So you’ve found yourself on the Connective Parenting site. You may be here because you’re asking, What is Connective Parenting, anyway? Is it another of these new-fangled parenting techniques that will be gone when the next rend comes around? The answer to that is “No.” It’s parenting that has nothing but common sense at it’s core. It doesn’t change with the times or the parenting styles of the day. The reason it’s hard to achieve is because for most of us, that common sense has been covered over with layers of learned beliefs and expectations that derail common sense again and again.
As much as your kids drive you crazy and you will try anything to get them to mind you, you want your kids to grow strong, independent, and able to stand up for themselves. You hope your children will find happiness, be respectful of others and take responsibility for themselves. You also want to have long-lasting connected relationships with your children. Right?
But in the day-to-day struggles of in-the-trenches parenting, you often lose sight of the big picture. In the moment, you want your children to do what you tell them and be reasonably pleasant about it. But what happens when they don’t? You often end up yelling and threatening and behaving in ways you hate because you were sold this bill of goods that tells you that you should know how to raise children to do what you say and be well-behaved. Then you’re left with, What’s wrong with me and my children? I should know how to do this.
So you come down harder which only provokes more resistance from your kids, power struggles erupt daily, and you get exhausted and drained. The frustrated parent loses patience and control and spirals downward in a direction never anticipated.
Connective parenting puts a different spin on the relationship. Yes, we moms and dads are our children’s first and most important teachers, but we are also students of our children as well. Parent and child are in a relationship, and relationships must always look both ways. Reciprocal learning is constant.
Do you want your children to:
- learn accountability for their actions
- take responsibility for themselves
- be respectful and kind
- learn appropriate behavior from the world around them
- contribute to the world from a strong foundation of self-confidence?
These five components of Connective Parenting form the critical foundation for raising connected children:
- Unconditional acceptance provides a strong foundation for self-confidence. Connective parents understand that children come into the world whole and ready to absorb—but on their own time schedule and with their unique way of learning. We gain the greatest understanding of our children by accepting them: listening, watching, and trusting each child’s developmental and temperamental process. It is in this place that children thrive and a parent’s influence is strongest.
- Respect teaches respect. The connected parent acknowledges and is considerate of her child’s agenda whatever it is and whether or not it can be fulfilled. She sees that what is important to her child is just as important to him as what is important to her. Emotions and desires are always acceptable and acknowledged even when the objects of interest cannot be granted. Respect means trust — trust your child to find his way; trust that your child is always telling you what he needs.
- All children (all people, actually) want to do the right thing and will do so as long as they can. If the child is not in a receptive state, she will not learn. In other words, she must want to learn and hear what is being taught. It should never be assumed that just because she is your child, she will do what you want. Resistance means that she is having a problem, not being a problem. There is an obstacle in her way of doing what she knows is right. It is that obstacle that must be addressed and connected with in order for behavior to change. Communication is paramount.
- Behavior provides clues for a parent to understand what is going on with the child; what it is that provokes the child’s behavior. There is an underlying need that results in unacceptable behavior. If the behavior is addressed with rewards or punishments, consequences and threats, that underlying need is ignored. The behavior may get louder and more dramatic in an attempt for the child to be heard. Behavior should not be taken at face value.
- Punishment is never effective. Even consequences, the “pc” word for punishment, usually involve threats and put conditions on behavior….”If you don’t do…, you can’t ….” Connective parenting relies on problem solving and conflict resolution to truly hold a child accountable and responsible. When threats and blame are not used, defensive behavior is unnecessary and the child is free to take in the natural consequences of his behavior. He is given the opportunity to tell his side of the story, make amends, and work out a compromise that works for all involved. Again, it is about the relationship. If your spouse speaks rudely or ignores you, you wouldn’t threaten to take his cell phone away. You would attend to the relationship.
Connective Parenting does not rely on the easy methods of parenting—the old standbys. It requires accountability on the part of all parents to understand why both we and our children react the way we do. It requires the time and energy necessary to maintain a strong, respectful relationship. Is there anything more worthwhile?
Connective parenting is not a picture of happiness and perfection. When you have connective relationships in your home, it’s likely to be messy and random and unpredictable. It allows for all kinds of wonderful and awful feelings. It’s often inconvenient and annoying because it means everyone in the family has a voice and an opinion that is respected and heard. Sometimes you don’t have any answers and have to think about how a situation needs to be handled. But when you believe in the principles above, relationships are honored and tended, you come out with what you wanted in the first place.
For an amazing description of Connective Parenting from a parent who has put much time and effort into it and has reaped the benefits, read this account with many how-to pointers. And here’s one about the amazing perceptual shift that Connective Parenting can bring to your home.