It’s pretty safe to say that most parents wish to be mindful in their approach. They hope to be fair and kind, loving and responsive and to raise their children with awareness and empathy. I do believe this is the intent that we all start with.
However! As you know, once that baby arrives it often becomes all about survival and doing whatever works. As that baby becomes a fabulous toddler with a strong will and ideas of its own, our democratic ideas on parenting can often be pushed aside. We can sometimes feel out of control and before we know it, we are no longer parenting in the way we had ideally hoped for.
Parenting styles vary
In my many years of working in parent education, I have seen that parenting styles vary greatly. At one end of the spectrum there is authoritarian parenting. This style usually consists of very firm boundaries, punishments, rewards and using power over children to get them to behave. This can often result in children feeling controlled, which leads to disconnection and consequently fear can run the relationship. On the other end of the parenting spectrum, we have permissive parenting. This can be seen as letting the child call the shots, meeting every need of the child and never letting them get upset. In later years this can play out with the child feeling entitled and the parents often feeling controlled.
There are often issues with both of these styles of parenting. Ideally, we would like to sit somewhere in the middle ground. This is where the concept of connected parenting can be very helpful. Over 20 years of raising my own three children, I instinctively aimed to parent this way. Along the journey, I made mistakes as I fumbled my way through with good intentions. I did a lot of research and looked for parenting guides and philosophies that might inform and support my intended approach to parenting. Over time, I was able to bring my experience, research and learnings together in workshops to help other parents achieve their goals of Connected Parenting.
Connection is key
Connected parenting is a combination of limits and boundaries along with gentleness, close attachment, love and connection. The core message of connected parenting is respectfully listening and tenderly nurturing the full spectrum of our children’s emotions and feelings. Being mindful to not shut them down when they are mad or angry, but instead help them process their big feelings by staying close, keeping calm and connected and modelling empathy as their emotions move through them. It is also about staying connected to ourselves as parents and making sure we take care of our needs, in order to manage our own stresses and worries.