How To Spring Clean With Kids


With spring in the air this week I have been feeling the urge to de-clutter and tidy up, and remembered this post that I compiled last year with 25 tips for tidying up from my fellow Hand in Hand Parenting instructors. I know that I feel much more comfortable involving my daughter with the tidying, rather than just handing her a screen while I get on with it. Tidying-up can be fun, and actually is a chance to connect with our kids.

Since writing that post, I’ve learnt a bit more about what works for us when it comes to tidying-up together. So if you’d like to begin spring cleaning, then here are some tips for how to begin.

Set a timer. If your child is familiar with using the timer from having regular special times, then this helps a lot. Choose a time, (I like to do one hour) and tell your child you’re going to have tidying up time. Let them know how long it will be.

There may be some moans and groans. This doesn’t mean your child hates tidying, or that it’s going to be impossible to get them motivated. Like any human being, sometimes feelings get in the way of getting motivated. Our children start off as a blank state. They aren’t born hating tidying and cleaning. In fact many babies love to imitate their parents, cleaning with a cloth, or putting things away in the right place.

What sometimes happen is that children’s feelings get in the way. Or the demands of school, and busy schedules mean that they don’t have so much time to play, so the thought of being told what to do brings reluctance. What’s key is understanding how to make tidying-up play. We can use the 25 playful ways to encourage children, or set limits, and listen to any feelings of reluctance that come up. Either way, once the feelings are out of the way your child is much more likely to enjoy the process.

At first nothing much may get done. I know when my daughter is feeling particularly disconnected if my attempts to tidy-up result in her ‘untidying.’ If this happens then it’s important to understand that this is all part of the process. Perhaps the first time you do ‘tidying-up time,’ you end up chasing your giggling child while they deliberately try to make a mess and you get nothing done. Don’t be disheartened! You are building the connection your child needs to be able to think clearly and co-operate. Next time it may be a completely different story. (Read more in How Letting Our Children Make A Mess Builds Co-Operation).

Be flexible and keep our expectations reasonable. We were tidying up this morning, and then my daughter got distracted by the thought of making tissue paper flowers. I didn’t set a limit and encourage her to keep tidying. She was happy and playing independently so I used this as a good opportunity to just get on with the work. We need to keep our expectations age appropriate, so children might flit in and out of tidying, as they get distracted by toys etc. We can be flexible and just go with the flow.

What’s more important than how much physical work our children do, is that we help them make happy, connected memories of the process. So many of us grew up with chores being ‘hard work’ that we often had to do alone. We can bring joy, play and connection into the process. This is a much better teaching tool for them than being harsh, or demanding they tidy-up everything immediately. When we offer our children flexibility, they’ll also be much more willing to offer to help us spontaneously so it may mean that we notice the benefits of their learning about tidying at a later date.

Have tidying-up time regularly. What I noticed with my daughter, is that as we did regular tidying-up times, it became routine, and she began to realise that it could be a fun time, to be together, laugh, and make our home environment a little less cluttered. So having a short tidying up time each day, or longer times a couple times a week, makes it become a normal part of life.

I hope you find these tips useful. Happy Cleaning! For more ideas check out Children And Chores: Four Ways To Get Them To Help, and my podcast interview with Casey O’Roarty, all about listening and how it helps our children co-operate.

What works for you when you try to tidy-up with your kids around? I’d love to hear from you! 

Giggle Parenting For Taking Medicine


If you’ve been prescribed medicine by a doctor, and are wondering about how to persuade your child to take it, then Giggle Parenting can come in very handy. For many children, particularly those who are sensitive to new tastes, the thought of taking a strange, unknown liquid can bring up a lot of feelings.

Laughter, and play can help build the safety and connection children need to release fear, and it also builds connection so your child is more likely to see your point of view and want to co-operate.

Here are a few suggestions on how to adding a sprinkle of giggles to your medicine.

Put the medicine on a spoon, and tell your child in a playful, light-hearted way that it’s time to take their medicine. Then start by bringing the spoon up to your mouth by mistake. Start saying in a confused tone of voice, ”oh, hang on, that’s not right! It’s not me that needs to take the medicine.” Repeat and try to feed your child, but end up ‘feeding’ other parts of your own body, your ears, your toes, your nose. Then you can try the wrong parts of your child’s body, and even move on to trying to ‘feed’ even more crazy outlandish things. Perhaps the kitchen cupboards, fridge, or even the toilet for maximum laughs. Repeat whatever gets the giggles flowing.

After trying and failing to feed your child the medicine perhaps you enlist the help of a soft toy, or puppet to try and give your child the medicine. Perhaps the toy starts doing even more crazy things like trying to pour the medicine down the sink, or put it in the bin, as you act all playfully panicky and chase after them and try to get them to stop. Or when you ask the toy to give your child some medicine he picks out apples and oranges from the fruit bowl to give, or other random objects, like socks, or Lego.

These are just suggestions to spark your inspiration. The main thing to do is to follow wherever your mind takes you, and whatever gets your child laughing. If laughter alone, doesn’t build the safety your child needs to feel confident to take their medicine, you may need to try the other Hand in Hand Parenting tools of setting limits and staylistening. For more information check out Hand in Hand’s free setting limits e-book, or my book Tears Heal.

Giggle Parenting Inspiration: Silly Phone Calls


Imagine if every time you were in a sticky situation with your child you could just pick up the phone and dial for help? Well actually you can! It might not be exactly the help you were expecting, but it does work wonders.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been dealing with minus temperatures, and getting up in the morning just doesn’t feel like fun. But the moans and groans soon turn to giggles with the help of this game.

So as we’d be getting ready my imaginary phone would start to ring. I’d answer and it would be my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher. This pretend teacher would tell me some crazy things she was doing; that she was on our doorstep with the rest of the class and that they would have Kindergarten at our house today, or she was driving the train and picking my daughter up for an unexpected school trip, or she’d come to Kindergarten by helicopter and needed to park it on our roof.

Each time she told me the scenario, I would start complaining, telling her that she was being ridiculous, and to get back to the Kindergarten, and just start work like a normal teacher. I would act all playfully annoyed with her, and my daughter would laugh and laugh.

I would invent all sorts of scenarios that the Kindergarten teacher would be in when she phoned us. For example she moved her house, and turned it into a house boat, and now she was swimming in her house, because it wasn’t designed for water, or she was phoning from a digger that had just dug up a mountain and she was taking it to Kindergarten for the children to learn about, or that she had just climbed through our bathroom window and was taking a shower. The wildest and the most outlandish got the most giggles.

I’d also have the Kindergarten teacher changing her job, and phoning from a plane she was flying, or arriving at the door with pizzas to deliver for us. Each time, I’d sound all playfully exasperated, and beg her to get back to Kindergarten and do her proper job.

If your child is whining or moaning, or struggling in a particular area of their life then getting an unexpected phone call from someone doing something wild and outlandish could be the perfect way to transform grumpiness and non-co-operation into joy and connection.

For example if your child is refusing to get dressed, then maybe a wild granny phones up and says she’s going to deliver a clown outfit to wear for school, while you beg her not to. Or if your child is refusing to take a bath, have someone phone up thinking you ordered a swimming pool to make it more fun. Or if you child won’t eat your dinner why not try phoning up for a take-away and finding the only thing they have to send you is smelly socks?!

The possibilities are endless. As your child laughs and soaks up connection with you, they’ll feel better and be able to co-operate more easily. So just have a plastic phone at the ready, and remember that help is only a phone call away.

Would you like a laughter solution for your family challenge? Leave me a comment or send a pm and you could be the subject of my next blog post! For more information about Giggle Parenting, check out my introductory post here or read my book Tears Heal

Why Santa Claus Could Be Making Your Parenting Harder


At this time of year life can get a little crazy. With stockings to fill and Christmas cards to write the attention we give our children can start to waver. And as we look down at our to-do list in horror we may find ourselves resorting to desperate measures to try and keep our child’s behaviour on track.

‘’Be good, or Santa Claus won’t come,’’ it can be tempting to say as your 3 year old runs off with the Christmas tree decorations, or starts whining because they don’t want to go to the supermarket. It can be as much to keep ourselves sane for a moment, than to teach our children about good behaviour. And why wouldn’t you say such things, you might ask. After all isn’t December the month where we can enjoy this handy trick to demand good behaviour out of our children?

This may be a bombshell to some of you, but Santa Claus could actually be making your parenting harder. Those threats, the bribes, the elf on the shelf staring down and watching your child’s every act, are not the ticket to a peaceful Christmas. They may actually be contributing to more whining, more meltdowns, more sibling squabbles, and generally a sense of unease. Here’s why.

It comes down to how your child’s brain works. Your child’s limbic system (the emotional part of the brain) is like a radar constantly scanning her environment to see who she can connect to. When she feels well connected to an adult around her, then the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for rational, reasonable behaviour) can function well. Then she can think well and behave well.

If your child feels disconnected, or if upset feelings are getting in the way of her feeling a warm connection with you even when you are right there with her, then her brain goes a bit haywire. The limbic system senses an emotional emergency, as it’s lost that deep sense of connection to another adult. Then the pre-frontal cortex can’t function well, so they can’t think through what is rational, reasonable behaviour for that moment.

This is when we start seeing misbehaviour. They may start whining or moaning, or doing all of the things they know deep down they shouldn’t do such as hitting a sibling, or refusing to do simple tasks like put on their shoes and coat.

This is when it can be tempting to use threats and bribes, and tell your child that Santa only comes to good children. It may appear to work in the short term as you child hurriedly dresses to go out the door with a terrified look on their face at the thought of not having Christmas presents.

But here’s what happens later. That sense of disconnection or those upset feelings your child was experiencing are still inside of them and will come out later. They’ll be a time when you child gets so overwhelmed by them that they won’t be able to hold them in any more no matter what you’ve threatened them with previously. Then will come a meltdown, or a full on sibling brawl that will be a combination all of the built up tension from each of the other little moments in which there have been threats or bribes.

Threats and bribes (of any kind, not just about Santa) are what I like to call the credit card system of parenting. Instant results. Instant success. But the downside is that overtime the cost you are paying is much higher. Your child is feeling bad for longer and as their emotional thermostat starts to rise it’s only going to be so long before a storm erupts.

Your child is good. Their inner nature is to be loving, and co-operative. They want to be good. It’s just that sometimes their hurt feelings get in the way. When we tell a child to ‘be good’ or shame them for their behaviour, we can add extra layers of hurt. We give children the wrong impression that our children are responsible for controlling their impulses and emotions. Actually brain science tell us that children can’t.

What we need to do as parents is actually to step in, and be there to help children with their behaviour and the emotions behind it. We need to reconnect with them. It can seem like a lot of work, compared to the quick fix of the Santa threats, but this is investment parenting, as opposed to the credit style kind. When we invest in connecting with our children, it’s us that get paid back in the future. We will have less meltdown, less sibling right, less non-co-operation when we start to think about investment rather than quick fixes.

So in the run up to Christmas here’s five simple things you can do when your child’s behaviour is going off-track and you’re feeling tempted to reach from some Christmas bribery.

1. Shift The Mood With Special Time – When your child is getting whiney and moany, add in some connection before the storm gets worse. Set a timer for 10 minutes and tell your child they can do anything they want together with you. As you play shower them with warm connection, lots of closeness and eye contact. As they soak up a warm sense of connection with you, they’ll be able to get their thinking back on track.

2. Try Some Giggles – When you are dealing with a child who is not co-operating try giggles. If you need to get out the door in the hurry, try dressing your toddler’s doll instead of them and then acting all confused by your mistake. Or try putting your child’s coat on instead of your own. This is what I call Giggle Parenting, a sure-fire way to laugh away disconnection. After a few giggles your child will feel better connected and more likely to co-operate with you. It’s scientifically proven!

3. Set Limits Quickly – When your child is acting off-track, and you sense they are getting whiney and moany, don’t wait for them to attack a sibling with a wooden block before you step in. Your children’s whines and moans are a sign that they need you to diffuse the situation. Stay close, and be ready to move in to set limits so that no-one gets hurt.

4. Stay With Your Child Through The Storms – At some point storms are going to happen. Your child is going to have a meltdown about something small and insignificant, just when you really need to have five minutes peace to wrap some presents. The most helpful thing you can do is be with your child. Stay close, offer warmth and empathy. And most importantly, don’t try to distract your child from their emotions, even if they seem about something small and petty. Crying is your child’s natural healing process, for letting go of all their upset feelings that have been getting in the way of feeling connected to you.

5. Get someone to listen to you – With Hand in Hand Parenting, we make sure parents get the emotional support they need to listen deeply to their children. As you make the shift away from threats and bribes you may find it brings up a lot of feelings in you, and that it’s hard to find the patience at first. That’s why we have a listening partnership scheme where parents can exchange time talking and listening so that they can de-stress and release tension too.

As your kids demand expensive presents, their behaviour is actually a call to you, calling for connection. This is what your child want more than anything this Christmas. Santa Claus, can’t compete with your ability to shower your children with love and connection. So lets make this Christmas about presence rather than presents.

These 5 tips are based on the 5 Hand in Hand Parenting tools. For more info about how to put these tools into practise check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children




A Giggle Parenting Song To Help Your Kids Sleep


So you’ve got your child ready for bed. Bath and a bedtime story, teeth and pyjamas are all done. Except there’s just one problem. Your child is full of energy, and ready to giggle rather than sleep.

Here’s a fun way you can help them release that last minute burst of energy. Tell your child, that you’re going to sing them a lullaby to help them sleep. You can start off by singing something in a slow sleepy voice like, ”and now it’s time to slowly close our eyes…” to give the impression that it’s going to be a very slow song, and then surprise them with an upbeat line like, .”..and then jump on the bed!”

This is a sure-fire invitation for your child to start jumping on the bed in a lively way. You can act all surprised that you sang that line, and say something like, ”hey that’s not how my song goes. I wanted a sleep song, not a jumping on the bed song!”

Tell your child you’re going to try again, and then start with the sleeply line, and surprise them again with another action line, like running out of the room, running and say hi-bye to your dad, pulling socks out of mummy’s sock drawer.

Each time come up with a crazy suggestion that is going to make your child laugh, while you act all confused about why the song isn’t coming out right. You can chase your child around the house to playfully get them back to bed and let them have the most powerful role as the giggles flow.

If this is all sounds completely wild and crazy to add to your bedtime routine, then here’s the science bit, about why laughter actually helps children sleep. And this is my introductory post about Giggle Parenting, and why beneath all that raucous play with your child you are actually building the connection they need to co-operate with you in the future. And here’s why I think staying up a little bit later to laugh, or listen to tears, can actually have benefits for your child’s overall wellbeing.

If you’re new to Giggle Parenting your child might want to play for quite a while, but if you add it in on a regular basis, your child will get their dose of wild and laughter, and won’t want to stay up playing till midnight! Check out my Giggle Parenting Archives, for more fun ways to add it into you family life.

Have you got a family challenge you’d like a Giggle Parenting solution for. Leave me a comment or send me a message on facebook, and your challenge could be the subject of my next blog post! 

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Giggle Parenting For Whining And Screaming


Does the sound of your child’s whining and screaming drive you crazy? Here’s how Giggle Parenting can help.

The main guiding principle of Hand in Hand Parenting is that when our children behave in off-track ways it’s because they are feeling disconnected and have upset feelings. When children need to re-connect with us they tend to ask in all sorts of ‘crazy’ ways because when they don’t feel good the part of the brain responsible for rational, reasonable behaviour isn’t functioning well.

When a child is whining and screaming we are often more likely to want to run away and shove our head under a pillow than connect with them, but here’s a fun game that will have you running towards your child for playful closeness, and it will help diffuse the behaviour too.

When your child starts complaining or screaming, or making any irritating sounds to express disconnection run towards them as quick as you can and give them what we call a vigorous snuggle, (you can read more about it here). Tell them in a playful, warm tone, exactly how you feel about the sound, ”Oh my you’re driving me crazy! I need to stop those scream with kisses,” etc. Nuzzle and snuggle your child, in a playful (not overpowering way) and soon all those whines and screams will be giggled away.

After that walk away. Your child will probably enjoy the game and repeat the behaviour. Or you can invite them to play again by saying as if thinking out loud, ”I’m so glad that screaming has stopped. Now I can have a peaceful time.” Then when they start up again you can exclaim, ”oh no! Not again!” And run back over and snuggle with them, again. The benefit is that you get to release your tension and frustration by expressing how you feel, but in a playful, warm way that actually increases connection between the two of you.

After playing this fun game your child gets to release the stress and tension that caused their behaviour so it’s less likely to happen in the future.

If screaming and whining are still making you stressed check out my article Screaming For Connection to learn how listening time can help, or read What’s The Cure For Children Whining? 

For more Giggle parenting solutions check out my archives here. Have you got a challenge you’d like a Giggle Parenting solution for? Leave me a comment or send me a message via facebook

How The Way You Parent Can Change The World


Parents! The future of humanity is in your hands. No pressure though!

When we look around us at the state of the world it can seem pretty depressing. The endless stream of negative news can make us give up hope on the future.

Much of what is wrong with the state of the world comes from negative emotions. Fear, hate, and greed, have created a world where the resources of the many are sucked dry to benefit the few. If you examine the emotional lives of the people in power it isn’t hard to see that a lot of them aren’t leading from a place of deep compassion for their fellow human beings. The big changes that are needed to create a more peaceful world just aren’t happening.

But perhaps one day they will. It was reading this blog post by Wendy Andrews that reminded me that the single post important step to creating a more peaceful world is to parent with love and compassion.

With Hand in Hand Parenting I learnt that children are naturally good, loving and co-operative and when their behaviour gets challenging, it’s because they are experiencing challenging emotions. So when we look at politicians whose behaviour is questionable, (mentioning no names!!) it’s highly likely that they are acting out hurt feelings from their childhood. This is not to make excuses for the behaviour of certain leaders, but to simply show that if we want to change the world we have to radically change the way we parent. Simply repeating the way the previous generation parented won’t work. In the UK 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. That’s a lot of hurt people who aren’t able to live their lives to the full.

I believe that the single most powerful thing we can do to heal the next generation is to listen to tears. This is the one thing glaringly missing from most of our childhoods. That our parents ignored, or avoided, distracted, or shamed or punished us, from crying. That we have done the same many times, because it seems like an instinct to repeat the parenting we experienced.

We need to listen to our children’s tears, and their laughter too! We need to undo our cultural conditioning to stop or avoid these tears. We also need to be honest with ourselves about our own feelings, and how they interfere with us being the parents we want to be. When we do this we can build a stronger, more compassionate generation, who aren’t weighed down with emotional baggage.

And as I was out walking I remembered the Native American story of the Rainbow Warriors that says that “when the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.”

I like to think that when we parent peacefully we are building this tribe of warriors who see beyond colour and class, and join together.

As Mother Teresa said, ”What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” And remember when you do so to listen to tears.

For more information read my blog post, The Healing Power Of Tears, and Patty Wipfler’s article, Inoculating your Child Against Racism. You can learn more about listening to tears in my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children



How Connection Helps Picky Eaters


Do you have a child who has some irrational eating preferences? For example they eat certain foods at nursery but not at home, or there are foods they used to love that they now claim they don’t like? I know this situation well! Some of my daughter’s preferences have been that she eats cashews at her best friend’s house, but only almonds at home (even though she used to like all nuts apart from hazlenuts). Or that she will eat chips but not potatoes, (!?) or that she will eat spaghetti with sauce if she’s at a restaurant, but at home the sauce is ‘yucky’ and she wants it plain, (even though she used to like it!).

If this sounds like your child, then you may have given up hope that there’s anything you can do. I know I’ve gone through phases like this. You may have put it down to just ‘toddler irrationality’ and hope they grow out of it. You just want to make sure your child has some calories in them, and you just want to relax and eat your own dinner.

However there is a solution! Chances are if your child is acting irrationally in their food choices, the problem is not really about the food but with their feelings about the food.

Hand in Hand Parenting is based on the understanding that when children feel good, their thinking brain works well, and they can make rational choices, and co-operate from us, even from a very young age. However when children experience stress and upset the feelings get in the way of their behaviour. They start telling us that they aren’t feeling good by acting in ‘off-track’ ways.

When your child is acting picky about food, it’s hard to tell what to do. We may not want  to force them to eat anything they don’t like, but we also want to make sure they are getting enough vitamins. And also just as important is that if your child’s pickiness is a sign that they aren’t feeling good, so we want to address those feelings, so they don’t get in the way of them enjoying life, and all the wonderful opportunities out there!

If your child is acting afraid of food, it’s often a pretext for deeper fears from difficult experiences your child has had. As Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore describe it in their book Listen: Five Simple Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges, ‘those feelings are stored away, raw and powerful still, in the child’s emotional memory. There they sit uneasily, tangled with information about the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the experience.’

So when a child gets picky with food, it’s often that they are projecting their fears and upsets, onto the smells and tastes. It’s hard to be adventurous with new foods when our children are still re-experiencing fear from the past.

I have gone through periods where I have let my daughter’s picky eating slide. I was learning and observing to try and figure out the best approach. I noticed that she was highly sensitive to smells and tastes. As she got older she would sometimes complain about the smell of my food and not want to sit near me! However I began to notice that when she was feeling good she didn’t get so irritated by unusual smells and tastes. So it really wasn’t actually about the food.

Here’s how connection can help. When a child connects with us, they get to feel safe, and they also get to be listened to. One strategy we’ve tried is doing special time before dinner. (You can find out more about Special Time here) My daughter carries that sense of happiness and connection to the dinner table, and then when she sees the food there she sees it through a lens of connection and joy rather than fear.

Another strategy is play and laughter. Children (and adults!) naturally like to giggle away our fears, and  and we can bring play to the dinner table with fun and powerful results. (see my article 20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters, for some inspiration).

We can also set limits about food, and listen to the feelings. It’s not about forcing our child to eat something they don’t like. But proposing they try it, and then listening to the upset. (You can read more about this approach which Hand in Hand Parenting calls Staylistening, here).

A few years ago, I wanted to help my daughter expand her pallete. So I decided we would try some new fruits. I told her my plan and we went to the shop and bought a mango and some kiwi. We laughed at these ‘funny fruits’ and took them home. The next day I proposed we tried them, and my daughter cried for a long time. In the end she did try them, and ended up eating two kiwis! After that she liked them and now mango is one of her favourite foods.

At that time we used to go to a music class for toddlers. All the children would play with musical instruments, and then put them back in a basket when it was time to finish. My daughter had always been shy to go up to the basket and didn’t like the rush of children all together. However the two days after I staylistened to her feelings about the new food, she happily rushed up and put her instrument back in the basket. It was amazing to see how listening to her fears about the food was not just about the food, but helping her with fears that were getting in the way of her living life to the full.

I know I go through phases where I just don’t have the energy to figure out how to work on this big emotional project for my daughter, and that’s where listening time helps (You can read more about listening time here). Because every family is different we need time and space to think through the emotional projects we want to help our children with and see how we want to tackle them. Having space to vent our worries, and also talk about how eating was for us as a child allows us to get our head clear to figure out an action plan for our family.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and I wish you many happy adventures at the dinner table!



A Giggle Parenting Book Review

My friend over at Walking On Mom blog, Tara McLaughlin recommended me this book, as being part of her silly bedtime routine for getting the giggles flowing. We read it last night and my daughter asked for it four times and laughed the whole way through. She then fell asleep instantly!

This book perfectly encapsulates the principles of Playlistening, one of the Hand in Hand Parenting tools. For those of you new to the concept Playlistening (or Giggle Parenting as I like to call it), is when we pick up on whatever makes our child laugh while they are in the more powerful role.

Children love it when the roles are reversed for a while and we adults make mistakes, do things we don’t want to do, and act clueless and confused. It is a welcome relief to the tension, and upset they sometimes experience as they learn and build their confidence in the world.

The Book With No Pictures is a book where the adult finds themselves having to say the words in the book, no matter how silly and nonsensical they sound. As the adult ‘blorks’ and ‘blurfs’ their way through the book they have to say more and more ridiculous things such as declaring they are a monkey and that their head is made of ‘blueberry pizza.’ I love how the author B.J Novak adds in the voice of the exasperated parent who feels out of control having to say such silly things.

You can watch the author reading the book to a group of schoolchildren on youtube here and see just how hilarious it is.

With Hand in Hand Parenting we’ve found that when children feel well-connected, and get to release their feelings with a loving adult, whether it’s through laughter, or tears, then their behaviour and emotions are more on-track.  Having good emotional health is also key for healthy brain development, and learning new skills.

It’s been well-documented that bedtime reading helps brain development and children’s literacy, but adding in giggles takes it to a whole new level. Research has found that laughter helps toddlers learn 

So add this book to your child’s shelf and you’re not only having a fun read together but also helping them with their emotions, and their behaviour. You can buy it here.

To learn more read my article Giggle Parenting: The Best Discipline Tool Out There And check out Walking on Mom’s post to learn why Silly Bedtimes Lead To Better Sleep.

If anyone has any funny books or ways to get giggly at bedtime I’d love to hear from you!

3 Little Buttons

The Five Step Plan For Preventing Early Wakings


Early waking is common in children . In the summer months we might blame it on the light outside, or noises that your child hears that disturb their sleep. It might be that your child is unwell, or teething, or any of the other myriad reasons children have for waking. Or we might just put it down to being an inevitable part of raising little ones.

However all these things are usually just the trigger for you child to wake, the root cause often goes a little deeper. If your child is regularly waking up tired without having enough sleep, then one of the most common reasons is their sense of connection.

Children often wake in the night, or wake early, when they are feeling disconnected. Sometimes children just need their connection cups to be filled a little more. At other times they may be experiencing hurt feelings or stress that get in the way of feeling our warm presence and attention. This can cause them to seek out connection with us a little earlier than usual.

This week I’ve been hearing a lot of success stories from parents who are trying out Giggle Parenting at bedtime, with amazing results. Kids are sleeping through the night. Nightmares and morning grumpiness are reduced. Laughter when kids are in the more powerful role (or playlistening as we call it at Hand in Hand) is a powerful way to strengthen our connection with our child.

But simply adding laughter to your bedtime routine may not be enough to completely cure sleep issues. The Hand in Hand parenting approach consists of 5 tools to listen to our children’s feelings and build connection with them. Whenever we are struggling with our parenting we can use all five of these tools for the most effective results.

So here are your five tools to help prevent kids from waking early.

  1. Get Some Listening Time For Yourself – First get yourself a listening partnership, and read more about them in Hand in Hand parenting’s Listening Partnerships For Parents Booklet. The Hand in Hand parenting tools are a way of listening to our children that takes a lot of patience and energy. With your listening partner you can vent about how tired you are in a safe space. Talking and being listened to by a warm listener is a powerful way to prepare yourself to do the same for your child. Read more about listening partnerships here.
  2. Do Some Special Time In The Daytime – Next schedule some time to do daily special time with your child. This may not always be possible, but while you’re dealing with sleep troubles it’s great to attempt it most days. Even five minutes can make a difference. Let your child do something they love, and shower them with attention. With special time it’s really about the quality of the time rather than the quantity. Your child can internalise a deep sense of connection with you, that can help them relax and sleep well. Read more about special time here.
  3. Staylisten To Morning Grumpiness – When our children wake early in the morning in a bad mood, we often tend to assume it’s because they haven’t had enough sleep. However it’s most likely that the grumpiness is what caused the early rising rather than the early rising causing the grumpiness. If your child gets upset about something that seems small and inconsequential, then stay and listen to the feelings until they have finished crying. Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone, and other mood balancing hormones. When children get to cry with a loving adult they can release all the feelings that get in the way of feeling closely connected to you. Without these upset clouding their thinking their sleep will be much more peaceful. You can read more about staylistening here, and if this is challenging for you, don’t forget step 1 😉
  4. Set Limits and Listen To Feelings – When your child wakes grumpy you may find yourself walking on eggshells trying to avoid an upset. A child’s early waking can effect the mood of the whole day, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When a child behaves in ‘off-track’ ways, it’s like they are waving a red flag to saying, ‘’Help! I’m not feeling good, and so I can’t think well.’’ Setting a limit on their unworkable behaviour is actually a gift to them. As we stop them from throwing toys, or hitting a sibling, in a warm and loving but firm way we can listen to the emotional upset behind their behaviour, and also heal their sleep. You can get a free Hand in Hand parenting guide to setting limits here.
  5. Giggles At Bedtime – This tried and tested method is scientifically proven. Add giggles to your bedtime routine. Anything that gets laughter flowing with your child in the more powerful role. Chase games, roughhousing and any silliness that puts you in the less powerful role is a guaranteed sleep inducer. Read more about giggles at bedtime in my friend Tara’s fantastic article here.

Tried all this and your child is still not sleeping? For more indepth help applying these tools check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online sleep course Helping Young Children Sleep. Or for personalised advice contact me for a free 30 min initial sleep consultation.

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