Setting Limits Helped My Daughter Cooperate Willingly

My six year old daughter seemed fine when she came home from school.  Her nine year old brother had been sick for three days and I was looking forward to her being with us.  However, it wasn’t long before she started being cutting snowflakesuncooperative, demanding and grumpy.

She said, “No, I’m not putting my backpack away” and then commanded, “Get me some milk.”  This was really a jolt to my system after a quiet day with my son. I didn’t like where this was going so I decided to set a limit and see what would happen.

She was cutting snowflakes at the table and I put my hand over hers saying, “Honey, your backpack needs to be put away, so I cannot let you cut anymore snowflakes until you do that.”  She screamed at me, “Noooooo” and stomped off to the living room.  I followed her, moved in next to her warmly and put my hand on her knee.  Instantly, she put her head on my lap and sobbed for about 30 minutes.

She told me that it wasn’t fair that her brother got to stay home with me and that we all did stuff that he wanted to do.  She was able to offload her feelings of being left out and the unfairness of me doting on her brother.  After about 30 minutes of this, without me saying a word, she got up and put her backpack away.  I got her a glass of milk and we calmly and playfully sat at the table making more snowflakes.  It was amazing to watch the shift in her after she got her big feelings out.

-Certified Instructor, Kristen Volk

Stopping Sibling Rivalry Through Playfulness

As most siblings do, my nine year old son and six year old daughter pester one hearts_wallpaper_stop-in-the-name-of-love_1920x1200another sometimes.  One day they were lying on the living room floor about an arm’s length away from one other.   My son started poking my daughter in the leg and she whined back at him, “Sto-o-o-o … o-o-o-o-p it”.  She refused to move or even deal with it, so she got stuck in her whining.

I thought, “OMG, here we go again.  Not now.”  I could see this was escalating, but I also knew that the sooner I could lay a blanket of connection over everyone, the sooner my children could be in touch with their caring, kind selves.  I recognized that I was in a pretty good place so why not just dive right in?

I decided to lay down in the middle of them to see if this little shift would change their dynamic.  Of course, it didn’t.  My daughter actually moved her leg into a better position for my son to poke her and with this invitation, he jabbed her leg repeatedly.  It seemed my presence made the situation worse and her whining increased.   It was frustrating that I couldn’t just “fix” my kids and set them straight.  So I had to figure out a Plan B rather quickly.  Playlistening made the most sense to me at the moment.

My daughter’s incessant whining of “Stop it” reminded me of the Supremes song “Stop … in the Name of Love.  Before you break my heart.”  So I gave it a try, but with my own words.  I started singing in a relatively soft voice, “Stop … Poke-ing my Leg.  It doesn’t feel so good.”  Both children stopped to listen to me, so I figured I could take it a step further.  I started repeating “Stop … Poke-ing my Leg.  It doesn’t feel so good,” getting louder each time.  My daughter joined in with lots of giggles.  We started adding actions to the song with our hands straight out in a Stop position and adding hip action.  “Stop it Now-ow-ow.  Stop it Now-ow-ow.”

My son couldn’t resist joining in.  He shifted his position around so we were all parallel to one another.  Literally, in about one minute, we were all howling with laughter and felt relaxed and deeply connected.  We all forgot the initial reason we started the song in the first place.

-Certified Instructor, Kristen Volk

Helping My Son Sleep Through The Night

sleeping-boyMy nine year old son usually falls right asleep at night.  This has been such a blessing for me and quite contrary to his younger sister who likes to stay up late. On one particular night he was jumping out of bed, playing with balls and going into his sister’s room to do an art project.  Usually after the kids go to bed, I clean up the kitchen and tidy our home to prepare for the next morning.  I really wanted to get my nighttime chores done and not deal with my overactive son.  But I also knew that if he could release whatever was bothering him, he could probably fall right asleep.

So I went into his sister’s room and gently brought him into his own room.  He said he wanted milk to drink and I said, “No, not before bed.”  This made him really angry.  “I never get what I want.”  “You have stupid rules.”  “The rules about no hitting, kicking, punching, pinching are good, but I don’t like your other rules.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Like no milk before bed.” He replied.

He talked about how unfair it was and how he didn’t like my rules.  He tried to kick me a couple of times but I was anticipating some physical movement so I was able to keep myself unharmed.  I knew enough about what was going on with his limbic brain, that it didn’t make sense to try to reason with him because he wasn’t able to think well at that moment.

I kept working on staying close and making eye contact.  I said again, “No milk before bed.”  I encouraged him to take a shower because I knew it would help calm him down.  We were doing lots of vigorous snuggling in bed and I kept my warmth turned up.  He said “No way” to a shower and “I’m not going to sleep tonight.”  Then he added, “I want a pair of scissors and (my sister) has two pair.”

I asked him, “What other rules don’t you like?”

He couldn’t think of any others so just focused on “No milk before bed.”

Suddenly, he started crying a heavier cry.  He talked about his best friend who was going to be moving out of the country next week.  He didn’t want his friend to be alone.  He wanted their teacher who had been ill to be at school tomorrow so his teacher could say good-bye to his friend.  He also wanted the teacher to come to the going away party.

My son had all this worry about his friend and about his teacher.  I could really see this beautiful heart of my son.  I was so thankful that I didn’t focus on his whining and all the rules he appeared to be angry about.  These were clearly a pretext.  His real hurt was his grief around his friend leaving.  After eight minutes of crying to release his sadness and his worries, he said, “I want to take a shower.”  When he was done, I tucked him into bed ever so snug and warm.  He fell asleep immediately.

To get help with your child’s sleep struggles, learn more about our online course, Helping Your Child Sleep.

-Certified Instructor, Kristen Volk

How a Single Hour Can Solve Parenting Problems

“Although the Hand in Hand resources (booklets, podcasts, and videos) that I had already used had been so helpful to me and my husband, we still had so many questions. Having contact with a real human who similarly valued establishing connections with her children and could answer questions related to Hand-in-Hand was remarkably uplifting. It’s not just our kids who crave connection! And, this may sound strange, but simply making the commitment to do the consultation helped me feel even more committed to following through on the many wonderful things I have learned from Hand in Hand.” ~ a mom in Alaska

“I chose to try a Hand in Hand consultation because my son was waking up many times in the night. The longest stretch was 4 hours and then he would wake every hour to two hours. It could take over an hour to get him to sleep even if I nursed or bounced him. Naps were also suffering. During the consultation, I learned that crying is necessary. It doesn’t mean that you’re not doing a great job or that there’s something wrong with your child. I felt stronger as a parent listening and holding my son as he cried. While the consultation wasn’t an instant fix, it was extremely helpful and we continue to use the techniques that we learned. My son is now sleeping 8-9 hours a night, so we are inching in the right direction and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.” ~ a mom in California


When you schedule an hour with a Parenting by Connection consultant, you are matched with a parent consultant who has real experience and is trained in the Parenting by Connection listening tools. They know how hard you are trying and how deeply you care for your children. They listen with respect and warmth for you and your job as parent, which will give you time to think about your family and notice things you haven’t thought of before. This unique style of listening will allow you to find clarity in your situation.Our parent consultants will give you the support you need to move forward with patience and love. They will be ready to answer questions you have about the listening tools and offer new ways of connecting with your child.If you are ready to get the one-on-one support you need please visit our consulting page for more info >
Hand in Hand is a non-profit organization. We’re here to make a real difference for you and your family. So we offer a simple guarantee: If you aren’t completely satisfied with your consulting session,  we’ll either schedule you with a different consultant, or refund your fee.
With deep appreciation for the work you do as a parent,

The Hand in Hand Team

Helping My Child with Keeping Agreements


(C) 2007 Richard Dudley

One morning I told my daughter (7.5) it was time to clean her room before watching TV. “Oh mom,” she said. “You know I need time to wake up and just want to relax and watch a show before doing anything else.”

I kneeled down and said, “Okay, I get that. So do you agree that after your show you will pick up your room?”

“Yes,” she agreed.

Well as life goes she watched her show, got distracted with other things and didn’t want to clean her room anymore.

I reminded her of our agreement. “But I don’t wanna clean my room!” she whined in reply.

I had to bite my tongue from saying, “See?! You just get what you want then don’t follow through! I should have known not to negotiate with you.”

Instead, I reminded myself that she was probably feeling disconnected and struggling with some tension around cleaning her room. What she really needed was some listening and connection from me, anything else would just get us into a power struggle.

I sat next to her on her bed and listened as she complained about cleaning her room. She got up from her bed and stormed around her room telling me all the reasons why she couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it. As I listened her tone escalated. She told me I couldn’t make her clean her room and that she didn’t have to!

Staying calm, I kept my focus on just listening to her. It can be easy to jump into the lecture, but I reminded myself to focus on really hearing her and allowing her to express all that she needed to say. I knew if I said anything much at this point she wouldn’t really be able to hear me anyway. It was important that I keep my center and not get hooked into her feeling about cleaning her room or worried about how this was all going to work out. Her cleaning her room was going to take a back seat to my really connecting with her right where she was at so I just kept listening taking in everything she had to say.

It didn’t take long before I noticed her tone started to calm and she relaxed next to me. When she seemed finished I told her that she was right, she didn’t “have to” clean her room and I wasn’t going to “make her”. This caught her interest and I had her full attention. Then I told her, since we had made an agreement, I would like her to keep it. I let her know that trusting a person’s word is an important quality to me. If she chooses not to keep it, that is her choice and that choice would influence my making future agreements with her because I’ll know she doesn’t always keep her agreements.

I let her know it really was her choice, gave her a hug and kiss, and then went on with what I needed to do to get ready for the day.

When I walked by her room about 5 minutes later I noticed she was cleaning up her room. And, she seemed quite happy with herself too!

As a parent it’s easy to get caught by worry when our children are not keeping to their word. We want so much for our children to keep their agreements that it’s easy to resort to trying to make them and telling them they have to. When we forget to simply connect with our kids and see what’s making this moment hard for them it’s easy to resort to threats, shame, blame and guilt.

By taking the time to listen however, we form a powerful connection with our children. As we hear them fully, we not only get to know what is in their hearts in that moment, but it also opens them up to hearing us in return. This moment where we hear them and they look to us, ready to listen in return, is where we have the influence we so want with our children. It is the opening where we can share our values with them and know that they are really taking in what we are sharing.

This moment with my daughter has led to more dialogues about trust and keeping our word. We’ve talked about times where we may need to break agreements for different reasons and how we can do that without damaging trust. And, I’ve listened to her tears when, for instance, she wanted to skip a party she had already committed to so she could go to a different party. In these instances I have felt it important to listen, and then hold the limit that she keep her first agreement, and not change because something “better” came along.

I can see my daughter is learning from these moments. Recently, when I was reluctant to negotiate on something with my daughter she looked at me earnestly and said, “Mom, I keep my agreements.” I nodded, smiling, and said, “Yes, you do.” And, together, we found something that worked for both of us.

~ Michelle Pate, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant Learn more about the power of listening and connecting with your child by joining Michelle in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding Course.  You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Play Helps Dissolve Frustration

nightgownBefore bed, my daughter and I had a fun Special Time together doing whatever she wanted. When the timer beeped (signaling the end of Special Time) she happily trotted off to her room to change into her new nightgown and get ready for bed. Within a few minutes though, she returned very unhappy.

“This nightgown is too short and I’m cold,” she complained.

“Yeah?” I replied. “Do you want to wear something else?”

“Ugh!” she growled. “I hate it! I don’t want it! You can just donate it!”

Since she was so happy after our time together I wasn’t sure what had shifted. I suspected the nightgown wasn’t really the issue, but sometimes I wonder is it the clothes or is she just needing something to get upset about? Only time would answer that question so I decided to stay close, available and calm to see what she would show me next.

I followed her into her room where she took off the nightgown and threw it into the laundry basket. I opened her drawer and pulled out her favorite jammies. “Do you want these?” I asked.

“Ugh!!” she growled again as she grabbed them from me and put them on.

I wanted to offer her my warmth and support for whatever was coming up for her, but wasn’t sure what direction to go. Did she need more connection through play or just my quiet presence and listening?  So, I said, “I noticed you were pretty happy a few minutes ago. And now, it’s like PHEW! all this stuff’s gotta come out.” I waited for her response to clue me in to what she needed.

She made some more ‘growly” noises, but then looked at me playfully and said, “Yeah! I just need to wrestle you!”

“Alright!” I said enthusiastically. Play was the way to go!

We wrestled for a little while. She laughed hard and came up with some new wrestling moves. We had a lot of good, non-stop giggles. When I was ready to stop I gave her a big hug and said it was time to brush teeth. She transitioned easily.

While we were in the bathroom she said, “I’m really hot, maybe that nightgown is a good idea.” She went back to her room and changed into her nightgown.

Just as I suspected, the nightgown wasn’t the issue. Just a little tension that needed to be released through a fun time wrestling and laughing with mom. Connection and play saves the evening again!

– Michelle Pate, Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant
Join one of her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding classes starting May 22nd @ 6pm Pacific Time OR May 23rd @ 10:30 am Pacific Time —– You can also connect with her on Facebook.

The Consequences of Connection

Dear Hand in Hand Parenting,

This morning there was an incident with my 10-year-old son. He has a list of things that he is supposed to do in the mornings—guitar practice, making bed, square up room, etc. This is nothing new and has been going on for a few years now. However, in spite of reminders from me, he kept reading his book and ignoring me. And then he wanted me to drop him to school early. I said I wouldn’t till he finished what he was supposed to. Of course he got more upset and starting spewing out insults and mocking me. It was a lot of effort to stay calm. We had to leave with his “to do” incomplete as I didn’t want him late to school. I mentioned that there was a consequence for his behavior. He said he didn’t care. 

He is smart enough to know he was at fault for 1) Not finishing his tasks 2) Throwing insults and not managing his anger and frustration, probably with himself.

My question is this: I am angry, mad and hurt. I don’t expect him to apologize, but I do know that he is aware of how hurt I am. But he forgets or chooses to ignore it because his life goes on. There is no serious, terrible consequence as far as he is concerned. How do I help him understand that there is a consequence for bad behavior? As parents, we may tolerate his anger and temper, but the world outside won’t! Do I act like nothing happened other than carrying out the consequence (double guitar practice and no screen time this weekend)? Where or how is there a closure to this incident? 

Please help with this parenting question! 

Dear Parent,
I hear you! And I hear your strong desire to have a happy home where everyone pitches in to make life go well.

I have a 9-year-old son, and there are things that he has to accomplish every day as well. He does a daily developmental movement therapy program, clarinet practice, and then there is the usual stuff of putting away his clothes, taking his dishes to the sink, etc.

When he is resistant or otherwise engaged, I can find myself flipping through this Rolodex in my mind of what I can do to ‘make’ him do what I want.  There must be some punishment or consequence in this Rolodex of mine!  When I get in this place, I know that I am not thinking well and that I need to get some emergency listening time from one of my listening partners or I need to give myself a time-out, go splash water on my face, scream into my Listening Partner’s voice mail, dance around the bathroom, even take a shower.  When I’m having those how-can-I-make-him thoughts, I know that some old hurt of mine is being restimulated—a time when I felt not seen, not heard, and powerless as a child.

Anything I say or do when I’m not thinking well will only serve to disconnect my son from me and escalate our power struggle. I know, because I’ve tried it. We both end up mad, sad, and disconnected. So after I get some listening time or dance or stomp around the bathroom, I come back and look to see how I can connect. ‘Cause what I know is: when we are connected, he is much more willing to cooperate.

The mornings that really go well are the mornings that I’ve been conscious of connecting with him from the minute he wakes up. I go after him in his bed with a Vigorous Snuggle.  Then we’ll play our rough and tumble game of “Don’t Fall Off the Bed”, seeing who can pull the other off the bed onto the mat on the floor. Here are a couple of great articles about The Vigorous Snuggle and Dissolving Power Struggles with play and laughter.

The perspective I take with my son is that, “If he could, he would.”  So, if he’s not doing what we’ve agreed upon, there is a reason. Feelings of disconnection and tension are stopping him. If I move in with a Vigorous Snuggle and behave in a silly, undignified way in order to get him laughing (no tickling), that laughter will help him offload whatever tension is causing his resistance. I find, too, that doing chores alone can feel very isolating. I know that I love to have company when I’m cooking or doing dishes. So, I try to make the time to join him, to help him with clarinet practice, to cheer him on and play games during his movement therapy, and to have races to see who can put the most clothes away. This article on how to take the drudgery out of chores has lots of great ideas.

But I don’t always have to help him or do chores with him.  A while ago, I noticed that our mornings had gotten very disconnected. I was always in a rush and my son was in front of the screen. Getting him to do anything was like pulling teeth. I decided to really focus on deepening our connection in the morning. The next day was a Sunday and after waking to a Vigorous Snuggle and ‘Don’t Fall off the Bed’, we did Special Time. Then we made breakfast together.  I told my son we could go for a bike ride after I did the dishes and he put his clean clothes away. I fully expected we would put the clothes away together. While doing the dishes, I noticed the house had gotten very quiet.  I peeked into my son’s room to find him putting his clothes away without me asking him again, nagging him, or even doing it with him. It wasn’t just because he wanted to go on the bike ride. We’ve had plans before and he’s been resistant to getting his chores done. I believe he was willing that morning because he felt so connected.

So, I encourage you to focus on connection – especially through play and laughter.  It’s so much more fun than going through that Rolodex.  As for any hurt feelings I might experience…I know my son doesn’t want to hurt me. I think he already feels awful, so any punishment or consequences at that point are just adding to his hurt and driving a wedge between us. When he’s thinking well, he is naturally kind and cooperative. So I take my hurt feelings to my Listening Partner. There I can rant and rave about how hurt I am, how dare he, how ungrateful he is, etc. When I rant and rave, often the real hurt from childhood comes up, and I get to offload and heal that. I can actually look at our struggles as a gift.  When we struggle and I take it to my Listening Partnership, I get to heal old hurts. Then I have even more capacity to stay out of the Rolodex and stay playful and connected.

I hope some of that helps.  Try some playful snuggles and then, please let us know how it goes.

Peace & Smiles,


Kathy Gordon is a member of our current Instructor Certification class.