Feeling and Thinking


A few weeks ago my daughter R started at a German speaking forest playgroup. It’s a lovely group where they walk into the forest, build a fire, sing songs, and make crafts out of clay and natural materials. She looked happy setting off on the adventure for the first time without me, and returned happy and excited to see me again.

A few days later, my English friend told me she would be visiting the playgroup with her daughter K, (R’s best friend). They were thinking of starting in the next school year in August. A few days after that R said she didn’t want to go back to the playgroup. I wondered why as she’d seemed so happy with the whole experience. For a few days I talked about it with her from time to time, and she seemed adamant she didn’t want to go back, that she didn’t like the things they do there.

Although I was loving the time to myself, I didn’t want to go against my daughter’s wishes, so I sent a message to cancel her place. She had tried one forest playgroup before, that she hadn’t liked. It had been very different and much longer, but I became resigned to the fact that she just didn’t like forest playgroups!

I didn’t want to cancel the place entirely, as it really is a lovely group. So I asked R if she wanted to start in August instead when her friend K was starting, and she said yes. I then sent a message to the playgroup leader.

An hour later my daughter was swinging on the swing in our garden. I was pushing her really high, and she was having fun. Suddenly she said, ‘’I do want to go to the forest playgroup on Thursday!’’ I told her that I’d cancelled the place, that I wasn’t sure if she still could. She started to cry.

I’m so glad to have discovered the Parenting by Connection approach, and to know that when she does get upset, it’s a natural healing process, that releases stress and upset, and that it helps so much just to listen rather than fixing things immediately. So I hugged her and allowed her to finish crying, and said I was sorry I cancelled the place, I just thought she didn’t want to go. I didn’t rush off to sort out the issue immediately. In that moment I just concentrated on listening to her, as I felt that would help release whatever feelings were tied up in her indecisiveness about the playgroup. My mind was focused on listening rather than ‘’fixing’’ so it took me a few minutes to think about the fact that since I’d only just sent the message I could probably ask for the place back and it wouldn’t be too late, and Ruby was happy with that.

She finished crying, and as we walked back inside, she said to me, ‘’I think I should listen really carefully to what M says.’’ M is a German speaking girl she knows well from her dance class, and another playgroup they go to together. They seem to like each other a lot even though they can’t communicate verbally.

It always amazes me just how the brain works. That when we can release our emotions, in the natural process of crying, then we can often come up with new solutions to the problems we face. This was a perfect example of this. That the root of my daughter’s indecisiveness, was her feelings about being in an environment where she didn’t speak the language. The disapointment about the playgroup was like a trigger which seemed to release some of those feelings, so she could think more clearly and come up with a new plan – to listen carefully to her German friend, and start learning German.

Our children are amazing! They can often figure things out for themselves and come up with their own solutions, provided we are there, to help them through their emotional upsets.

After that my daughter was completely sure that she definitely wanted to go back. She enjoyed her second week at forest playgroup, and I’m so glad to have these tools, to help her overcome her anxieties, and worries, so that she can build confidence and resilience as she explores the big wide world.

The Wrong Way



I went to the supermarket with my daughter, and it was so frustrating! She was constantly picking up things from the shelves, and running away from me, which she found hilarious. I was not so amused, although I tried to let her have a good laugh about pulling some toilet rolls off the shelves, because I know that she needed to release some emotions. But my self-consciousness was getting the better of me, and I quickly rushed us away to pay.

We hadn’t been laughing much together recently, and I was wondering when my ‘laughter inspiration’ was going to strike. It seemed like I just couldn’t seem to think of anything to get her laughing, and it was showing in her behaviour. I felt like I was constantly being serious, and setting limits, which wasn’t making us feel very well connected. I was feeling stressed by her whining, and other off-track behaviour, such as shouting ‘bum bum’ and ‘poo poo’ very loudly when we were in public!

On the way to catch the train home, my daughter started complaining that I was going the wrong way, because I’d chosen to go a slightly shadier route to stay out of the sun. Suddenly I had an idea, I saw a flight of steps, and turned her buggy, so we suddenly stopped in front of them. ”Whoops! We went the wrong way.” I said, and she started giggling. We carried on walking for a bit, and I saw an alleyway, so I turned down there, ”oh no, the wrong way!” I said, and she was giggling again. We carried on the game for the whole journey, bumping into lampposts and fences, spinning the buggy round in a circle, or tipping it up as we made a sudden turning and went the wrong way. My daughter joined in pointing out ways, and saying ‘lets try this way,” and every time I exclaimed, ‘whoops, it’s the wrong way!” she laughed and laughed. When we got home, we were still going the wrong way, bumping into the wall in the basement, and stopping suddenly in front of a doorway instead of the elevator.  We felt much more happy and connected.

Laughter is such a vital connection tool, and I’ve seen time and time again, that after my daughter laughs a lot, tears will come later. Like the rain after the sunshine, it’s all part of our innate natural healing process, to get rid of all the yucky feelings we can get filled up with. I’m not always filled with laughter inspiration, and it can sometimes be emotionally exhausting listening to my daughter’s upsets. But it’s a million times more rewarding than having to deal with the kind of behaviours that drive me crazy, and leave me feeling stressed and exhausted anyway! Listening partnerships help a lot, we need to release stress, with laughter and tears too.

If you have a toddler, and want to brighten up your day a bit, why not try going the wrong way? I’d love to hear how it goes. A variation of this game is if you are walking on a shopping street, holding hands with your child, you could try going into the wrong shop, turning and then stopping outside different shops. It’s even more amusing and a bit naughty if the shop has automatic doors, and the benefit in a bit of ‘prescribed naughtiness,’ is that it improves our child’s co-operation the rest of the time. So maybe next time that trip to the supermarket won’t be so frustrating after all.

And if you’re stuck for laughter inspiration too, then check out this list of laughter games, which is fantastic for young children.

What’s behind the ‘I wants’



Yesterday we went on a beautiful overnight trip to a lake here in Switzerland. As soon as we got there my two year old daughter was saying, ”I want be carried,” ”I want food,” ”I want a drink.” There seemed to be no end to her ‘wants,’, and they all seemed to come in a rush. How could she be hungry, I thought, we’d just had a big lunch. And as soon as she’d claimed she was hungry, she was onto the next want, her need for food seemingly forgotten. ”I want to go home” she demanded, which was impossible, as home was three train rides away, and it seemed a shame not to enjoy the beautiful sunny day.

Recently when we’ve been out and about she’s been asking to go home a lot. It started when we tried out a new playgroup, and although the experience was exciting for her. it seemed to leave her feeling overstimulated, and needing down time. I wondered if it was a feeling of disconnection that was causing this barrage of ‘wants,’ and that what she really needed was to process some of her emotions.

”I want to ride” my daughter said pointing at a carousel we passed by the lake side. I thought about it for a moment, remembering how much she loved the carousel at the autumn fair in Basel, and how she’d spent weeks in imaginative play afterwards at home, making rides for her dolls and teddys. I also knew that sometimes when we want to help our children with their feelings, especially at times of disconnection, that it’s good to say yes for a while. So I bought some tokens for the ride, and we had a great time together. After the first go she didn’t want to come off, and I knew that a tantrum was coming. But the ride was quite short, and I didn’t want to interrupt her fun so quickly so I let her stay on for another two rides. Then I realised that it was actually quite expensive, and it was really time to stop!

As I told her it was time to go, she was clinging tightly to the car she was sitting in. She started crying. I didn’t want to seem like I was angry, and dragging her away, and usually I would wait till she felt better before we moved, but I did need to prise her hands away in a hurry, as we had to jump off before the carousel started going again. She was crying, as I went to sit on a wall by the lake. She kept crying, as I gently explained why we had left. I gave her time to finish crying, to get all of her upset out. I knew that although she loved the ride and wanted to stay on, it was about more than that. She’s often very flexible, and can understand and accept when we need to go, or when we can’t do something. But this time it was also about the upset feelings she’d been carrying with her all week, that were making her feel like she desperately ‘wanted,’ and ‘needed’ something, when in actual fact what she really needed was some warmth and connection to release her feelings. After crying, her kind of desperate ‘I want’ attitude had completely disappeared. We spent a lovely time, paddling in a pool by the lakeside.

So if you find your patience being tried by constant demands, perhaps see if your child actually needs a bit of extra connection. Special time, or doing something our child loves together is a great way to rebuild our connection with our children when they’re upset, or have experienced a separation from us. And what often happens is that afterwards our children may start to cry. Patty Wipfler refers to this as the ‘spoiled outing’ phenomenon, that amidst all the love and connection, and togetherness our children might have a meltdown. It may seem like our children are ungrateful or greedy or just spoiling everything by letting their feelings spill out over a day that was meant to be fun. But we can look at in a different way, that they’re soaking up our love and attention, and they feel safe to tell us how they’re feeling. They may not tell us in words. They may tell us by crying when we say no to an ice cream or tell them it’s time to go home. But I hope you’ll remember the message of this blog, that crying is a healing process, that our children shed upsets, and stress from the not so special times through tears. If we can wait till the end of the tears, without distracting or interrupting our children, but instead giving them lots of closeness, and connection, then we may find that the day, far from being spoiled, is even brighter than before.