How Listening Partnerships Can Help You Make Parenting Decisions

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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

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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.

Giggle Parenting For Taking Medicine

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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

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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

When your child doesn’t want to do special time

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Special time; one of the five Hand in Hand Parenting tools, is a wonderful way to deepen your connection with your child, to build the safety they need to tell us their feelings. This 1-1 time following your child’s lead is something all children crave, and they will usually embrace the chance to do whatever they choose and soak up your loving attention.

So if you offer your child some special time and they say no it can leave you feeling confused and frustrated. Why on earth would a child choose not to do something they love with you?

Sometimes children feel particularly disconnected. Their feeling of hurt is so strong that it stands in the way of being with you. When my daughter say no to special time, it’s often because I’ve been unavailable for a while. And so she’ll tell me about the rejection she felt in the only way she knows how; by rejecting me.

Our children are hopeful, and forgiving so even if things have been tough, they won’t hold it against us for long. With a bit of fun and effort, they’ll soon open up, and want to be with us again.

If your young child is refusing special time; try this. Get a stuffed toy and beg them to do special time. You could have the toy say something funny like, ”I think you’re right not to do special time with your stinky mummy, lets run away and do special time by ourselves.”

Then have the toy run away with your toy and chase them saying, ”hey, that’s not fair. I want to do special time.” Playlistening games like this melt the ice and make it more likely your child will say yes next time.

If your child refuses to do special time, even with the stuffed toy, have the toy hide in a box, or pillow and then ‘sneak up’ on your child, to spend time with them, doing whatever they are doing. Follow where your mind takes you, and see how you can use play, and giggles, to reconnect.

Another tactic that also works well, particularly with older children is to try some ‘unannounced’ special time.

Life happens, our connection can get frayed, but with a few fun games at the ready, we can get back to joyful connection again.

For more ideas on how to reconnect after difficult times you might also want to check out my article Healing Broken Connections.

The Giggle Parenting Guide To ipad Wrestling

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Hand in Hand Parenting is all about giving children the deep sense of connection they need to be their natural, good, co-operative selves. And screentime can sometimes get in the way of providing this connection.

If your child’s behaviour has been a bit off kilter, then it’s highly likely they need more connection with you. You might be right there, and present and available, but if hurt feelings are clogging up their system, making it hard to think, then they might be more likely to zone out on a screen than come seeking connection.

If you are experiencing, whining, moaning, outbursts of anger or aggression, or withdrawn or shy behaviour in public, or pretty much any off-track behaviour then that’s a sign your child needs more connection.

If your child’s having a lot of screentime, then try this giggle parenting game to switch off, and add in more connection.

Move in close to your child when they’re watching their screen. Make eye contact, or at least try to, and put your hands on the screen. This is what we call physically ‘bringing the limit.”Rather than calling across the room to your child, you come close and add the connection they need. Tell them that you think you should do something else together.Let them know they can go back to their episode later/another day etc. Be warm and friendly in your tone, rather than ‘serious’ to invite them to be playful with you.

Don’t grab the ipad out of their hands quickly and put it away, instead, keep hold of it but let them hold it too, this gives them the chance to object, and to express their disappointment, rather than feeling powerless.

Your child might start crying or tantrumming in which case you can staylisten to those feelings. By listening and empathising instead of distracting or fixing, you help to heal the hurt that is causing their sense of disconnection.

Or they might try wrestling the ipad out of your hands, and start laughing as they try to get away from you. This is where ipad wrestling comes in! You need to stay one step ahead of your child so that no damage comes to the ipad. Stay within arms reach, or keep your hands on the ipad. Remind them that it’s time to put it away but stay warm and friendly. As your child, laughs, and tries to wriggle the ipad out of your hands, they are soaking up that warm connection they need to think clearly enough to co-operate.

Setting limits like this does take time, but it’s in an investment in time, because all those grumpy, off-track feelings get to be released so your child’s overall behaviour improves, and life becomes a lot easier. You can try this game with any object you’d like to take out of your child’s hands, and it can be a great one to use in sharing struggles too.

We tried this yesterday and within minutes my daughter was happy to put the ipad away. I noticed how the game shifted from her not wanting to give me the ipad to her simply enjoying the fun game and power reversal play. I didn’t need to physically take it away against her will, but instead wait until she was willing to co-operate. And she was in a great mood afterwards.

It was a helpful reminder to me, that setting limits with our child doesn’t have to be about being the ‘mean parent’ who goes against our child’s wishes. It’s about looking at the deeper need beneath their behaviour, and fulfilling that instead. And that deeper human need we all crave is quite simple; it’s connection.

For more information about the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to setting limits download your free ebook here. Or check out their Setting Limits online self-study course


 

How A Walk In The Forest Can Be Therapy For Kids

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I didn’t enjoy family walks as a child. There seemed to be nothing more boring than walking in a straight line for hours on end. I’m sure I spent a lot of the time moaning and whining, and being left behind as my parents were caught in a power struggle with me refusing to move.

I’m pretty sure it was these memories that made me reluctant to inflict the same thing on my own daughter. And yet all around me parents were happily going off on hikes with their children. We live in a small village surrounded by hills and forest, and on the weekends the place is filled with families happily hiking.

I can remember when my daughter was 2 years old we went for a lovely walk along a coastal path in Scotland. There were three older children who all had great fun taking care of her along the way, and she walked almost non-stop for about 4 hours! That gave me an indication of how long kids can walk if they feel in the mood for it!

As I’ve learnt more about children’s emotions, I’ve learnt that hiking can not only be fun for kids, it can also be like therapy. Here’s why:

It was something that Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection said that made me realise what was going on when my daughter complained about walking. She told me how she began to realise that the movement of walking was causing emotions to rise to the surface in her kids and then they began telling her about them.

When our children start moaning about how tired they are, and how they don’t want to walk any further, and how they hate walking, we can take their words at face value, perhaps they really are overtired.

But often, what’s happening is something called the The Broken Cookie Phenomenon. When children’s feelings bubble up, and they can’t think straight. The part of their brain responsible for rational thinking and language, literally doesn’t function well when children (and adults!) are upset. This means they may not be able to articulate the real reason they are upset in the moment, and so they’ll tend to pin it on the nearest thing: i.e the walking.

When my daughter started Kindergarten she really liked to have lazy afternoons at home. But after a while I began to think that although she needed less stimulus in the afternoon she might need some physical exercise. She’s always been a night owl and took a long time to wind down for sleep. I was having to wake her each morning. I really wanted her to wake naturally so her body could get all the sleep she needed.

After reading this article about sleep from Dr. Laura Markham I thought an afternoon walk might tire her out.

My daughter didn’t like the idea of a walk but somehow we got into a roleplay with her doll Kira, and her mum Avinda. Kira kept complaining that she didn’t want to go for a walk, while Avinda told her she would have to as it would help her sleep. Somehow we managed to get out of the house with my daughter projecting her reluctance onto career instead.

After a few minutes of walking though, my daughter began crying. I staylistened to her, stopping walking, and getting down on her level. I acknowledged her feelings, and told her we’d try to go a little further, and that I was sure she could do it. After a few minutes of crying, she asked for me to pretend Kira didn’t want to walk. We had a lot of fun and laughter (The Hand in Hand Parenting tool of playlistening) with Kira landing on the ground and refusing to go any further.

We ended up walking up a hill and down again at which point my daughter said, ”this walk has given me more energy!”

The next time we went hiking my daughter also cried and was reluctant for the first 20 minutes. I just kept listening to her, and sure enough, after the tears were over she was filled with energy and happy and enthusiastic about her hike.

These days when I suggest a hike my daughter is happy and excited. I think she’s gone through the process enough times to realise that if any upset feelings come up she will get through it with my empathy and listening, and end up having a great time. We always bring along her dolls and pack a few snacks.

We are the best judge of our children. We can learn their limits and energy levels. And we can also learn to see through their lethargic moments, and use a ‘listening hike’ as a way to help their bodies and minds feel better.

If you’re looking for some playful ways to help children with their feelings about walking check out 15 Playful Ways To Get Children To Walk

And if you’d like to learn more about The Broken-Cookie Phenomenon and how children need our listening to process their emotions check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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