“At every level and every stage of development, there is either love — and with it, growth — or fear — and with it protection and a thwarting of growth.”
– Cell Biologist Bruce Lipton
When situations come up in our parenting, the way we handle them can create connection or disconnection in our relationship. Nurturing is really the heart and soul of Consciously Parenting. Most of our parenting information leads us further away from connection in the name of “teaching” our children what is right and wrong. When we are aware of what is beneath the surface of a behavior- regulation or dysregulation, unmet needs, unresolved traumas, etc.,- we can respond in a loving way, rather than reacting out of our own survival.
It is the day to day experiences we have as parents that determine whether our children learn appropriate behavior or not, whether our children learn to regulate their behavior and emotions or not, and whether we live in a peaceful environment where everyone respects everyone else’s needs or not. It is our choice. We can create the family we want to have if we are mindful of our parenting choices.
Nurturing Connection: What Parents Need to Know About Emotional Expression and Bonding
by Rebecca Thompson, MS, MFT
(Excerpt from Introduction)
“Deepak Chopra spoke powerful words when he said, “Love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.” I believe this speaks deeply to what nurturing connected families is all about and what we all want when we become parents. We need to realize that we convey our love, or lack thereof, in everything we do with our children and our partner. Nurturing connection is about finding ways to demonstrate love through our actions, as well as our way of being with one another.
Nurturing our relationship with our children is the heart and soul of consciously parenting. Nurturing relationships, once they are established, is really an art. It is about remembering that our children’s need for connection is a primary factor in most of their behavior. It is about recognizing that, in every parenting situation, we have choices about how we respond to our children and their behaviors. It is about seeing every parenting situation as an opportunity to create connection or disconnection. It is about looking at our everyday parenting situations and beginning to see how we can choose connection. It is also about being able to admit when something didn’t go as planned, to forgive ourselves for not always being the parents we hope to be, and to forgive our children for not always being the children we hoped they’d be.
When parenting situations challenge us, how we handle them can create connection or disconnection in our relationship with our children. We can imagine these situations as forks in the road; there is one sign, going off to the left, that says, “Connection” and another, going off to the right, that says, “Disconnection.” At the fork, where the roads meet up, we have choices, and the decisions we make can mean the difference between peace and struggle, not only in that moment, but also in the relationship as a whole. It is through these smaller, moment-to-moment decisions that the stage is set and we and our children move closer together or further apart.
Most of our parenting information leads us further away from connection in the name of teaching our children what is right and wrong. In my own home growing up, I saw how parenting focused on behavior change alone led to more disconnection and the need for relationship repair. The advice given by “professionals” and implemented by my parents created a greater level of disconnection and chaos within my family. Parents need to teach their children appropriate behaviors, but they don’t need to do so at the expense of the relationship.
Children who feel connected to you will want to please you- and they will. If they aren’t acting in a way that is acceptable to you, there is something going on with them or something going on with you, and they’re reacting to your energy or what is going on with your connection. The first of consciously parenting’s eight guiding principles says, “All behavior is communication.” When we are aware of what is going on beneath the surface, beneath the behavior- such as emotional regulation or dysregulation, unmet needs, or unresolved traumas- we can respond in a loving way rather than just reacting to the child’s behavior. And responding lovingly nurture the relationship. We need our children to have a strong relationship with us so they can trust that we’ll be there for them when they need us. And they really do need us. Behavior-focused parenting information uses pain, fear, punishment, isolation, shame, and coercion to manage our children’s negative behavior. When we dole out punishments or focus on the behavior, our children learn that they cannot come to us. Instead, they seek out information and support from their peers- those with only a limited number of years on the planet and limited long-term decision-making skills. Relationship-focused parenting teaches our children to calm themselves down by reaching out to us when they’re stressed. It teaches our children to come to us, the parents, to be supported through challenges and when they are having a hard time.
Please note that nurturing relationships doesn’t mean that if we don’t always make the best choice, we will have somehow failed as parents. We’re going to have times where we end up creating disconnection because we’re running on autopilot and parenting according to old road maps from our childhood. Nurturing relationships means that when we do make a mistake, we set it right and find ways to reconnect with our children, to prevent the need to totally repair the relationship. A pilot friend of mine shared the example of how just a slight shift in the course set early in the flight can mean the difference between arriving at our destination and ending up in a different country. When we make small course shifts early in our parenting, it avoids the need for much larger or radical repair to our relationship later.
We’ll also talk about how we can meet our children’s connection needs and nurture the relationship when we are so busy. We always have places to go, things to do, email to check, TV to watch. We have laundry that never ends and dinners, lunches, and breakfasts that need to be planned and prepared. And many of us also hold down jobs outside the home. Since we clearly don’t live in a simple world, we need to make our personal world simpler for the benefit of our families and our children- and ourselves. Even if we can’t slow things down all the way, we can find ways to simplify and find ways to create a community of support around us.
Pam Leo points out in her book Connection Parenting, “We can either meet children’s needs for connection or we can spend our time dealing with the unmet need behaviors. Either way, we spend the time.” When we can nurture our relationship with our children on a daily basis, going out of our way to create connection, everything is easier, and parenting is much more enjoyable.”