We are conditioned from early childhood on to trust adult voices more than we trust our own intuitions. We are told to listen and obey without hesitation and without consideration of our own needs, desires and emotions. And so, incrementally, we lose touch with our own conscience and the importance of our own experience.
We learn to trade our voice for the voices of the adults around us. This begins at such a young age and with such steady consistency that most of us didn’t even notice it happening. So it makes sense that once we are adults with our own children, many of us raise our children in this same way. We silence them by insisting they listen to us instead of themselves.
You may read the above paragraphs and not at first identify with them. Or you may read the above paragraphs and assume the only alternative to this cultural approach of centering a parent’s voice above the child’s voice, is chaos and anarchy. You may picture meltdowns and spoiled, selfish children who always get their way and who have no responsibilities. That is understandable. That is how I would have pictured it ten years ago, before I learned about the Connection Codes.
But there is a third way. There is a parenting approach that respects and protects a child’s needs, voice, intuition, authentic inner-self, while also creating space for the adult in the relationship to have a voice as well.
You may have heard it referred to as peaceful parenting, responsive parenting, gentle parenting or partnered parenting. I am going to call it connected parenting because at its core that is what it is.
Science indicates that the most important human need is Identity. We receive Identity when we are told or shown that we matter, that we are important, that we exist. We receive Identity when we are regarded. When we regard a person’s experience, we regard the person, when we disregard a person’s experience, we disregard the person. This may feel obvious when we see it in writing. And our first reaction may be that we always regard our children and their experiences. But our cultural parenting approach does exactly the opposite of this. Our cultural parenting tells and shows children all day every day that their voice does not matter, that their opinion is not important, that their inner self must not exist.
So, how do we change this? What does that look like? How do we move forward with connected parenting when all most of us have ever seen modeled is cultural parenting?
This begins with slowing down our cycles, following the energy, regarding our children’s experience.
When it comes to slowing down our cycles, following the energy, and regarding our children’s experience “Oooo” is always the right answer. Whatever opinions, wants, needs, emotions or stories our children share with us, it is vital that we hear them and regard them, not correct them or argue with them. Their experience is their experience, their pain is their pain, their emotion is their emotion. When we make space for it, we tell them they matter. When we tell them they matter, they receive Identity. This helps create secure attachment. Secure attachment creates healthy children who become healthy adults.
Here are ways you can try this week:
- If your child expresses pain or emotion, Oooo them and say something like, “Oh man, I hear that. I am here for you.”
- If your child has a tantrum or meltdown, pull them into your body if they will let you. Hug them, hold them, rub their back. If they won’t let you hold them or touch them, try to sit near them so they know you are available. Once they calm down a little, ask them what is happening for them. And then just listen and Oooo them.
- If your child expresses an opinion you don’t agree with, just regard their perspective. Tell them, “I hear you. I’m glad you are sharing your heart with me.”
- Ask them every day, “What do you need?” They may not know in the moment but if you ask them while also consistently regarding their voice, most kids will learn to convey their needs with words.
- Never tell them to stop crying. Let them express emotion. It is vital to their well-being. Make space for their emotion, make space for their experience.
Connected parenting is a massive paradigm shift for most of us. It may, at first, sound scary, overwhelming or even impossible. But what I have seen as I have spent the last few years parenting this way, is that kids do not become unmanageable through connection. Kids become connected. And when kids are connected they are reachable, they are teammates, they thrive. There may be growing pains as you begin parenting this way. There will probably be moments where you need to say “I missed that with you.” and share your own emotion about the ways you have disregarded them. But this way of parenting builds bridges between us and our children. And where there are bridges, there is always hope.