A Guest Post with Catherine Fischer
As parents, we all need helpful information, which usually leads us to a dilemma. Either we don’t have much free time to seek out the information we need, or when we do, we often uncover conflicting advice.
We want answers, but we want them to work for our families, to be relevant to what’s going on with our kids. And, we often need those answers yesterday!
In the book Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges parents will find almost 100 individual stories describing how parents used the Hand in Hand Parenting Listening Tools to address their parenting struggles. Desperate parents can skip right to part 3, which describes how to handle common parenting challenges. These include creating more harmonious morning and bedtime routines, as well as reducing battles over homework, chores, and screens, but sections also address some of the deeper, emotional fears that can grip a child and that might show up in aggressive behaviors, separation anxiety or fears about new experiences. Many parents will find the answers they are looking for here.
However, the five most useful parenting tips in Listen are the ones that help us to step back and gain a fresh perspective on why things feel so hard, why our kids act the ways they do, and why the approaches we’ve been trying might not have been working.
Even when we know the Hand in Hand Parenting Listening Tools work for our families, every day it still takes an effort to replace the old parenting approaches we’ve learned by osmosis, growing up and living in societies that don’t clearly understand children’s need for connection. This is where Listen can really be a useful, everyday guide.
These Five Tips Provide a Fresh Perspective On why Parenting Feels So Hard and Why it Shouldn't Have To
Here are the five most valuable takeaways I found as I read the book.
- Your Child Doesn’t Want to Act Up
This basic brain science is a game-changer for many parents as soon as they hear it. The interaction between the limbic system, which constantly scans the environment for a sense that the child is connected to a caring adult, and the prefrontal cortex, which allows reasoning, good judgment, language processing and impulse control is so helpful for parents to know about.
When the limbic system can’t sense a connection with a caring adult, either because of what is happening in the current moment or because a child is reminded of another time they felt their connection break, then the prefrontal cortex goes “off-line.”
Children’s’ off-track behavior, aggression, whining, and general “not listening,” are a few common examples, and are signals that they need to reconnect with you. Your kids are not trying to ruin your life! They’re having a sort of emotional “emergency.”
- You Can Partner with Your Child Rather Than Punish Them
When our children’s behavior starts to go off track, we can respond to those signals by providing warmth and connection. For many parents,
it’s a relief to stop trying to punish, lecture or separate from their children to get the problem behavior to change. But it can also be hard to trust that providing connection will help. “What am I teaching them if I let them get away with it?” many of us wonder. But, we aren’t letting them get away with it. We are stopping off-track behavior by coming from a connection angle rather than a punishment angle. For more on this concept, read How Is it Possible to Parent Without Punishment?
- Connection is the Key to Calmer Parenting
When we respond to our children's behavior with warmth, eye contact, gentle touch, good humor and kind, firm limits, our children will usually begin to release big feelings.
We can learn to relax and listen to them while they offload their tensions.
After listening through their children's upsets, parents see real difference in behavior. Parents learn how anchoring children through their emotional moments teaches them self-regulation. When we are calm and present for them, they can not only offload the unavoidable tensions that build up in their lives, but their brains also learn from the calm approach you take.
Lecturing, time-outs and punishments don’t offer the same release but connection does.
- Special Time Fills your Child’s Cup with Connection
Special Time is the magical connection tool that actively helps us to address challenges we have with our children. The Hand in Hand Tools work most effectively when all used together, there is no question.
But just one experience giving a child Special Time is very often an eye-opening experience for parents that shows them how well their children respond to deciding what to do with the full, warm attention of an adult for a set amount of time without distractions.
As the authors write, “In Special Time, you set aside some time—from three minutes to an hour—and your child tells you the recipe for reaching him. You say when and where you’ll have time to connect. Your child tells you how. Special Time can be occasional or even a daily practice, depending on your family. Either way, as Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen says, it’s meant to ‘fill your child’s cup’ with connection.’”
If you only have time to read and try one thing from Listen, then the basic do’s and don’ts of Special Time are the place to begin. You can get the chapter on Special Time free here.
- We Parents Need Support for our Parenting
Let’s be honest. For most of us, parenting is harder and more confusing than we expected. Add in financial worries, dealing with injustice day-to-day, and living in a society that treats parenting more like a hobby than as valuable, even critical, work, and we often feel on our own, like we are the only ones dealing with problems.
One very special aspect of the Hand in Hand Parenting approach is that it builds in support for parents. Just as we learn to fill our children’s “cups” with connection, and see behavior improve as a result, we find that having a chance to be listened to helps us to think better, be more patient and creative with our parenting challenges, and frees us up to enjoy our parenting more!
Whether you listen to podcasts, take a class, join a support group or set up listening time with another parent, every step you take to be less alone with your parenting will bring you closer to being the parent you want to be, and building the family life of your dreams.
The work we do as parents is invaluable, even though it’s not treated that way. We work so hard to help things go well for our families.
These five useful tips from Listen can help us make it through the day when things are hard, and they guide us for even better days ahead.
meet the instructor
Catherine Fischer lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her son and is a certified Hand in Hand instructor, doula, and former elementary teacher. In her parenting classes and consultations, Catherine offers empathy and a sense of humor alongside the concrete strategies of the Hand in Hand Parenting approach, which she has used for 20 years. You can find all of Catherine's in-person classes in Ann Arbor, Michigan.