving you the tools to deal with your child’s behavioural challenges, listening partnerships also serve a wider purpose. They can help you work through your thoughts and feelings about anything you are going through in your life. In fact they are the ideal tool to help you create the life of your dreams!

Ever since my daughter was young, I’ve been using listening partnerships to talk about a few big issues in my life. One is, my thoughts and feelings about the education system, and how I would love to homeschool my daughter. This is difficult where I live in Switzerland, because the country is divided up into ‘cantons’ where each one has a different homeschooling law. There are also other factors to consider like earning a living, having time to myself, and making sure everyone in the family is happy, fulfilled, has enough social connection and isn’t over-stressed.

As well as the school decision, there’s also the fact that I’ve been living abroad for the last 12 years of my life, and would really like to go back to my home country; England. But for many practical reasons this move isn’t possible right now.

I have talked about both of these issues over many listening partnerships for literally years. I have cried about how much I miss my home and would like to be nearer family and old friends. I have cried about my own struggles at school, being bullied, and feeling like school got in the way of my own freedom and creativity. I have cried about my dissatisfaction with a system that doesn’t understand that children can learn reading, writing and maths as naturally as they learn to speak.

The principles of Hand in Hand Parenting are very simple, and are the same for adults and children. When we are full of emotion we can’t think clearly, and make rational decisions. The part of the brain responsible for these – the pre-frontal cortex, doesn’t function well when we are under emotional stress. Once we have released these emotions, through talking, laughing, crying with a listener, our rational mind clicks into gear again, and we can figure out what to do.

This weekend my rational mind finally did just that. While distracted in a German class yesterday morning, I suddenly figured out what we needed to do as a family. I developed a plan in my mind and felt suddenly at peace with our situation. I had this feeling that I had finally done it, and come to acceptance with where we are now, and how things could be in the future.

It wasn’t that it was a perfect dream plan that would magic everything exactly how I wanted it immediately. But it was a practical plan, that I knew would work in time, and would appeal to everyone; my husband who needed to know we’d be financially secure and stable, my daughter whose enjoying her local Kindergarten, but also loves the freedom of the school holidays, and me.

I talked with my daughter and husband and asked them if we could have a family meeting at the dinner table. I wrote out a plan that would help us plan for the future and not take unnecessary risks. Everybody liked the idea!

As a side note, I learnt about the idea of family meetings through Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand Parenting who recommends including even the youngest members of our family in talking about the issues that effect our family. Positive Parenting Connection’s Ariadne Brill has written a really useful article about them here, Family Meetings: Make them work for your family 

If you have a big family decision to make you may find yourself going back and forth between choices and being unable to sense what is the right thing to do. This is often because emotions are getting in the way of rational thinking.

It can seem pointless to spend time dwelling on your emotions when it seems like you just need to find a solution and everything will be okay. However when emotions are getting in the way of your thinking, then it’s a sign they need some attention.

We can also avoid our emotions if we feel trapped, miserable and helpless to change our lives. Often these feelings relate to our past experiences when we have been trapped in situations that we really were unable to change. Tracing these feelings back to their roots in our own childhood can help them release them so these old feelings don’t have to cloud our present day thinking.

Once these past feelings have been released we might see solutions that we just couldn’t envisage before because we were so overwhelmed. It can take time. But it is a tried and tested method of finding clarity in your life.

What big parenting challenge are you facing? What would you like to change about your life? Start a listening partnership and you can begin to figure it out today!

You can find a listening partner in the Hand in Hand Parents support group and read more about them in my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children






Take the Hand in Hand Parenting Sleep Course for just $1 !


There’s an amazing sale on at the Hand in Hand Parenting store at the moment. You can take their online sleep course for just $1!

Sign up here, enter the code SLEEPYONE at the checkout, and you’ll get all of Patty Wipfler’s wonderful videos and reading materials almost for free.

At $1 you can hardly lose, but if you’d like to learn more about why so many parents struggle with sleep, and why Hand in Hand has such a different approach that really works, then check out my article here The Truth About Sleep.

And if you do take this course I’d love to hear about your results!

Giggle Parenting For When You Work From Home


I’ve worked from home since my daughter was a baby and 99% of the time it works well. When her dad is there to take care of her I shut the door to the spare room in our small flat and I am rarely disturbed.

How do I do it? It’s not just about the giggles. When she was younger I spent many hours slowly edging out of the door, staylistening to her feelings about me leaving the room for any tiny reason such as going to the toilet, or having a shower. I used each of the five Hand in Hand Parenting tools to help with separation anxiety so that I could help her release feelings so that she could feel confident, safe and happy without me.

When we give our children time to express feelings about us leaving, they can think more clearly, feeling safe, and confident in the presence of other caregivers, knowing that we will return. They can also even from a young age, understand and respect when we need to be left alone to work.

As well as this listening to big feelings, Giggle Parenting comes in handy for releasing lighter feelings of disconnection that can get in the way of your child respecting your work.

This morning when I started work, my daughter started singing outside the door loudly. Our children are smart. When they need attention, they will seek it. When they are in this attention-seeking mode, our tendency may be to try rationalising and reasoning with them, to explain that we need to work, and that it’s important. But deep down our child probably knows that already, it’s just that their need for attention is also important.

So, I opened the door and I decided to pretend to be annoyed. In an exaggerated tone of voice, I said, ”excuse me, I am doing VERY important work in here, NO singing by the door!” I made sure that she understood, that I was being playful and wasn’t really annoyed, and I chased her away as she laughed. After a few minutes of play,  she said, ”I’m off to do my important work now,” and she was gone.

So if you find yourself trying to work from home and being distracted by giggles, songs, or whines by the door, then find your inner playfully annoyed parent, and chase them away. Exaggerate your frustration, throw your arms up in despair and pretend that you are helpless to prevent these constant interruptions by your child. Repeat as long as they want to play, and then you can get on with your work.

This playfully annoyed parent is perfect for all sorts of situations that test our patience and having this Giggle Parenting tool at the ready can help us to channel our own frustration while building connection with our child.

Do you need more help with dealing with separation anxiety? Check out Hand in Hand Parenting’s online self study course; Healing the Hurt Of Separation You can also read more about dealing with separation anxiety in my book Tears Heal


5 Tips For Raising Kind Children


As parents one of the qualities that we want most for our children is for them to be kind. As our babies grow into toddlers, many of us are looking for ways to minimise the hitting, and maximise the sharing. And as they grow older we hope they’ll grow into kind, caring adults that make friends easily and get on well in life.

But children can be pretty mean to each other at times. How do we deal with behaviour that appears selfish, unkind, and the opposite of everything we’ve hoped and dreamed for our children?

Hand in Hand Parenting is based on the principle that our children are all naturally good, it’s just sometimes their feelings get in the way. Here’s 5 tips based on the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to see your child’s natural kindness shining through.

1.Model kindness – Children are born imitators. Learning through observation and imitation is how they make sense of their world. Modelling kindness towards our children and to others, is one of the most effective ways to ‘teach’ them.

This can be tricky when our child’s behaviour is really pushing our buttons,                         when we are stressed and running on empty, so this is where the Hand in                             Hand parenting tool of listening time comes in handy, When we have                                     somewhere to vent our feelings, to say all those unkind, angry and frustrated                       thoughts then we clear space in our heads to think clearly, and let our own                           natural kindness shine through.

2. Set gentle, firm, limits on off-track behaviour – There are plenty of instances                  where children do things that have not been modelled to them. Toddlers who                      grow up in peaceful, connected households still act out aggressively, or snatch                    toys off others when this is something their parents have never done to them!                      Children are born with a fully developed limbic system (the emotional part of                      their brain), whereas the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for                impulse control is not fully formed till adulthood. So when big feelings get                            trigged a child may act them out in aggression, unkindness or other off-track                        behaviour.

Moving in close, to set firm, but gentle limits, gives children the connection they                  need chance to release any feelings of upset that have been bubbling up. When                  we set limits on behaviour, but allow all feelings, this prevents the likelihood off                -track behaviour happening in the future. You can read more about the Hand in                  Hand Parenting approach to setting limits by downloading a free e-book here.

3. Allow your child to cry for as long as they need to – When children cry we can often get in the track of treating crying as a behavioural issue that we need to fix. We might do this in the gentlest possible way, by getting a child to talk through their problems, or by trying to come up with solutions that will stop the tears.

Crying is a healing process, a natural way for releasing the stress and tension that can come out in unkind words and actions. So when we allow our child to cry or tantrum for as long as they need, they are literally releasing the feelings that get in the way of them being their natural, good, kind, selves. Listening with hugs, and connection, is ‘investment’ parenting, we are helping children with their feelings, so we will deal with less behavioural challenges in the future. That’s always good to keep in the back of our mind, when are dealing with a twenty minute tantrum!

4. Let the giggles flow (without the tickling) Laughter is a wonderful way to build connection, and when children feel well-connected they can more often access their natural, inner kind self. So make a conscious effort to bring more laughter into your family life, through playful roughhousing or general all-round silliness. With my Giggle Parenting approach to behaviour challenges, you can also build co-operation at the same time as having fun with your kids!

When human beings feel good, they are kinder, happier and find it easier to get on with others, so when a child is struggling with stuck, angry feelings, laughter goes a long way to heal the hurt.

5. Spend time doing what your child loves. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and do some special time with your child. Tell them they can choose to do whatever they like, whether it’s playing Lego, or having a pillow fight. This gift of our time and complete attention, is one of the kindest things we can do for our kids, and we will see that kindness mirrored outwards.

When we parent like this on regular basis, using tools to help our children with their feelings, then they grow up feeling well-connected. As they go out into the world their ’emotional backpack’ will be light, without the heavy weight of unheard feelings. This allows them to be in touch with their natural joy and kindness. It’s the greatest gift we can give our children.

Do you need more help? Check out these Hand in Hand Parenting online self-study courses, Setting Limits and Building Cooperation, and Helping Your Child With Aggression 

When Will My Son Grow Out Of Tantrums?


Dear Kate,

My son is six years old and he still has huge tantrums, often over really minor things like losing at a board game, or when we’ve run out of his favourite breakfast cereal. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I know that crying is a healing process for children, and it’s important that we can all express our emotions in a healthy way, but I’m wondering if there is an age when they grow out of tantrums. I wasn’t expecting my son to be still having full-on meltdowns at the age of 6!

My husband is also putting pressure on me, to stop encouraging his behaviour, as he feels like it isn’t helping him to learn when and where to express his emotions in a way that society finds acceptable. I also admit I am feeling uncomfortable with this too as he recently had a huge tantrum in the supermarket recently when I didn’t buy a toy that he wanted.

Can you help?, From ‘T’

Dear T,

thanks for your question. It resonated with me a lot as my whole journey to being a Hand in Hand Parenting started when I was babysitting a five-year old boy, and I was wondering what to do about his tantrums. I can also remember feeling like this was too old to have tantrums and that he should have grown out of this phase by now.

As our children get older it becomes easier for children to regulate their emotions, and so they may tantrum less. But something else is going on here. The more years children spend on this planet, the more they begin to get the message loud and clear that emotions aren’t tolerated everywhere. They begin to absorb patterns of repressing their emotions, because they sense that the adults around them don’t want to listen. This happens frequently with school-age children, who ‘save-up’ their meltdowns for their nearest and dearest, while keeping it together at school.

Many children will grow out of tantrums, as they sense that the adults around them are increasingly unaccepting of their feelings, but if your child is still tantrumming freely that’s actually a good thing.

Emotions are a healthy release for children whatever the age. When children cry with a loving adult it can help them release the feelings that often come out in their behaviour, so it’s always good to listen, and allow feelings. This is my article 10 Reasons Why A Toddler’s Tantrum Is Good For Them and all the reasons actually apply for older children too.

When children cry about small things, it’s helpful to remember that there’s often a deeper reason under the surface, this can help us have more empathy and understanding for the tears. So if your son cries a lot about losing at board games, it could be that deeper feelings are being triggered about competition or being good enough. Perhaps he’s also processing grief about a new sibling coming along, or an experience at school where he lost at something, and didn’t have an understanding adult to listen to him. These are just examples. We don’t need to know the deeper reason. We just need to be there to listen to the tears.

When it comes to emotional regulation, we often think we need to teach our children to know when it’s appropriate to show their feelings, but they actually do have a radar for when to express themselves.

Feelings do sometimes spill out in public, but if we take time to listen to feelings at home, and allow our children to cry as long as they need to, then this can reduce the likelihood of this happening. You can read more tips in Five Ways To Prevent Public Meltdowns.

The other thing that’s really important with Hand in Hand Parenting, is to find support for yourself. Often when we start questioning whether our child expressing feelings is healthy it can be because our own feelings from our childhood are coming up. Because our tears weren’t always met with connection and empathy, it can often be hard to do this heavy, emotional work with our children.

Starting a listening partnership, and finding a way to share what you learn with your partner can all help listening to tears be a little easier.

Have you got a question that you’d like a Hand in Hand Parenting answer to? Leave me a comment or contact me via facebook and your challenge could be the subject of my next blog post! 

For more information about how to handle children’s big emotions, and off-track behaviour, check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children.  


Why I let my daughter cheat at cards


I let my daughter cheat at cards. Now at first glance I expect you’re wondering why on earth I would do that. Do I want her to grow up unable to deal with the competitive world we are living in? Am I raising a spoilt brat who is unable to get along with others? How on earth will she get on in life if she expects to get everything handed to her on a plate?

Now I must admit, that at first the idea of cheating in games triggered me. I never cheated as a child, whereas my husband told me stories of his own angry strops and cheating. One day I was playing a game of snakes and ladders with my daughter and my husband and they launched into full on cheating tactics, ganging up on me, going up ladders whenever they wanted, and moving me onto snakes. I was shocked at what he’d been teaching her!

At first I was thinking of all those nightmare scenarios I describe in my first paragraph, and then I suddenly realised something. Here was a prime opportunity for some Giggle Parenting; for my daughter to delight in watching me lose.

After all I didn’t need to get all sensible and tell her that we would only play if we played by the rules. I’m the adult. It doesn’t matter to me if I win and lose. I began to see that there was something going on that was much more important than playing the game. It was an opportunity to connect and an opportunity to heal.

All the laughter she has as she cheats is a great way to release stress and tension, and to bring us closer together. This is much more connecting, than having a serious, card game.

When my daughter cheats at cards, I do all sorts of things to get the giggles flowing. I exaggerate my shock and horror when she picks the best cards for her hand, or takes the best cards out of mine. I exclaim ”oh no!” as if I am completely powerless to stop her, when she doesn’t let me put down the card I need to win, or changes her mind about which card she wants to put down. I act completely surprised, in a playful way when I discover she’s been hiding cards, and I put up a pretend struggle when she tries to see my cards, but always let her see in the end.

Far from never teaching her about winning and losing, this gives her the chance to release tension about competitiveness. With a chance to be powerful and strong, a child feels more able to allow their natural co-operative nature to shine through. This actually means that next time your child plays with other children, they’ll be more relaxed about considering other children’s feelings and playing by the rules.

Far from teaching children to just grab what they want whenever they want to, letting them cheat at cards, shows that in this competitive world you are on their side, you are willing to make connection, and flexibility the first priority, rather than trying to ‘teach’ them. They will use this as a model, so they can go out into the world willing to consider others feelings, and be flexible too.

Children have a sense of justice and fairness. They can distinguish between having silly games with parents whose job is to help them with feelings. as opposed having sensible games with other children who also care deeply about winning.

Sometimes big feelings may still get in the way when a child is playing with other children. In this instance it’s good to set a limit about sticking to the rules. You can emphasise and offer hugs, if they feel sad and frustrated, while holding the limit, and staylistening to any feelings that come up. This process of letting a child to cry until they are ready to stop allows them to release the feelings that get in the way of play co-operatively, so that next time they’ll be more relaxed about winning and losing. For more information about staylistening, check out my article here, 10 Reasons Why Your Toddlers Tantrum is Good For Them

Then when you are alone with a single child, you can have a silly game. Or, if you’d like to try a silly game with multiple children, you can put them in a team together, so they get to gang up on you in a way that allows them to cheat without exacerbating sibling rivalry. I talk more about this idea in my 15 Playful Ways to Solve Sibling Rivalry.

Letting your child cheat at cards, with the accompanying giggles is actually a perfect way release stress and tension, and build closer connection between you, so relax the rules, and enjoy the fun!

For more Giggle Parenting solutions to your family challenges, check out my archives, or sign up to follow my blog in the top right hand corner of this page. And if you’ve got a parenting issue you’d like a solution too, send me a pm via my facebook page, and your challenge could be the subject of my next blog post! 

Sign Up For The Positive Parenting Conference!

Positive parenting Conference_v1

I was so excited and honoured to be invited to take part in A Fine Parent’s  online Positive Parenting Conference.  Myself and 15 other parenting experts will be giving talks to help you learn the tools you need to be a more gentle and connected parent.

As parents, especially when our children are young it’s often hard to even get out of the house, let alone attend a conference, so this free event allows you to take part from the comfort of your own home. And if your kids aren’t asleep in time for you to enjoy the talks you can catch up with free replays.

As Sumitha Bhandarker from A Fine Parent says; ”we’re doing the hardest job in the world – raising human beings – with little or no prior training, some hearsay knowledge and a lot of ‘gut feeling’! Can you imagine a doctor or plumber trying to do their job this way? No wonder most of us default so often to nagging and yelling all the time. And end up with so many power struggles. And feel so lost and adrift. And unsure in our own knowledge of what to do when faced with difficult situations.”

My own talk ‘How To Respond To Tears To Raise Strong Kids’ will be all about listening to tears, and how our reaction to our child’s emotions is key in helping them to grow up strong and resilient.

What each speaker has in common is that we’ve all published parenting books, so follow the link to sign up, check us all out and see which talks and books appeal to you!