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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Focus on Nutrition & Sleep – This sets up your child for success.
- 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.
- 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
- Use the IDEAL Response –
- Action Based
- Leveled at behavior not the child
- 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.