Episode 13: How Important Connection Is As A Parenting Tool
In today’s episode, I want to talk a little bit about parenting. Specifically about connection as a parenting tool. I want to share a bit of an insight into this, as well as my experience and challenges in raising my son. He just became a teenager and my daughter, who just reached puberty. As our kids hit different milestones, different ages and different developmental stages, I think it can really be helpful to be thinking about some of these tools that we can use in parenting.
As I talk about my own experiences, I also quote and discuss Dr. Justin Coulson’s work about the concept of “connecting before correcting”. And Allison Davies’ advice on how to deal with children’s anxiety. Dr. Coulson and Allison are experts in the field of parenting and mental health. They are also the guest experts we’re working with on our Natural Super Kids Klub membership.
Listen in to learn more!
- See Dr. Justin Coulson’s post, “Connect before Correct”
- See Allison Davies’ Anxiety Instagram post
- Join the Natural Super Kids KLUB waitlist
- Read more info on “Anxiety in Kids – A Naturopathic approach”
- Article about “Puberty in girls – How to support your daughter naturally”
- More info on “Understanding puberty in boys”
Hello, welcome back to the podcast!
I want to talk a little bit about parenting and specifically about connection as a parenting tool. Now, this has come into my realm. And I’ve been reminded about how important connection is as a parenting tool over the last few weeks, probably months. So I want to share a bit of an insight into this and some of these reminders that I’ve had. But first of all, I want to say that I am not a parenting expert. This is just my experience. Parenting is something I’m very passionate about and it’s something that I’m always developing and learning.
As our kids hit different milestones, different ages and different developmental stages, I think it can be really helpful to be thinking about some of these tools that we can use in parenting. What we do changes, but I think this particular subject – connection, is something that I’ve been reminded of. Because I did some connected parenting workshops and courses. I’ve read books in the past when my kids were a lot younger. And there’s just a few things that have reminded me about how important this is, probably, a different way now that my kids are a bit older.
So to give you a little bit of a background, if you don’t know, I’ve got two children. I’ve got a son who’s 13. He turned 13 about four months ago. Then I’ve got a daughter who has just turned 11. So we’re hitting those teenage years, well, we’ve hit them. I am now a mother of a teenager and I’ve talked about that because it’s a bit of a shock. Really how quickly it goes, and then my daughter is definitely in those tween years as well. We’ve had a few sort of parenting challenges recently. I’ll tell you about those just to give you a bit of a context of how this kind of reminder about connection parenting has come about.
I guess the change in terms of parenting is we have a teenager in the house. There’s been some drastic changes in him over the last probably 6 to 12 months. He started high school just over a year ago. He goes off on the bus to high school and that’s been a big change for him. And we’ve noticed a lot of changes in him in lots of different ways, heading into those teenage years. It’s really noticeable now. Then my daughter who has just turned 11, is definitely going through a lot of the puberty and hormonal changes. She has had a lot of anxiety this year. Anxiety has been something that has been a challenge for her over a lot of years really.
She’s never been diagnosed with anxiety but she does get anxious at times. And this year, that has really become a big challenge. We’ve started going back at school for the year, there’s been lots of changes. She’s now heading into middle school and her particular school, there’s been lots of changes. And you know, anyone with anxious kids knows that changes can be really challenging for any kid. But particularly for kids that tend to get anxiety. She’s had school camp last week. So it’s been a big start to the year.
This connection as a parenting tool has been really helpful for me, for both of these situations. I’m sure lots of you know of Dr. Justin Coulson. He is an amazing parenting expert and he is one of our guest experts in the Natural Super Kids Klub. If you are a Klub member, you have access to the chat that I had with him. All about all kinds of different parenting topics so you can find that in the membership. Dr. Justin Coulson has his own podcast and he just shares some really great tips on social media and within his programs as well.
Something popped up on my Instagram a few weeks ago. It was on Dr. Justin Coulson’s Instagram page. I’ll link to this particular post. It just was a picture of a man with his teenage son and it said, “Connect before you correct.” And I want to read you the caption that goes with this Instagram post.
“It’s impossible for us to have any influence over our children and their decisions when our relationship is consumed with correction and direction. It simply creates contention. And the kids shut us out. Connection is the currency of our relationship with our teens.”
So powerful! This was the sentence that got me, “Connection is the currency of our relationship with our teens.” And I would argue the relationship with our kids altogether. When we keep them close through regular connection, we draw them towards us. They listen to us, and are open to our influence. Connect before you correct. And this was just so timely for me, because we have been having some challenges with our son. Teenager, in terms of we, when I say “we”, I’m talking about my husband. And I have got some decent knowledge about how the brain develops through the teenage years. All of that in terms of what we can realistically expect from our teenagers. So we know this stuff.
But actually experiencing it can be really different. He’s always been a kid that’s fairly onto it. You know, he gets things done. We don’t need to be on his back or nag him to get his jobs around the house done that sort of thing. He remembers things, he’s always been a fairly independent child. But over the last sort of six months, particularly, it’s been really frustrating, you know? He just forgets things. He’ll head off to school without making his bed. The basic things that he’s been doing for years, without emptying the dishwasher. He forgets his laptop, or he’s lost his school hat and his school jacket. And so things like these were happening, and we were getting really frustrated with him.
We were in this situation where every conversation we had with him felt like we were on his back. So this post popping up was like, “Oh, this is such a simple thing that we can do, to really help him hear us.” And we’d had conversations privately about we understand that we can’t expect. Maybe our expectations are too high of him based on everything that’s going on. So we’d had these conversations and we were aware of it, but the frustrations were still there. You know, when you have to keep reminding him to do these basic things. When we’ve got busy lives ourselves, it can cause a lot of frustration and a lot of conflict within the family.
So this simple idea of connect before correct… Because the situation that we’re in feels like we need to be correcting him a lot at the moment, it’s changed everything. I f I go to correct him, or tell him something that he hasn’t done correctly, which I guess is correcting, just having some connection first. I remember when my kids were toddlers, this whole concept was life changing for me. You know, connecting before correcting. Or connecting when they are in the realms of a meltdown or a tantrum as opposed to correcting. This has worked really well for me in parenting in the past.
Now, it’s always been really important to me this connection parenting. This reminder to connect before correct has been such a big game changer and it’s working really well. He is more able to take onboard feedback, or correction when we have first connected. Of course, this isn’t always easy, is it? Our kids become harder to connect with as they get older. I’ve talked about this before, mo son’s obsessed with his mountain bike. It’s all about getting out with his friends on his mountain bike on any spare time that he has. Then he’s so physically tired, because they do a lot of riding. He can be out all day on mountain bike tracks and riding here, there and everywhere with his friends at the BMX track. When he gets home, he’s exhausted.
So, it’s really hard to have conversations and connect with him then. I just want to say that I know this isn’t easy and I think it’s connecting in small ways. Like you don’t have to connect for two hours before you correct them but just connecting. One way I find really easy to connect with him is when he’s talking about or asking him something about his bike. We’ve got to find those points of interest for them and that can be a really good way to connect. Another way that I find is really effective for connecting as they get older is talking about myself.
I remember learning this in a parenting course that I did when my kids were very young. I remember this tip this lady gave us. When you pick them up from kindy, particularly boys, for example, and you say, how’s your day? And they say, good, what did you do? You know, they don’t really have a lot to say. It can be really hard to get any information out of them. I’ve got one boy and one girl, I found this particularly true for my son. There’s much less communication. Example, my daughter went to camp last week, and I’ll get to this in a moment. She came home and she told me everything they ate for. You know, breakfast, snack and lunch. I mean, my son would never give me all of that detail.
She gives me too much detail, he gives me not enough detail. So one of these tips that I learned from this parenting course that I did was a great way to get them to open up. Just start yammering on about your day in minute detail and that worked really well for my son when he was a lot younger. I would just pick him up from kindy and say, “Oh, well, you know, we did this and we did that, and we saw that, and then we had this.” And then he would start talking, you know? It reminds them about the little details we might want to know and I find this just as effective now that he’s a teenager. If I say “Oh, how’s your day? Good. Where did you go?” You know, it’s very short answers that I get from him.
But if I start talking about my day, yes, I can get some eye-rolls, I can even get some comments like, “I don’t really care.” Or if he’s tired, he can be a bit rude about it. But they’re a little, you know, pieces of information that he will then go, “Ah!” And ask me about and then it’ll help him open up. So it’s not always really easy. A lot of the things that I might have done in that day, he’s not really that interested in. But that can really help for him to open up, that’s been a really good tool for me over the years. So a little bit of connection, before I then say, “Oh mate, you didn’t empty the dishwasher before you went out, you need to make sure that you do that now.”
He’s much more able to take onboard that feedback if we’ve had some connection. I wanted to share that with you because I think no matter what age your kids are, connect before correct is such a great little simple motto to live by. I found it really helpful for my son heading into these teenage years. When he does need a lot of correction but just adding that little bit of connection before correcting. I really hope that that’s helpful.
Then I also wanted to talk about this connection concept in a bit of a different way that I’ve been, I guess implementing it with my daughter. And this was funny! Another Instagram post that popped up. This one was from Allison Davies. Again, she’s a guest expert in our Natural Super Kids Klub membership. Members may know of her. If you don’t, and this sounds like something interesting that you might want to know more of about, you can definitely check out that training that we’ve got in the Klub membership.
Allison Davies is a music therapist and a brain care expert. I just love what she has to say. She’s an amazing lady with lots of amazing knowledge about brain, mental health and neurodiversity in kids as well. Her Instagram post, which I’ll link in the show notes, popped up around the same time as Justin’s. It was all about supporting our child’s anxiety. And it’s got what we maybe shouldn’t do and what we maybe should do. She said in the caption:
“I almost didn’t post this because here I am creating another binary, another do-don’t and essentially more pressure to get it right. Who needs that in their life? So take it, so take this or leave it, adapt it, roll with it in your own way, but this is what I find to be true when we teach the behavioural paradigm and step into a regulatory framework. Connection not coercion, validation not explanation, acceptance not aversion.”
The image that she’s got are whole heap of sentences of what we should do and shouldn’t do with our child’s anxiety. So she’s talking about she’s got to cross next to try and get them out of their anxiety. Oh sorry, try and get rid of their anxiety is a cross and the tick is to teach them their anxiety is a normal human response. Micromanage the triggers is a cross. Teach them life will be full of triggers and teach them that triggers are not the problem, are the ticks. Focus on managing their behaviours is a cross. Teach them their behaviour is not the problem and focus on them feeling loved and safe are the ticks. Become anxious about their anxiety is a cross. Help them develop relationship with their anxiety is a tick.
Teach them anxiety is not a bad thing is a tick. Explain why there is no need to be anxious, that’s obviously a cross. Prioritise validating their emotions no matter what, is a tick. Then teach them skills to self-regulate is a cross, use your connection to achieve co-regulation is a tick. I’m not sure if I said that one right, but teach them skills to self-regulate is a cross. And then use your connection to achieve co-regulation is a tick, just to be clear on that.
I’ll link that to this post, because it might be helpful for you to read through that. Again, this is about connection in a bit of a different way. As I said, my daughter has been really challenged with anxiety this year. Going back to school, going back to dance, going to camp last week was a huge deal for her. Anyone with kids that are anxious knows how exhausting it is to deal with it all the time. And for her, I think with all the hormonal changes that are happening at her age that obviously is a time when anxiety can go through the roof. I think of any mums listening will know that if you do have those anxious tendencies, they are heightened premenstrual and around hormonal change time.
So I think that’s a big part of what’s going on for her at the moment but I just love this post. I want to learn more from Allison about this using your connection to achieve co-regulation. Because we’ve had some really tough mornings getting her to school. We’ve had some really tough afternoons getting her to dance. And so what I’ve found in these moments, is that connection and validation really make the world of difference. She doesn’t need to be told that, “Don’t be silly, you’ve been to dance class before. We just need to get in the car and go.” That is not helpful at all!
But sitting, listening and connecting with her and validating her feelings is what definitely works the best. In terms of helping her sort of move through these challenges. And I love what Alison talks about in terms of not trying to get rid of their anxiety, but teaching them that anxiety is a normal human response. Because when kids are feeling anxious, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. If we and one of the things that I do is I tell stories to her when she’s in this kind of anxious state. Or after it about situations and times and stories from when I was a child or even as an adult when I felt anxious.
So it helps her, that it helps with that connection. You know, it’s a normal feeling. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling this way. But it’s something that we can we can work through together. We’ve spent lots of times sitting, me listening. I mean, I definitely haven’t done this perfectly. There’s lots of times when I have gotten frustrated with her about it all but it’s not helpful. So I think connection and validation for kids that are feeling anxious or unsure or nervous about something is really helpful as well.
I wanted to share this as a bit of a personal insight into some of the parenting challenges. This connection is a parenting tool that I found really helpful over the last couple of months. I really hope this reminds you of ways that you can connect with your kids. And I think this can be helpful in all areas of parenting. I will link all of those resources that I talked about in the show notes. I’ll also link some other resources that we have on the blog on managing anxiety with naturopathic approaches. Also, managing puberty with naturopathic approaches that I’ve written and talked about previously. So you can delve into this topic a little bit deeper.
I’d love to know if you resonated, enjoyed this episode. Send me a direct message on Instagram or email me, email@example.com. For the next little period of time, we’re going to have some guest experts on the podcast. So that will be starting next week, which I’m really excited about. I’d love to know if you enjoy some of these insights into parenting. Yeah, I’d love to know if this is something you’d like me to talk a bit more about in the podcast when things come up for me.
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I’ll see you next week!