Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed., Director of Connective Parenting
Bonnie is a parenting and child behavior specialist. She has designed and taught parenting workshops and counseled parents for more than twenty five years. Her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education is from Bank Street College in New York City. Bonnie founded The Parent Guidance Center in Peterborough, NH in 1990, now The River Center, dedicated to parent education, support and community connections. She has written two books, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parent, Remarkable Kids, speaks and teaches internationally and has appeared on many television and radio programs and podcasts. Bonnie lives in NH with her husband and is the mother of two grown children and three grandchildren.
The everyday trenches of parenting my own children taught me that our children are fine — until we get in their way with our expectations and fears of what they will become. My children taught me what they each needed to thrive. It took me awhile to learn to listen to them instead of what I had been taught all my life. But when I got there, our relationships changed for the better and never turned back. It was up to me to make the changes.
The Connective Parenting Philosophy gives parents the tools to communicate in a way that feels good — that feels right. It is a common sense approach that does not change with current trends. Simply put, it is a change in perception that allows us as parents to understand where our children are coming from both developmentally and temperamentally. It teaches what behavior means and what provokes it. And it gives parents the tools to respond to it with appropriate expectations instead of reacting to it with yelling, threatening, rewarding, or punishing.
As a parent educator, counselor and coach, I have worked with parents from many cultures and have learned a lot about what you, the concerned parent, want. You want to be the best parent you can be, but you get easily frustrated and say and do what you swore you wouldn’t. You may not want to raise your children the way you were raised, but you’re at a loss as to what to do instead.
You want to teach your children right from wrong, but you know that the old ways don’t work for your kids. Maybe you have learned that time-outs and punishment don’t work, but when impatience or guilt gets the best of you, you fluctuate between empty threats and giving in. You are exhausted from daily power struggles and endless arguments and overwhelmed by the effort it takes in the limited time you have. You want your children to have the voice you never had, but when they use it, your button gets pushed, because they say and do what you never dared. You want desperately to do what is right, to have happy, responsible children, but your methods keep backfiring.
Letting go of old habits is the hard part. We fear losing authority and giving in to our children’s demands. But many of our old habits undermine our authority and leave us fluctuating between autocratic and permissive styles. Connective Parenting finds the balance between the child’s needs and the parent’s needs.
Bonnie Harris’ books:
My book When Your Kids Push Your Buttons led to an appearance on The Today Show, Asia News broadcast from Singapore, ABC broadcast in Australia as well as radio and TV programs across the United States. My second book, Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With distills my approach into 8 clear principles and applies them to everyday situations to help parents connect and communicate in order to raise their children to be respectful, responsible, independent adults. I teach “Buttons” workshops and professional trainings, and I speak internationally on a variety of parenting topics as well as across the internet.
The Philosophy of Connective Parenting
Connective Parenting guides parents in the discovery of why both they and their children behave and respond the way they do. Connective Parenting believes the child wants to do what is right, wants to cooperate, wants to succeed and only gets off track when an obstacle derails him. His behavior is a cue to discovering that obstacle.
In this light, misbehavior is seen through the perception that the child is having a problem, not being a problem. Connection can then occur when understanding and compassion replace anger and resentment.
This revolutionary parenting style means that the parent takes responsibility for 100% of everything she or he says and does but does not take responsibility for the child’s feelings, thoughts, or behavior. That is the child’s job that he learns well through connection, problem-solving and conflict resolution.
Connective Parenting encourages and focuses on the child’s strengths rather than inadequacies while setting necessary limits to ensure self-respect and respect for others. It engages the child’s innate sense of fairness and logic.
If we want our children to listen to us, we need to say what they can hear — not give them what they want, but simply acknowledge and respect what they want. Connective communication encourages listening and talking and feeling important to someone — interaction. Disconnection occurs when we are indifferent as well as critical, blaming, and punitive — when we unintentionally push our children away.
Connective Parenting is a philosophy of parenting that serves as a reservoir from which parents can draw, even in the heat of the moment, instead of grabbing at straws with automatic knee-jerk reactions.
- taps into the issues that prevent parents from parenting the way their heart knows best
- supports the rights and needs of each member of the family in order to maintain balance and foster a strong family environment
- promotes supporting the inborn nature of the child
- teaches parenting that never asks children to alter their nature in order to gain acceptance and approval
- encourages parents to take responsibility for how they parent
- encourages conscious parenting so that automatic reactions seldom occur
- focuses on the root cause of behavior rather than the behavior itself
- encourages parents to see that the “misbehaving” child as a child is having a problem not being a problem
- helps parents to connect with their children through reconnecting to their own selves
- promotes parenting that offers unconditional acceptance of children while setting appropriate limits, structure, and guidance
- encourages parents to watch in awe the individual journeys of their children and learn from them
The traditional reward and punishment system of parenting in our culture intends to teach children right from wrong and shape their characters into personalities that society sees fit. Within this system, most parenting has fallen short for generations. Why? Because it doesn’t work.
Children thrive and develop beautifully on respect, connection, and most important, acceptance. Acceptance for who they are. To accept them, we must first learn to understand them by understanding their behavior. That means finding its root and what provokes that behavior. Then our job is to accept the essence of who they are and not try to change it.
As soon as children believe that who they are is unacceptable, they either act out inappropriately or try to be who they think they should be. When they feel accepted, their sense of self remains strong to give them a solid foundation on which to develop self-respect and self-confidence.
Connective Parenting finds the balance between the needs of the child and the needs of each member of the family. When either the child’s needs or the parent’s needs become more important in the family dynamic, balance is off and problems emerge. When there is balance, the family is healthy and strong and serves as a base for life.