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Connection Before Correction: Why connection is such a powerful ally

In the fast-paced whirlwind of parenting, it's easy to find ourselves caught up in the day-to-day tasks and challenges and forget about the power of connecting with our children first. Yet, amidst the chaos, connection can actually be a powerful ally to make things a little bit easier, rather than harder! 

Hello there, my name is Anika and I'm the founder here at Mummy Made This, a company dedicated to inspire creative play in children but also to build a supportive community for like-minded parents.

Today I want to talk about the idea of connection before correction. And those of you that are keen advocates of the respectful parenting approach, will know all about this.

But for those of you who haven't heard about it, the idea is basically that you do your very best to connect with your child before you chastise them, before you discipline, before you do anything else, before you say no even, and that you get far better results actually if you do your best to connect with them and to work together with them to get to the end result.

The essence of connection before correction is simple yet profound: before addressing your child's behaviour, prioritize connecting with them emotionally. This means establishing a bond, understanding their perspective, and empathizing with their feelings.

But how does this work in practice? Is it feasible, especially in challenging moments? How do we still try and do that as parents?

So today I wanted to give you a couple of examples of what this looks like in my family and whether some of those resonate with you. 

1. Setting Boundaries with Empathy:

The first one is all about sweets. And my children have a very sweet tooth. They absolutely love things like gummy bears or pinballs or nerds or any sweets really. And when they've been shopping with me, these are obviously all readily available, right?

So, the thing I might say at the beginning of that shop before we walk into the store is that they get to pick one thing each. They have that choice and autonomy to choose the sweet they want (within reason).

And suddenly, the agreed-upon limit of one sweet each seems to blur. But rather than outright refusal, I aim to connect with them first. So, when they want to add a second sweet into the basket, I might give them a big heartfelt smile acknowledging their desire while gently reminding them of our agreement. And say something like: Oh, that sweet looks good too – it’s hard to pick, huh? We agreed just one sweet each so you can choose whichever one you want, but it’s just one.’ For my older one, I might add something like ‘Nice try, though’ to bring it back to something light-hearted and demonstrate that it’s not just about saying no; it's about guiding them through temptation with empathy.

The other thing that's worked really well for me and that might help parents with younger children is that we take pictures of the things that he would really like and that seems to help him to let go of that desire to want to buy it. I often make sure the price is on there as well so that I am reminded of the things that he liked (this helps me with ideas for when it is actually his Birthday or Christmas) and he's reminded of the things that he liked and then we can come back to the store at another time, if we want to. Nine times out of ten we never go back, we never buy it, but that doesn't seem to matter. That's not the point for him. The point for him is that he's got an image of it on the phone and he knows if he ever did want to go back to it, we could. That immediate need in the moment is met, and that really helps him. Even though I say no, we're not buying any toys today, he is able to feel understood. And let’s face it, it’s hard to learn to not act on instant gratification or buy a toy for someone else, especially when it is something that you’ve really wanted yourself for a long time!

2. Creating Quality Time: 

Sometimes, our children's behaviour signals a deeper need for connection. One of my children seemed distant, withdrawing into his own world. Despite our reassurances, he didn't open up. It felt like he was pulling away. He was always going off to his room. He was having a go at his siblings. He always seemed to feel ‘hard done by’. He didn't really want to talk about anything. And I get some of this is just growing up and you don't always want to talk to your parents about stuff and that's fine. And as parents we said things like: ‘When you want to talk, we're here to listen to you, we're here for you.’ But he never did come and talk about anything. And to be honest, life was really busy, we were constantly rushing everywhere. And actually, being honest, we hadn't spent much time just with him one-on-one or had that space for him to open up and talk about stuff that he wanted to. And a result that ‘natural connection’ just wasn't happening. So, I made a point of ‘engineering’, that natural connection, if you like. We agreed to go for a game of badminton, and he loved that idea. The next morning, I booked a court really early, before school, and I got him up and we got in the car before everybody else had woken up, drove down to the local gym and just played badminton together. Just half an hour, just messing about, giggling, having some fun. And when we then, went down to the little vending machine to get ourselves a Lucozade, he was full of life, bubbling, talking about everything. Fun stuff that had happened to him during the week, stuff that he'd struggled with and it just seemed to all pour out of him. Magic.

So, by realizing the importance of quality time, and initiating an activity tailored to his interests, led us back to that connection and heartfelt conversation.

3. Nurturing Emotional Intelligence: 

When emotions run high, it's easy to focus solely on behaviour. However, separating feelings from actions allows for meaningful connection amidst all that turmoil. By acknowledging their emotions and providing a safe space for expression, we can help our children accept all of their feelings and still realise that certain ways of expressing their feelings are not acceptable. 

So, in practice this might look like saying: I can see that you're really angry. I hear you. This is really frustrating for you. Tell me what's going on for you.’ Or it might be: ‘I hear that you are angry. AND I can’t let you hit your brother. Let’s hit this pillow instead to get rid of all the frustration.’ And then afterwards, when they have calmed down you can talk to them. In the moment, there is no point in reasoning with them, as that part of the brain has shut down. It’s more about staying with them through their turmoil and keeping them and others around them safe. 

I also think there is something about trying to teach them tools to help them recognise the anger early, so that they can take a deep breath, or calm themselves down by removing themselves from the situation. 

And this approach applies not only to children but also to adults – when I am really mad or having a bad day, if my husband were to turn around to me and say: ‘Stop that now, you are being ridiculous.’ That would really get my back up! But instead, he will say things like: ‘Oh wow, you're in a grump today. What's going on for you? Tell me about it.’ And I guess, that is really what our children need too – no matter how triggering their behaviour might be for us. The more heated they get, the more they need our calm to help bring them back down and regulate. 

What if it goes wrong?

Incorporating connection before correction into our parenting journey is an ongoing process. It requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to be curious about your children’s point of view. I also understand that life is busy and sometimes we just don’t have the patience and just need to get things done. Connecting helps with all of this and encourages cooperation that will get to the results far quicker and easier. And still, sometimes we get triggered and rather than connecting, and create a rupture in the relationship. And if that happens, I am a firm believer of talking about it with your child. Owning your own behaviours and apologising if you’ve got it wrong and again being curious about what really went on – both for you and the child!

For me, respectful parenting is not about getting it ‘right’ all the time, but growing each and every day and finding your way, together with your children. 

How do you connect with your children? What strategies do you employ to navigate challenging moments while maintaining a strong bond? 

As we strive to nurture meaningful connections with our children, let's remember that we are laying the foundations for that connection when the going gets tough! 

Wishing you a week filled with moments of connection and joy,


P.S. Join our FB community to watch a video on this subject too 😊

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