by Sarah Fisher
Founder of Connective Family
Helping parents and children to connect
Parenting is easy – said no one ever! All parents and carers need a helping hand at some point or another, whether that’s from supportive wider family, friends or another source of help. Much heated debate and discussion exists on the merits of the ‘best’ or ‘latest’ parenting approach. But one thing’s for sure – there’s no one size fits all.
Parenting struggles come in all shapes and sizes – you might be struggling to connect with your determined three year old, trying to get your teen away from a screen or experiencing aggression from your child.
Dealing with challenging behaviour from your children is exhausting – you’ve likely already tried hard to sort things out on your own, you’re quietly worried and it can feel lonely at times.
What is Connective Parenting NVR?
Connective Parenting NVR is a therapeutic parenting approach with a firm focus on connection and presence rather than ‘traditional’ parenting. What does this mean? It means that it doesn’t try to change the child’s behaviour through using consequences or rewards, but through the presence of the parent or carer in the child’s life.
Let’s explain a bit more about it.
Connective Parenting is based on the principles of non-violent resistance (you might hear this called NVR) and draws on a wide range of therapeutic models. It’s a wholly ‘doable’ approach because it’s easy to adapt to whatever challenges you’re facing.
In a nutshell, Connective Parenting NVR can help you create a stronger connection, reduce meltdowns and feel in control. Connection brings positive change and works with all families – birth parents, foster carers, adoptive parents and kinship carers.
If we focus on building connections with our children, it starts to open the door to a different relationship, better communication and less disruptive behaviour.
So, where to start?
The Connective Parenting NVR approach is about us as adults looking after children and thinking about how we react and interact with them.
Start with you:
It takes energy to make changes and if you feel overwhelmed or like you’re running on empty, you need to work on this first, otherwise it’s hard or even impossible! Try some deep breathing, go for a short walk each day, read a few pages of a book, listen to music – whatever works for you.
Raise your presence:
Children need us to see them, hear them and acknowledge them, but if you’re feeling low or exhausted by their behaviours, it’s easy to back away. If this happens, their behaviours are more likely to escalate because they’re feeling a sense of disconnection. Think of it as connecting before correcting.
This is where you’re taking control of the situation as an adult in a calm and resolute way. Difficult, yes and even more so if you’re running on empty (note the point above!). There’s lots more on this but, essentially, by connecting before correcting you’re working on the relationship not the behaviour and through that reducing the challenges.
A bit about baskets!
Multi-tasking has become a way of life for many parents and carers. Add managing challenging behaviours from our child or children and it can quickly overwhelm the best of us.
Connective Parenting NVR helps to prioritise concerns using a simple basket technique. You can use three baskets, as below, or just focus on two – the small and the large one, it’s entirely up to you, whichever you find easiest.
1. The small basket is your priority basket – no more than two behaviours you want to deal with, the things that must stop. Focus on this one first.
2. The middle basket is for those things you can negotiate on – things you’re not going to totally ignore, but will think about how to handle them at some point, like bad language. If there’s two of you, be consistent and agree what’s in each basket.
3. The large basket is for everything else – all the things that are annoying but that you’re going to ignore for now. This one will likely be full but ‘let it go’.
All of the above will help to build that stronger connection with your child. It might feel a whole lot like your child doesn’t want to connect with you – but don’t let that stop you from trying. Watch their favourite movie with them, send a text to say hi when they’re out, sit on the floor with them and play a game. Keep going and you’ll soon start to see positive changes.
Parents are often reluctant to ask for help in case people think they’re ‘failing’. But there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out. Often it’s good to try something new, learn a few practical tips and techniques and put them quickly into practice by adding them to your parenting toolkit. We all need one!
Sarah Fisher is a coach, author of two books and founder of Sussex-based Connective Family, an organisation supporting parents, carers and their families. www.connectivefamily.com