Using Special Time and StayListening to Help My Daughter Get Ready for Company

It was a Sunday afternoon, shortly after my we had moved to our new house. My four-year old daughter Leah had just come home from an overnight at her father’s house and we had two hours until our House Warming Party. We had been happily anticipating this party since our move. Leah was especially excited to share her new tree house with our friends. Leah had returned from her dad’s house chock full of feelings—she seemed sullen and sad and had lost all enthusiasm about the party.

I decided to help my daughter get in better emotional shape so that she would be able to enjoy our party. I asked her if she wanted some Special Time in order to help her really know that she had me. We did 10 minutes of Special Time, in which she wanted to hang out on my big bed and snuggle and wrestle. I offered lots of warmth and body contact. We did “flying airplane” and “trot-trot to Boston” and other physical games, with snuggles in between.

When the timer went off, I told Leah that Special Time was over and that it was time to start getting ready for our guests to arrive (I was already ready for the party, but wanted her to begin anticipating the arrival of our friends).

She said that she only wanted to be with me and that she changed her min about the party. I said, “You have a little bit longer to be alone with me, and the our friends will come over.” She insisted that she didn’t want to see anyone else. I repeated again (in a light, warm tone, while giving lots of eye contact) that soon lots of our favorite people would be coming to our house. She became more adamant. “No! I only want to be with you! I don’t want anyone else!” She began to cry. I kept my words simple, saying that I was sorry it didn’t feel like what she wanted, but that our friends would be arriving soon. Soon she was crying mightily, telling me that she never gets enough time with me and that she misses me when she’s with her dad.”

I stayed in close and told her, “You’ve really got me. And you get to be close to other people, too.” Her cries were deep and hearty, with big tears streaming down her face, which was getting red. She cried like this for about twenty minutes, continuing to repeat that she didn’t want to see anyone else, that I was the only person she wanted. I reassured her again and again that she really has me, and that she has other people who love her, too.

After about twenty minutes her crying slowed down. I continued giving her eye contact, and staying in close. Suddenly her eyes brightened and she said, “Do you think Hazel will be coming to the party?” I said, “Yes!” She perked up and said, “Yay! Because I haven’t seen her all weekend!!”

Soon our friends did start to arrive, and Leah enthusiastically welcomed each person—squealing and hopping up and down as each new friend arrived. She played hard all afternoon—bringing her friends into her tree house, showing them her new bedroom, and the back yard. She thoroughly enjoyed herself, playing and laughing with friends for over three hours. That night she went to bed happily and easily, and slept deeply.

Join Certified Instructor Angela Jernigan in one of her classes:

1) “Tears and Tantrums” class, beginning March 16. More information available here.

2) Building Emotional Understanding class, beginning March 27. More information available here.

3) Professionals Intensive course, beginning March 29.  More information available here.

Listening Helps When Things Get Gummy

My son and I had an outing  where we went to the store together to get the week’s groceries.   We have done this from the time he was born, and as he got older, he participated more frequently in the choices of what to buy. He was quite protected from the world of sugar at home and did not watch TV, so we seldom had a disagreement about what to buy.

When he was almost 4, his baby brother was born and we decided to take him along.  Everything went well until we got to the checkout line and he asked for gum.  I said no and he began to have a full blown tantrum,  I was completely overwhelmed with the baby, the groceries and him.  So I bought the gum.  All the way home, I kept saying to myself, “You are being controlled by a child!  This can only get worse.”

I consulted with a friend and we agreed that she would come with me the following week on our grocery trip and I would try to Set the Limit and Staylisten.

All went well until the checkout.  He demanded gum and when I said no, he pushed his little fingers into the spaces on the wire display rack where the gum was– right at his eye level.  My friend took the baby and handled the groceries and after peeling his fingers out carefully one by one with him screaming the whole time, I took him aside and got on the floor with him.  I had to hold him so he would not hurt me as he flailed.  I wrapped myself around him and had my face near his ear.  I told him we were not going to get gum and that I could see he was pretty mad.  I struggled to figure out what to say (and not say), and resisted the temptation to “explain” why.  I said things like, “You really like gum, and are very disappointed.”  He kicked and screamed for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, my friend was engaged in very lively conversations with people in the store, explaining what we were doing.  I could hear them off in the distance, some people laughing, some angry.  Finally I said something about things being different now with a baby brother and he cried hard, saying that I loved the baby more than I loved him.  I calmly said that I loved him as much as ever and was so proud of him.

He finally fell asleep in my arms, and I carried him to the car.  He woke up happy. I took as much time that week as I could to reassure him that he was not being replaced. My friend encouraged me to say all the things I did  not say to him in the store, the explanations and my own internal exasperation, in our Listening Partnership time, and I said some ugly and mean things. We laughed at how terrible it would have been if I had said them and how much more complicated everything would have gotten, especially his feelings about his brother.

The next week we went again, with the baby.  He asked for gum at the checkout.  I said no.  He said, “Phooey!” and that was that.  I was prepared to Staylisten again, but was glad I did not have to.

-Certified Instructor, Emmy Rainwalker

– Join Certified Instructor Emmy Rainwalker in one of her classes / teleseminars:

Emmy Rainwalker

1) Teleseminar “Staying Close to Our Sons” on Tuesday, March 5.  Register now.

2) Building Emotional Understanding Online starting March 18. Register now.

Confessions of a Parenting by Connection Nanny: Part I

On the one hand, I realize the important role a nanny plays in a child’s life; the effects of which–for better or for worse–will stay with the child for many years to come. On the other hand, as I have seen with every nanny job I have had:  I am that “bad” person who represents the replacement of their mommy! I am completely convinced that a child always wants to be with their mommy, first and foremost! With this in mind, I will now share one of my stories.

Niko is now 3 yrs. old. He was adopted from Korea when he was 10 months old (I am told from a very loving foster family). I have been working with Niko for 1 year, 3 months. Our very first encounter was one of much laughter, eye contact and connection! This was a good start, I felt!

Over these many months with Niko, there have been many Staylistening sessions. I will also add, for almost an entire year, Niko did not want to cuddle with me when reading a book or at any other time. And, once when I said, “I love you,” he clearly told me he did not love me and that love was only for his mom and dad. This was a cue for me to “zip my lip!” Our listening sessions are always the same themes:  “I want my mommy, now,” “I want my daddy to pick me up from school, not you,” “I want mommy to put me to bed, not you.” (I put Niko to bed 3 nights each week).

On each and every one of these occasions, I remain calm, stay close, talk little, but softly acknowledge that he misses his mom or dad, and that they always come back. Some of these sessions have been deep tantrums. Without exception, after his emotions have been listened through, Niko emerges calm, talkative and ready to have fun with me. Recently, at a respite in one of Niko’s tantrums, he noticed me looking at him with deep love and caring. He became very quiet and he looked deeply into my eyes for what I think was 4 whole minutes as I continued to look at him with deep caring. It was really touching, and he seemed to calm down after this and wanted to be close.

Throughout my entire experience with Niko, we have had many Playlistening times with great laughter. For example, he loves it when I lie on the floor trying to get up, and he pushes me back down. As hard as I try to resist, I fall back down. We repeat this again and again, with consistent laughter. This is one example from many.

I feel my relationship with Niko continues to be an ongoing process as we develop more deep connection. There are now big stretches of time when he does not mention mom anymore, but when there are upsets, they center around the absence of mom or dad. On 3 consecutive mornings each week, mom drops him at school at 8 a.m.; I pick him up at 4 p.m., care for him and put him to bed. So for those 3 days, he is basically at school and then with me, with very little contact with parents. His parents have told me on several occasions that Niko fondly talks about me. They tell me that they consider me part of the family and that I am helping to raise him! (Wow, what a BIG responsibility!)

So, even though Niko will continue from time to time to tell me to “go away,” or “I don’t want you here,” or “I don’t like you,” I do know how deeply we are connecting. The other day as we were driving, he said, “Will you be my new mother?” I replied that he already has a mother, so then he asked me to be his wife! Oh, and now (finally!), we cuddle while reading books, he happily runs into my arms when I pick him up from school, and he now accepts it when I say, “I love you” (I tested this very gingerly). And he will sometimes say he loves me back!

Yesterday as we were building together (he has had a very bad cough and runny nose for 2 weeks), he was acting “grumpy.” I mentioned that I feel grumpy, too, when I am sick. He then said, “Yes, and I am also grumpy because I am at school so much.” This was said so clearly and causally. He then immediately switched to talking about the structure we were building.

I really see the importance of me having listening time in my Listening Partnership, so that I can deal with my own feelings about Niko’s adoption and abandonment issues, and about his clear upset from being away from his parents for long periods of time.

Stay tuned for Confessions of a Parenting by Connection Nanny: Part II.

-S. Hart, a Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Why Isn’t Parenting Easy?

Brand New BabyHaving kids seems like a very natural thing to do. For a solid chunk of the members of societies everywhere, you grow up, you have kids. They grow up, they have kids. And so on. I imagine the planet would be a very lonely place if human beings didn’t have some sort of innate desire to share our lives with the next generation.

Oh! But the sleep deprivation! The spitting up! The crying! The worries into the wee hours of the night! The fevers. The whining. The impossible questions they come up with. And the endless questioning of ourselves, “What am I going to do with this child?” “Am I ruining this kid forever?”

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why? Why does it have to be so challenging? When our Labradoodle has a litter of puppies she does not pace the halls late into the night wondering whether she is paying too much attention to the curly one and not licking the straight-furred ones quite enough. She’s not brooding over whether a little one’s unwillingness to share the red truck during play dates indicates you’ve spoiled your child rotten and he’ll never make a real friend.

At Hand in Hand we understand that getting your entire family a good night’s sleep takes a lot more than divining the perfect number of stories to read. We know that building cooperation at home isn’t about just choosing whether to deploy Time Out with your toddler or not. We get how draining it can feel when your picky eater would rather go hungry than even try putting a green vegetable-like substance anywhere near her mouth. And we can relate to the guilt that can wash over you as you pry from your legs your desperately screaming three-year-old and try to leave the childcare center in time to make it to that meeting at work.

We can’t always make it easy for you to be a parent. But we can make it better. We can be there with you and help you surround yourself with a community that understands. We can create a place where parents can connect with warmth and support. We can listen when it’s hard. And be there with you when you have no idea what to even try next.

Parenting may not be easy, but supporting parents is what we love to do. It’s how we can make a difference for you, for parents everywhere, and for the children who will raise the next generation.

~ Julianne Idleman

Restraining with Reassurance Helped Learning

Usha has two Teaching Credentials in addition to her Certification as a Parenting by Connection instructor

One of my students, David, a bright seven-year-old boy, sometimes got into a space where all noises felt too loud and even the slightest sound was too stimulating for him.  One second all was well; the next second, he was having an emotional meltdown.  He had an aide working with him, so every time he had an emotional meltdown, the aide had been at his side to support him.  I had had very little opportunity to build a relationship with David.  Not surprisingly, it had been hard for me to get him to do the work I had asked my group of students to do.  David usually wanted to do his own thing.

On one occasion when David had a meltdown, he started physically thrashing at his aide.  All logical thinking had flown out the window.   Emotions were all that was left.  It was clear that neither he nor anyone else in the room was going to learn anything.  The aide tried to protect himself with his arms but not very successfully.  Clearly David needed more help.  I moved in close, put my arms around David, and restrained him.  He started trying to hit and kick me and tried to wriggle free.  With very few words, “I can’t let you hurt him.  I can’t let you hurt me.  I’m sorry it’s so hard,”  I reassured him and continued restraining him.  He kept saying, “I have to hurt him,” but I didn’t let him go free.  I simply kept holding him until it became clear to me that he was not going to hurt anyone.  Emotional and physical safety, both for him and for others, was critical.

After a while, he stopped the hitting and kicking and simply lay down on the ground, still visibly upset.  I immediately let go of him and stayed by his side, listening to his feelings, while a parent aide attended to the needs of the other kids.  I had set a limit on his behavior, but listened to his feelings.  After a little while, he started to feel better.

It was hard to know what triggered it all that day.  And it was not the only time he has had such experiences.  But what I do know is that my relationship with David began to grow in a positive way after that incident.  He knew that he could be safe with me.  After that day he did so much better at engaging in the learning activities I had planned for the kids.  He still continued to have his meltdowns every now and then, but our relationship had come a long way and it was so nice to see his eyes sparkle whenever he talked to me about something he was interested in!

—Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor  Usha Sangam

Usha Sangam

Listen to a free podcast of Parenting: Going Deeper in which Usha presented. Sign-up here.

Read other stories from Usha on this blog.

You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Now I Actually Enjoy Parenting

A mom came to one of my online parenting classes, Building Emotional Understanding, because she felt like life with her toddler was out of control. Ever since Annie had been a little girl she’d had huge tantrums and long cries.  Her mother was at the end of her rope.  She didn’t understand why her daughter’s emotions were so big and she admittedly didn’t have a clue what to do.  This mom had already tried many parenting approaches, but none of them had worked for long.  Then a friend told her about Hand in Hand Parenting and she was intrigued by its understanding of children’s emotions, since emotions were what she was constantly trying to deal with.
During the class she learned to StayListen. Instead of feeling like she had to stop the flow of Annie’s emotions she learned to offer her daughter warmth and attention while her daughter shed the feelings that were bothering her.  She began doing Special Time regularly; setting aside time to let her daughter lead the play and delighting in the experience.  She also found that Annie loved rough housing, so she made that a regular part of her connection plan with her daughter.
After the class ended she joined an ongoing support group I run.  One night in the group she announced, “I just realized that Annie hasn’t had a tantrum for many months, and when she does, I know exactly how to help her through it.  I remember when my life with Annie felt like hell.  Now, I’m actually enjoying parenting.  What a transformation!”
-Alaiya Aguilar, Certified Hand in Hand Instructor
This story can be your own. Sign up for a Building Emotional Understanding course today and experience a total transformation in your confidence and success as a parent. You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Parenting by Connection Posts for 2011 In Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.