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Five Connection Tools That Will Transform Your Parenting

What is Hand in Hand Parenting?

Like no other work we know, parenting is all-demanding, all consuming. So often the work we do as parents goes unnoticed, despite it being the most important role we will ever have. There is rarely anyone cheering us on as we make it out through the door with our children, teeth-brushed and bags packed, without a fuss. No one pats us on the back when our spirited youngest child agreeably participates in conversation through dinner.

These indeed should be moments of triumph, but more often, instead of praise, parents feel judged. Judged for what we should be doing and how. We are just as aware of the disapproving glances as we are the doubting voices in our heads.

Life keeps us busy. Too often, we are too busy to savor the sweetness that parenting brings on so many occasions. And we are confused, because so often those good times get swallowed by the crying, and the hitting and the mean words. What should we do when they beg for the blue bowl and then howl for the green? When your child screams that they hate you because you said no to ice-cream? When they throw the firetruck although you specifically told them not too? When you worry that you’ll never get them to school on time.

And then there is the responsibility. How can we raise calm, cooperative, intrepid children when we are so often panicked, angry, and lonely as parents?

Connection Five ToolsParenting is emotional and it is on-going. Yet, we try so hard. We get up, again and again, and we get right into the tangle of family life, where we attempt to untie the knots of worry, doubt and wrongdoings.

Because, what holds all of this together is the love and the connection we have for our children.

We so very much want to do right by them.

Hand in Hand founder Patty Wipfler is a huge champion of parents. She’s done the job herself, and she’s spent 40 years working with thousands more. She knows inside out the trials and the challenges that parenting brings, the loneliness and the desperation. During this work over four decades, she has pioneered five simple, practical tools that take intimidation and punishment out of parenting, replacing them instead with caring limits and listening skills.

Her tools offer parents and caregivers a deep understanding of the way a child’s mind is working and offers accessible solutions for them to work calmly with their children to build strong and lasting connections.

Why Connection is the Key

“Your child has a unique and wondrous mind. But to function well, their developing mind needs a sense of close connection with you as surely as they need food, shelter, and sleep,” says Patty. “When your child feels close to you, their brain forms the neural pathways that allow them to learn, remember, and think…When they sense you’re on their side, they can learn, cooperate, and connect with others.”

Hand in Hand works with thousands of parents, teachers, and therapists across the globe to bring these life-changing tools to families. They also appear in a complete parenting resource, in Patty’s book Listen: Five Simple Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges. Written with co-author Tosha Schore, herself raised with the Tools and now a Certified Hand in Hand Trainer, this practical guide has all parents need for a calmer, confident parenting approach.

Listen will help if you:

  • Are tired of the yelling, the time-outs, and resorting to threats
  • Wish you knew why your child cries or hits and is aggressive
  • Would you like to see your children playing together more peacefully
  • Dream of handling delicate moments, like separation anxiety and bedtime battles, with calm and tenderness
  • Want practical parenting tools and insights on how to use them
  • Want a community of like-minded parents

The book demonstrates clearly how the Tools work, when to apply them, and what results you can expect, and lists hundreds of real-life stories from parents all over the world using these Tools to transform their relationships with their children.

Five Tools, and how they can help you

Here’s a handy guide to the Tools and how parents use them. Each delivers bursts of connectivity between you and your child, and as you use more and more, connection and trust grows.

Special Time:  A simple way to pour love and attention into your child. You set aside one-on-one time, and let your child choose what the two of you will do. It’s up to you how often Special Time will be, and for how long, but even three minutes daily can have a profound affect on your relationship with your child.

Here’s How It Works: “After trying every threat and punishment I could think of, I finally started using the Hand in Hand approach. We started getting up thirty minutes early so we could play! I mean, really play! We started with Special Time. My husband and I would trade off playing with each girl so each of them got a chance with each parent. We just did twenty minutes right after breakfast, before we asked them to do that infinite list of chores before they went to school. It worked! They actually brushed their teeth without my threats! They even made their beds without me helping. It was amazing.”

Special Time accustoms your child to feeling well connected. It also attunes you to your child, so after awhile you’ll anticipate difficult moments more often, and learn to plan for them.

StayListening-Icon-FullColor-RGBStaylistening: You’ll find that listening is a powerful remedy when your child cries, has a tantrum, or is frantic with fear. They pour out the hurt they feel; you listen, and pour in your quiet confidence that they’ll recover. When you Staylisten, you will move away from fixing things: instead, you will trust your child to recover and figure things out. You will move away from lecturing: you’ll assist your child as they clear away their upset.

Here’s How It Works: I noticed that my five-year-old son had a really difficult time getting up in the mornings for school. I did my best to make the routine of getMom staylistening cropting out of the house fun. One morning, no matter how creative I got, he refused to leave his bed. When I finally got him out of bed he dragged his feet to the kitchen, but kept playing instead of moving toward the table to eat. I offered to hold his toy for him so he could eat, and as I reached for the toy my nail brushed his arm.

“Ouch! Why did you do that?” He threw himself on the floor in anger, telling me that I had scratched him on purpose. “No, honey, that was an accident,” I replied calmly.

He got louder as he started to argue with me. I immediately noticed that he was no longer rational, and figured that he just needed to be angry about the scratch, so I listened warmly, placing my hand on his back and offering him my gaze.

“I’m sorry I scratched you, sweetie,” I told him as he looked at me, crying. After a short time, he let me know that the reason he was so upset was that he really didn’t want to go to school. He didn’t feel listened to, and felt alone there. I just listened. When he was done crying, he walked over to eat. Then he put his clothes on for school. We brushed our teeth. “Maybe it will be a good day,” my son said. He put on his jacket and backpack, and we headed out to the car.

Allowing your child to cry things all the way through is a bit like allowing your child to nap till they wake. In both crying and napping, the mind is busy doing important internal work. Housekeeping, you could say. Things get tidied up nicely. Energy recharges.

SettingLimits-Icon-FullColor-RGBSetting Limits: A crucial tool in your work as a parent. Your child needs and deserves a limit as soon as their behavior starts to veer off track. A good limit gives your child the chance to offload the emotional tension that clouds their behavior, so they can return to the fun of learning and enjoying those around her.

Here’s How It Works: “When my son was four, he went through a period of great resistance to getting dressed. Over a few weeks I tried all sorts of play to loosen the tension. I’d make his clothes talk to him and hide from him, try to put them on myself, pretend to not know how to help him get dressed, and more. Despite my efforts, getting dressed remained a daily struggle.

Finally, one day I told him it was time to put his clothes on. When he tried to run away I pulled him onto my lap and said again, “It’s time to get dressed now.” He started to cry and thrash. I kept him with me, holding his arms so he couldn’t hit or scratch, and listened. When he started to let up I’d tell him that it was time to put his clothes on, and then listen while he cried some more. After what felt like a very long time he stopped struggling, sat up in my lap, looked right at me and asked if I would still recognize him when he grows up. I reassured him that I’d always know him and always love him, even if he looked different. It was like a switch had been flipped. After offloading that fear, getting dressed was no longer an issue.”

“No” is sometimes the kindest word, and it’s often an absolutely necessary word. A warm “no” can move your child forward, and save lots of wear and tear on you.

PlayListening-Icon-FullColor-RGBPlaylistening: This is the art of eliciting laughter in play with your child as you take the less powerful role. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, and your child’s confidence will build as you learn to instigate a playful role reversal or a chase game where you are too bumbling to catch them.

Here’s How It Works: “At a family gathering there were too many kids and too many expectations of polite behavior. The kids, my son in particular, were falling apart. My son and I took a break in another room and had a bad manners festival. We burped, blew bad breath at each other, made farting noises, and just laughed and laughed. Taking the less powerful role, his burps and farts were always bigger and better. A couple of cousins joined us and we had a fabulous time as I then pretended to be shocked at their “bad manners” We laughed and played for about fifteen minutes before having to head back to the dining room for dinner. The kids were so lighthearted and cooperative! They had excellent manners throughout the meal. The bonus was building a secret alliance in which we all shared an inside joke.”

The two hallmarks of Playlistening are laughter and your child’s sense that they are in charge. Any time your child is full of unforced giggles, without tickling, and their appetite for fun is big, they are making gains.

ListeningPartnership-Icon-FullColor-RGBListening Partnerships: A Listening Partnership is built to tackle the inevitable stress that’s a byproduct of parenting. It’s a straightforward tool: you exchange listening with a parent of your choice. You decide what you want to say. You express your feelings about the situations that irk you day after day. The other parent listens with warmth and respect. They don’t give advice—you know your own life and children best. Their aim is to listen as you offload tension. Then, you listen in return. It’s simple, cost-free and a great way to reduce stress.

Here’s How It Works: “Once my son turned five, he was ready to go to school. As the school year progressed, he began a habit of calling out to me in the mornings, saying he couldn’t dry himself when he got out of the shower. This became frustrating, as I needed to get everyone out by a certain time, and I knew that he was good at drying himself and getting dressed. One day, in a Listening Partnership, I talked about my frustration and the feelings that were coming up for me each morning.

I remembered that, at this same age, I also wanted my parents to come dry me after showering. I remembered wanting to feel their closeness; that they made it fun; and that my older brother had called me a big baby. I had the chance to cry about this, and realized that my son needed the connection with me. I am now able to approach mornings with a whole new understanding and patience.”

There’s nothing like a Listening Partnership out there! It’s the parent support tool that helps us bring our best selves to our children and each other, day in and day out.Dad playlistening

These five simple listening tools let you nurture your child and yourself, an absolute essential for calm and connected parenting. “When you have good support for your parenting, you can sense things moving forward with your children. It’s easier to find a moment for yourself. You know where to turn when the day becomes challenging. And often, you have what it takes to offer your children moments of warm attention,” says Patty.

As the tools become habits, you become the confident, calm parent you want to be.

From the Hand in Hand Toolbox

Go to Day Two of our Listen Launch series on Special Time: Build A Strong Connection in Minutes


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