I talked about the book “Connected Parenting” by Jennifer Kolari in my last post here.
As I said, it’s a great read and has some great parenting strategies. She talks about the importance of empathy in parenting and the need to always establish a connection. She introduces her technique called the CALM technique. It goes something like this:
When your child is talking to you – especially when they are having an “issue”, you need to:
C – Connect. Looking right in your child’s eyes, leaning towards them, trying to look like you understand his urgency.
A – Match his Affect. Model however your child is feeling – make your body language and facial expressions reflect his.
L – Listen to his words and paraphrase them back to him as if he were saying them.
M – Put it all together and Mirror.
When you do this, you are expressing empathy and this helps your child work through whatever issue they are having as they feel understood.
I must admit, when I was reading this book, although I liked this strategy, I thought it was a little too wishy washy, sunshine and lollipops for me. I mean, I could do with dishing out a bit more empathy, but honestly, I can’t stand being around parents who sit there and try to explain and rationalize and justify every tiny move to their child and then watch that kid walk all over them like a doormat.
But then, Kolari introduces part two of her strategy.
She states that parenting comprises two distinct roles – that don’t often seem compatible: soft parenting and hard parenting. Mirroring and connecting with your child, loving and nurturing, are what she calls “soft parenting”. Setting limits and containing bad behaviour is “hard parenting”.
Mirroring helps children organize thoughts, understand their emotions and helps them build confidence, build resilience and increase self esteem.
Setting limits is preparing them for life. It is a way to let your child learn what is expected of her within your family and in the world (ahh – expectations again) – and that she is fully capable of handling whatever that may be. Limits help kids feel safe and in control.
Kolari likens it to a rope – you holding one end and your child at the other. If the rope is too tight, your child will feel constrained and may just think of you as mean. But if the rope is too slack, then your child may become anxious. They may have too much power and that creates anxiety and not enough connection. With the proper tension, children can relax and just be kids because they know you, as an adult, are in control, and they are protected, secure and safe.
She also likens setting limits to walking into a room with the lights off. You have to grope your way around the perimeter – touching walls to avoid hitting your head, bumping into the furniture. Eventually though, if the walls are consistenly there, you know your way. You can move around the walls because you know where they always are – you can deal with them, and like the predictability. But, if the walls keep moving, or are there sometimes and not others, then anxiety will set in because there is no consistency. It is really stressful to not know where the walls are.
I loved this analogy. Because in life, we are often walking around a dark room, with walls and pathways, and light switches placed here and there. And we create the room for our children to grow in.
As parents, we need to prayerfully figure out the design of the room for our kids, and then introduce it to our kids. We need to show them around, let them know where the walls are, what the best paths to take are, and where the light switches and emergency exits are. If we change something in the room (which we often need to do – renovations are always needed:), we need to let the kids know. We need to be consistent and not arbitrarily change the walls and floor plan because that is confusing for our kids and can actaully cause them stress and anxiety and take away the security and safety that they desperately crave.
So I guess the best way is to combine hard and soft parenting. I daresay we are usually better at one way than the other. Always something to work on:)
Kolari ends the book posing 3 amazing questions to ask ourselves as we are on this parenting journey:
1) What do I want my children to remember about their childhood?
2) What will I feel when my chidlren are gone and I look back upon myself as a parent?
3) What do I want my children to remember about me?
These questions will help me stay focused on the main goal: raising happy flowers and skids:)