20 Parenting Tools that Connect & Correct

Most of our tools in our parenting tool bag for children two-years-old and above focus on correction. This might work with our biological children who received nurture from the moment they were in the womb.

However, for our children from a hard place, they most likely missed out on a lot if not all the nurturing they needed while in utero and the first year of life. If we try our traditional parenting tools to correct these children, many times their response is either fight, flight, or freeze. These children often get labeled as rebellious, ADHD, or with some other mental illness. But these children simply need what they missed out on—Connection. So, if you are parenting a child that came from a hard place, you might need to replace some of the parenting tools that worked with your biological children. I know this can be hard. We never had biological children, but we naturally apply parenting strategies that our parents used or that our circle of friends use with their children.

Here is a list of 20 Parenting Tools that Connect & Correct (taught in the Empowered to Connect Parent Training Course). I hope this list will encourage you to take this course or visit my Orphan Care Resource Page for a free workbook and a list of related, recommended books.

  1. Balance Nurture & Structure – A key insight to help you “connect while correcting” comes from understanding your child’s need for a high degree of structure and a high degree of nurture. This takes a lot of time.
  2. Embrace the Privilege of Saying “Yes!” – Think of it this way—Your “yes” generally represent the nurture your child needs, while your “no” generally represent the structure your child needs. Which one do you usually say to your child?
  3. Respond to Fear with Connection – Instead of asking, “What are you afraid of?”, ask, “What do you need?” Connection that creates trust is the only real cure for fear.
  4. Take Play Seriously – Play is one of the most effective parenting tools available to help create a sense of “felt safety” in a child. Read Are You in Touch with Your Play Personality to learn more.
  5. Connect First, Then Correct – The question is never “do I correct?” Our children need structure and correction to grow and succeed. The question is “how do I correct?” And one important aspect of “connecting while correcting” is to (when possible) connect first, then correct.
  6. Own Your Stuff – When we encounter behavioral challenges and conflict with our children, it is important that we ask this question, “what part of this is really about me?”
  7. Repair Your Mistakes – When you repair your mistakes (and we will all make them) quickly, humbly, and sincerely you are training your child healthy relational skills.
  8. Regulate Your Emotional State – Being fully in the moment, or attuned, with your child requires that you learn to regulate your own emotional state. Good Luck!
  9. Practice Total Voice Control – How you use your voice matters a great deal when responding to fear-driven responses from your child as wells dealing with misbehavior. “T” – Tone; “V” – Volume; “C” – Cadence.
  10. Focus on Nonverbal Communication – Is your posture relaxed and inviting or rigid and threatening? Are you arms folded; finger pointed; foot tapping? What about your facial expressions—jaw clinched, brow furrowed, eyes warm and inviting?
  11. Give Your Child Voice – Giving choices, offering compromises, encouraging your child to express his feelings, etc. are examples of giving your child voice. This is a primary way to promote healthy attachment. Read this to learn more about attachment styles.
  12. Encourage Feelings – The key is for you to help your child feel felt—to be attuned to what he is feeling and to feel with him.
  13. Use Time-in (Instead of Time-Out) – The primary purpose of time-in is to help your child calm; time-in is not designed as punishment. Self-regulation is not self-taught. It is always learned from someone else.
  14. Respond to Sensory Processing Needs – While most of us have some level of sensory processing deficits, for children from a hard place,  these deficits often are much more pronounced. Visit my Orphan Care Resource Page to find several Sensory Processing tools.
  15. Get Your Child Moving – “Research shows that when we change our physical state—through movement or relaxation—we can change our emotional state.” —The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind
  16. Focus on Nutrition & Sleep – This sets up your child for success.
  17. Practice Outside of the Moment – Help your child to calm in the moment. Turn to other tools to help them learn and grow outside the moment.
  18. Respond Efficiently (Levels of Engagement) – 
    • Redirect with playful engagement
    • Redirect with choice giving
    • Redirect with time in or think it over
    • Redirect through physical interruption of the physical aggression
  19. Use the IDEAL Response – 
    • Immediate
    • Direct
    • Efficient
    • Action Based
    • Leveled at behavior not the child

  20. Manage Transitions – Plan ahead and help your child transition from one activity to the next.

Again, applying any of these parenting tools is harder than learning them. Many days Danielle and I feel defeated, but we keep practicing them trusting that this will make up for the nurture our son missed out on.

If you want to learn more about any of these, you can either visit www.EmpoweredtoConnect.org, check out the free downloadable workbook on my Resource Page, or let me know which one and I will blog about that specific tool.

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “20 Parenting Tools that Connect & Correct

  1. Interesting points. #5 is one that, to me, is very important. I found when I would correct my daughter (she’s biological, not adoptive) I too often was too vocal, too loud and the correction became almost condemning instead of corrective and instructive. When I realized that (sometimes it takes us dads a bit to ‘get it’ on that aspect) I told her that if I ever spoke to her in a condemning, overly vocal, or extreme negative manner she was to look me right in the eyes and say “Daddy, you’re not supposed to talk to me that way.” And, she did. It helped me learn to focus on the corrective aspect of the moment and to diffuse my irresponsible anger and mis-reactions to the situation. And, it let her know that, while she did something wrong and correction was necessary, she wasn’t being condemned and we could discuss like well behaved people what had happened and how to correct it so it didn’t happen again. She actually trusted me more when it came to necessary behavior modification and it helped the daddy-daughter, parent-child relationship.

    I think what you’re doing with these posts is awesome and I trust it reaches those that need to hear it and blesses at least one person with each you send out.

    • Deloy—It seems to me that most of us Dads struggle with our voice control! What you did with your daughter is very insightful and powerful. Sounds like you did and still do a good job of repairing. “She actually trusted me more…” I have no doubt that is true!

      Thanks for the encouragement, too.