Sign Up For The Positive Parenting Conference!

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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!

 

How Listening Helps You Discover Your True Feelings (and heal from them)

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Listening time, one of the Hand in Hand Parenting tools is where two parents get together to take turns talking and listening about how parenting and their lives in general are going. It takes parenting to a whole new level, because, guess what? Our feelings are often what gets in the way of us being the parents we want to be.

Yesterday a letter came home from my daughter’s Kindergarten to say that her teacher would be leaving at the end of the year, so she would have a different teacher for her second year. My daughter burst into tears, and I felt like crying too. Her teacher had been lovely and my daughter had always felt completely safe and comfortable going to Kindergarten.

After crying briefly, I knew my daughter was still upset, but the feelings were stuck. When I talked about it again, she got angry with me and wanted me to stop. This was my signal to change tack. I made jokes about how her teacher must be going to planet Zog to teach aliens, or that I was going to be the new teacher. My husband joined in at dinner time, and asked if our daughter was going to be the new teacher. She laughed a lot at these silly suggestions, and I knew that this laughter, (what I call Giggle Parenting) would help her release some of her feelings, so that she could process what was going to happen.

This morning I had some listening time, and I found myself bursting into tears when I talked about the Kindergarten teacher leaving. Now as an adult, it may seem silly to cry about something as small as the teacher changing. It wasn’t even my teacher! But as I talked more I began to unravel that my feelings were not just about that. They were about my sadness about the Kindergarten years flying by. That soon my daughter would be starting school, something I have huge amounts of anxiety about. I like the Kindergarten with it’s free play and lack of reading and writing. But, having learnt about  unschooling and how children can naturally learn to read and write without going to school, I find it hard to think about putting my daughter into the school system. Yet I also know my daughter is looking forward to school that I have to honour her choice too.

My upset is an example of what is known as the ‘broken cookie phenomenon.’ Psychologist Aletha Solter coined the term to refer to how children often get upset about something small when there’s a deeper reason behind the upset. As parents we may often learn tips about helping to teach children to ’emotionally regulate,’ but our children’s emotional responses to small and ‘petty’ things are actually completely normal, and are best ‘managed’ by allowing feelings as often as we can.

We become socialised into feeling embarrassed or ashamed of our feelings, so we squash them down and try to get on with things. But when we have the space and safety to express our feelings we tend to get upset about small things too. Listening time gives you the space to get upset about anything you want, no matter how silly or small.  You can learn more about what triggered the upset and figure out the deeper reason behind it. This is how we make our own stories coherent, an important element in making sense of our own lives, so that we can think more clearly about supporting our children.

You can learn more about the Broken Cookie phenomenon, and how listening helps our parenting in my book Tears Heal.

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Giggle Parenting: For Food Fears

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Giggle Parenting is all about reversing the roles, and giving your child the power, so they get to build their confidence, feel good, and better connected.

When your child is afraid of trying new foods, or refuses food they used to like a simple role reversal can help.

Take the food they are afraid of and pretend that it’s afraid of them! Have it shriek, before hiding back in the fridge, or jumping into the cupboard. Talk to the food, and try to persuade it that it’s safe to come out, that it’s really okay to be eaten. As you slowly bring the food out have it jump and hide away in another place.

Have the food jump into really silly places that it really doesn’t belong like the cutlery drawer, or dishwasher. For extreme giggles, you could have it try to run into the bathroom or out the front door. Act all exasperated and keep telling the food, ”no that’s not right, you don’t belong there!” Repeat as long as the giggles flow.

This Giggle game may not result in your child instantly eating up the food, but it will help them feel closer connected and more confident about trying new things. For more tips on picky eating check out my article, How Connection Helps Picky Eaters. And for more fun suggestions to laugh away picky eating check out 20 Playful Ways To Help Picky Eaters.

Giggle Parenting: For Getting Your Children To Pick Their Stuff Of The Floor!

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Do you ever feel frustrated when you ask your child to pick something off the floor and they just flat out refuse? When children feel disconnected or are dealing with upset feelings, they often can’t think clearly to process our requests, let alone actually do as we tell them! Asking indirectly through connection is often much more effective.

When my daughter leaves stuff on the floor, or when I’m tidying up and I’d like her to help. I do something called  ‘the Trip Test.’  I say in a playful way as if I’m totally unsure, ”hmm, I wonder if that should be on the floor, let me do a test and see.” Then I walk towards it and do an exaggerated trip, and conclude that it has failed the Trip Test.

These kind of mini ‘giggle parenting’ moments may not always result in instant co-operation, but each shared moment of laughter and connection is all part of building co-operation between us.

So have a look around your home, and try out the Trip Test. I’d love to hear how it goes!

For more information about how to use connection to help your kids tidy up check out How To Spring Clean With Kids, 25 Fun Ways To Get Your Children To Tidy Up, or this podcast episode about listening for co-operation

Giggle Parenting For When Your Child Is Bored

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You may have heard it many times that it’s good for children to be bored, that we should all let our children be bored during the summer holidays etc. so they can learn and maintain the skills of independence and creativity.

It’s true that we don’t do our children any favours when we over-schedule or over-entertain them in order to protect them from boredom. However we’re also not doing them any favours to in leaving them completely alone with their feelings of boredom. When children feel well-connected to us, and don’t have upset feelings clouding their thinking they can usually think well about what they want to do, play independently, and come up with new creative ways to spend the time.

Complains of ”I’m bored” often come because a child is feeling disconnected, and is dealing with upset feelings that get in the way of them enjoying life, and figuring out what they love to do.

Giggle Parenting can often work as a simple quick-fix for boredom. When my daughter complains that she’s bored, I use a pretend phone to phone up the ”to-do hotline.” I talk to someone on the line and explain that I’ve got a very bored girl at home and that I need some ideas of what to do. The person on the phone tells me that I should just let my daughter watch screen. I act all playfully shocked and exclaim, ”no, no! Not screen. I don’t want her to watch screen, give me a good suggestion of what to do.” This really makes my daughter laugh, as often her go-to for feelings of boredom is to watch screen, and I know in these moments it’s more helpful for me to help her back to independent play.

Then I’ll have the to-do hotline tell me that she should do all kinds of ridiculous things like throw all of mummy’s socks out of her sock drawer, or make a mess of her bedroom. After a few giggles my daughter is often ready to play independently again.

So when your child is complaining of boredom, try phoning the to-do hotline and see what they suggest. It could be wild and crazy things, like take a rocket and go to the moon, or leave the house right now, or have a bath with your clothes on. You can act all playfully angry and annoyed that the hotline is not suggesting anything sensible and your child can laugh and laugh Just see where your mind and the giggles lead you.

For more information on boredom check out Patty Wipfler’s article What to do when your child is bored. For regular giggle parenting ideas, sign up to my blog at the top right hand corner of this post. 

 

How To Listen To Babies

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When parents first discover Hand in Hand Parenting, and the principle of staylistening,  they often feel that they cannot apply it to young babies. It can seem too complicated or even dangerous, to try and figure out the times when a baby just needs to have his or her feelings listened to.

This is understandable;  babies use crying as a way to communicated their needs, and since they can’t use words, there’s often a lot of trial and error involved, especially for first time parents. All of us tried our best, and had moments of confusion, or worry that we weren’t getting it right.

Most parents of infants, (and I did this too many times!), can fall into the trap of thinking that our babies only cry when they need something. So when a baby cries and we can’t figure out the need is, we start getting into the mindset that if there doesn’t seem to be a need we can identify then we just need to stop the crying. We may bounce them or pat them, or shhh them. We may try just about anything if it works to gets the crying to stop.

This is where it’s really important to distinguish between ‘needs’ crying, and ‘feelings’ crying, as psychotherapist Matthew Appleton refers to the two different ways babies use crying to communicate.

Babies are born with the emotional part of their brain fully developed at birth. This means that they need to express feelings, and have a good cry, for optimum health and wellbeing just like any other age human being does.

They may also be born with big feelings that they may need to process. This could be due to a mother having stress during pregnancy, or because of a difficult birth. In the first few weeks and months of their life, they will also need to cry to process coming into the world, or to calm down after overstimulation.

When a baby cries and we know all their needs are met, when we know they are fed, and physically comfortable, and aren’t unwell, then we don’t actually have to try to get the crying to stop. In fact it’s kinder not to stop the crying. We can hold our baby in our arms, look into the eyes, and just listen.

This is not about cry it out. Science tells us that when babies are left alone to cry, their system gets overwhelmed with high levels of stress hormones. This has led many parents to believe that the crying is harmful. But it is healing for babies, just as it would be for an older child and adult. In a study where babies were left alone to cry it out, they actually stopped crying, (but remained in a highly stressed state). This shows how it is the stress of being left alone that is the problem, rather than the crying.

When a baby cries in our warm loving presence, with us there to just hold them, give them warm loving eye contact, they sense that crying is okay. There are mirror neurons in our brain that reflect and recreate the moods of those around us, so when we are anxious and pacing, trying to stop the crying, our baby picks up on our mood and mirrors our emotional state.

Instead if we can be calm with crying, and understand when babies simply need to express feelings, they can attune to our calm relaxed brain, and know that all is well. Crying is actually vital to healthy brain development and for promoting secure attachments. A baby whose given the space to cry in the first few months of his life, knows that his feelings are welcome.

Figuring out when a baby just needs to express feelings, isn’t always easy. It’s always good to err on the side of caution, to trust our instincts, and to seek medical advice if you have any concerns. A listening partner is a vital part of this process. Often our reactions to our baby’s crying are so entwined with our unconscious memories of hurt from our infancy, that we need to process these before beginning the process of listening to our own baby.

For more information about how we can listen to babies feelings, check out Patty Wiplers’  new parent podcasts or my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children which is focused on applying the Hand in Hand Parenting approach from birth to age 5.

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A Giggle Parenting Cure For Grumpy Mornings

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This morning my daughter woke up thinking it was Saturday and was most disappointed to find out it wasn’t! Uhoh I thought, finding myself going into an inner dialogue of whether school was really the right choice, and wishing it was still the holidays.

Then a thought sprung into my mind. My daughter was wrapped in a rug on the sofa, and I started telling her, ”if you don’t get dressed soon, I’ll have to take you in this rug, and then the teacher will ask, is this a flying carpet, because no flying carpets are allowed in school, and then you’ll say abracradabra, and the rug will start flying in the sky with all your friends on it. And the teacher will say, come on down, it’s time to sit in the circle, no flying carpets are allowed in school!”

She was laughing a lot at this scenario and after that happily went to get dressed.

It’s so easy for us to get triggered by our child’s grumpiness, to go off into our own grumpy, despairing thoughts. Our own thoughts make our child’s mood much bigger than it needs to be.

Even after five years of using this laughter tool I’m still amazed at how quickly it transforms things. One of the things I like about telling stories, is just how limitless our imagination is, how we can use it to conjure up stories and outlandish situations to make our children laugh, and diffuse the tension.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you can use the power of words to get laughter going with your kids.

Here’s a few suggestions for inventing silly stories.

  1. Have the children in the more powerful role. In my story the children have the power. They’re flying on a carpet while the teacher is frustrated and helpless, trying to get them to come back down. It’s so different to the norm where children often have their days dictated by adults feel that it helps to diffuse tension.
  2. Include adults doing silly things that are quite out of character. Children love it when adults start doing ridiculous things. So perhaps you make up a story where dad goes to the supermarket and ends up the moon instead, or mum starts building an aeroplane to take the kids to school. Or a doctor ends up baking a cake instead of checking the patients, and then gives everyone cupcakes instead of medicine.
  3. Tie the stories to the challenges you’re facing in the moment – So if your child won’t clean their teeth, maybe you sit and tell them a story about a giant toothpaste tube, that got delivered and when you squeezed it the whole living room filled up with toothpaste, or if they are finding it hard to wind down to sleep, so you create stories about beds, that won’t stay still and keep trying to fly out of the window on adventures, while you – the frustrated parent try to make everything go smoothly again.
  4. Take time to relax and laugh yourself – If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, then take some time to nurture yourself and have a good giggle, whether it’s with a friend, listening partner, or watching a comedy show. This helps us tap in and exercise our humour muscle so the jokes start flowing.

For more ideas about giggles can transform your family life check out the archives on my blog, or sign up in the top right-hand corner, for regular inspiration.

How To Spring Clean With Kids

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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! 

What’s it like to have someone to listen to you for 7 days?

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Last week I ran a free listening challenge in which parents got together every day for 7 days to listen to each other. This is the Hand in Hand Parenting  tool of listening partnerships (LP’s for short), and this is what parents had to say about the experience.

”Thanks to Kate for this challenge. I have a regular LP but we don’t talk nearly enough and I was already aware of needing more LP time, this week has confirmed that for me. I love all the tools but I don’t think i can do the others nearly as effectively as I need to if I don’t up my LP time, especially since I have an emotional project in the works for each of my kids. Thanks to all who have listened to me and talked with me this week. This has been the best week I’ve had in a long time, and I’m feeling so hopeful for the future and happy to have found at least one new regular partner. I hope everyone is getting as much out of this as I am, and if not I hope you keep trying until you find a good fit in a Listening Partner.

”I wanted to thank Kate and all of my listening partners over the last week. I had never done a Listening Partnership before and before this week I was looking for every excuse to back out. I am so happy I didn’t. It felt amazing to be heard and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed listening. It let me know that there are so many amazing moms out there who love their kids so deeply.
After a listening time, I walked away feeling connected and calm. There is something powerful about being 100% honest about your feelings and actions and listening to someone else be 100% honest with you. There is rarely a point in the day when I can be totally myself without fear of judgement and I was able to release emotions and finally start working on some things after my listening partnership. It is so wonderful to know I have other moms out there I can reach out to at anytime. 
I know it is already positively impacting my parenting. I am able to be less reactive in the moment and more aware of trying to build connection with daughters throughout the day – instead of thinking of ‘consequences’ for behavior. It has also helped my friendships and marriage by not trying to make everyone else in my life my listening partner – which was not working so well! Thanks again! I wish everyone the best!”

”Can I just say thank you to Kate for bringing us all together? I’ve had an amazing week so far and it’s really got me thinking as to how I can bring intense bursts of daily LPs into my life more (if not all the time!). THANK YOU Kate Orson :)”

”Hi! Thank you Kate for organizing this wonderful challenge! I feel so relaxed even in stressful situations! :)”

”Thank you for setting up this challenge! I was apprehensive before about the idea of opening up to people I have never met, and different people each day. I have been surprised with how easy and mutual it has been. Feeling very supported. :-)”

”i love the way I can learn how to listen better by doing LP with a number of people. I am touched by the personal sharing and it makes me feel like part of a greater family. At first I thought I’d have to explain my life history to each one. Actually I could start with what’s going on now and sometimes it lead back to the past but I didn’t need to explain anything. I think it’s a great tool. I was amazed to see how many people were ready to do this challenge.”

”Thank you for setting up the challenge. It’s been great getting to know other women this week so far and telling my story to new people. I also realized how far I have come since a year ago. Always room for improvement but still!”

”Looking forward to this new day of listening! I had great meetings and met some amazing people ( you know who you are!). Thanks Kate for putting together this event! Hugs!”

Would you like to be listened to every day for 7 days? I’ll be running another challenge later in the year. Simply sign up to my blog (using the button in the top right hand corner) and you’ll get notified when the next challenge opens up.

In the meantime you can learn more about listening time with Hand in Hand Parenting’s online self-study course, Building A Listening Partnership. The course includes videos and audio recordings of real-life listening sessions, along with Patty Wipfler’s expert tips.

And if you’d like to find a listening partner, just reach out and ask for support in the Hand in Hand Parents support group on facebook.

Permission To Feel Sad This Holiday Season

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Three years ago on Christmas morning I started crying. My grandmother had died a month earlier and I was spending Christmas with my in-laws. Suddenly I felt bad, as if I had abandoned my own family. My husband got upset too, I could see that he was feeling unhappy that I was suddenly wanting to be somewhere else. I could see that he thought I was ruining Christmas by getting upset.

In my blog post Got Christmas Gift Tantrums? Try This I explain how actually listening to our children’s feelings is the most effective way to prevent them from ‘ruining’ the festivities. Just staying with them and allowing them to get to the end of their cry means they get their upset completely out of their system, and can see the situation from a fresh perspective.

We also need to do this for ourselves and other adults around us. We need to allow them to feel sad too. If someone’s missing this year, grieve for them. If dinner turns into a disaster have a moan and a rage. Listen to each other when things are tough. This means that upsets don’t have to colour the whole day. Often we can feel better within a few minutes.

This year my sister has leukemia, and I have spent the last few days recovering from donating stem cells so she could have a transplant. The idea for this blog post popped into my head, and I’m taking a sneaky half hour to write it while my daughter and her dad play in the park. Then I’ll be going off to the hospital. My Christmas this year is far from the picture postcard type of Christmas that it’s very easy for me, to just stay with whatever I’m feeling, to know that I don’t have to force happiness, and that I can feel sad. And when I do so, when I take five minutes to cry, I can then access a more genuine happiness. Real festive magic comes from fully feeling the sadness and finding a deeper happiness beyond it.

If you find yourself feeling low don’t be afraid to admit it. Write out a text to a friend or listening partner, or ask if they’ll listen to your for five minutes. Lets break the taboo that celebrations have to be happy every single minute. When we open the door to our our sadness, we can move beyond it to joy.