Author Archives: Madeleine Winter

About Madeleine Winter

Madeleine is a certified Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor and Parenting Coach. Her focus is on strengthening relationships and on building the parent-child connection from zero through to adulthood. As the parent of a teen, she knows how that must change and shift as children get older, but that the focus needs to stay on building connection. She provides practical tools to empower parents to build close connections and emotional safety with their children and support for themselves. Madeleine was lucky to be introduced to Hand in Hand many years before becoming a parent, and has been working with families using the approach for over 20 years. Witnessing how her child used these Listening Tools from the beginning inspired her to share them more actively with other parents and carers. In 2009 she founded Listening to Children Through Play, which is now "Hand in Hand Parenting with Madeleine Winter". Madeleine works across Sydney including with culturally diverse communities and families for whom English is not the first language. She also loves to work with fathers. “Fathers have such a special role to play in family life, and they get so little attention as dads”. Madeleine runs workshops and courses flexibly to meet the needs of parents, from 1 hour one-off events through to the 6 week Starter Class. She also works with parents and their children, individually and in groups, coaching them in the Listening Tools. Her workshops and courses can be structured around common parenting challenges and present each of the six Hand in Hand Listening Tools as appropriate. Since 2014, Madeleine has been part of the Instructor Certification Team, mentoring new Instructors across the world through Hand in Hand's 9 month long Instructor Certification Program. You can contact Madeleine at madeleine "at"madeleinewinter "dot"com Madeleine says “the best thing I ever did was become a parent. I don’t want any parent to feel bad about themselves as a parent. No matter what the struggle, we parents are the bravest, most dedicated bunch of people I ever came across, and I feel so proud to be one. “What I love about Hand in Hand is that it offers practical ways to recover from the mistakes we make, learn from them, and prevent difficulties in future. It means we can support and love our children the way we dreamed we would, when we first became parents. I’m not a fantastic parent or a natural player – but these Listening Tools work. In many ways, Hand in Hand (and a kitchen timer) saved the play at our house! ” “I also love that Hand in Hand offers us tools to build support around ourselves as we parent. One of the hardest things is not having people to plan with, share with, problem-solve with, and get help from about the work of parenting.” Madeleine often works with her husband, Roewen Wishart, an experienced Hand in Hand Parenting father. Together, they use the Listening Tools in their own parenting and relationship with one another. They love to share these Tools with friends, and like nothing better than a good old Saturday night family-and-friends wrestle. Here’s what some parents have said about her work: "I liked being reminded that we are all good parents. The talk was structured around our questions and I wish we had longer - I could always take more listening to you, Madeleine. I really enjoyed today's session and find this style of parenting very child focussed and child friendly." Foster/adoptive parent of 18 month old, who attended a talk on "Helping Your Child With Their Fears and Worries" and a 3 week Hand in Hand course “Tears, Tantrums and Other Troubles”. "It's working! What you've suggested is actually helping me not only understand these unique little people but it seems to work well with my husband too! And for the first time in ages I've been enjoying parenting. This is a huge shift. Thank you." Mother of 4 year old twins and 5 year old, who attended talks on “Why Can’t They Just Get Along? Some Solutions for Sibling Rivalries” and “Why Won’t They Just Do What I Say? Limit Setting Without Saying Time-Out” and has worked with Madeleine one-on-one. “Madeleine was great - she kept us on track. Madeleine’s like a "personal trainer" that kept reminding us "get fit"! Do you do home visits? I think you would make a great Super Nanny!” Father of baby, toddler and 10 year old, “Hand in Hand Parenting Starter Class for Fathers” Course. “I have found the parent to parent listening time very good and enjoyed it very much. Madeleine and Roewen were great facilitators and I felt very well supported.” Father of 9 year old boy, “Hand in Hand Parenting Starter Class for Fathers” Course. More about Hand in Hand Parenting. Hand in Hand Parenting was developed and is supported by a not for profit based in Palo Alto, California, working world wide with parents, parent leaders and professionals who support parents. We offer practical tools with which to build an authoritative approach to parenting – offering high warmth and clear, firmly and appropriately offered limits. The guiding principles of the Hand in Hand Parenting approach are Children need a strong sense of connection in order to function well – co-operate, reason, learn, make friends, take initiative. Parents want to be close to their children, but the current circumstances of parenting – isolation, lack of financial resource, lack of good support and information – make that hard. Feeling disconnected or stressed causes children’s behaviour to flare. Traditional responses to “behaviour problems” often fail to address the underlying emotional needs of children, or to take account of the state of their relationship with their parents and how that influences their ability to function effectively. Feeling isolated and stressed causes parents’ behaviour to flare. When emotional stress sends parents’ behaviour off track, they need support and reliable ways to reduce the stress. Parenting is emotional work. Parenting is also a relationship. Hand in Hand Parenting offers parents and carers tools for making sense of and resolving their own, and their children’s, emotional tensions, and for strengthening and repairing the connection between adult and child. We teach 6 Listening Tools, focusing on: Play: Special Time and Playlistening are child-directed playtimes, where parents to follow children’s lead in play with warmth and enthusiasm without trying to teach, give direction or make suggestions, and promoting laughter where possible. These tools build the parent- child relationship, allowing the child to show their concerns, struggles and interests, and facilitate healing of fears and embarrassments though laughter. In some circumstances, Playlistening also serves as a way to set limits lightly and without harshness. Limit Setting: needs to address the underlying emotional tension driving children’s “off track” behaviour, and to be effective must build connection between adult and child, not damage it. Listening: once a child starts the emotional release process, adults can Staylisten, remaining close and attentive, without criticism or blame. When the child is finished, he can feel the caring the adult has offered, and he can relax, learn, and play well again. This empowers parents to meet their children’s upsets without feeling they must always “fix the problem” or “settle” or “quiet” their children. Parents also develop emotional resilience and build support networks around their parenting though Listening Partnerships and Parent Resource Groups. Each adult takes a turn to listen to the other without interruption, judgement or advice giving. This gives parents a chance to reflect on the challenges of parenting and playing with and listening to their children. Our short talks offer parents a chance to try a Listening Partnership, and our courses are structured around the Parent Resource Group. You can find out more at

Young man sleeping, pink sheet green shirt.

Should I still be co-sleeping with my teenager?

Hi, I’ve been using the Hand in Hand tools for a few years but my husband has never really been on board. I’ve modelled using the Tools – and over the years he used to help me with Special Time when they were little, and he’s watched me hold them through their tantrums, instead of scolding them and sending them off. We are now separated, and while we are on the same page in many ways around parenting, my husband has been pushing our son, who is 12, to sleep in his own room.

Yes! I still co-sleep with all three of my kids 13, 12, and almost 11. LOL! But my husband is worried that my son is too old to still “sleep in mama’s bed”, and is afraid it’ll make him “soft”, etc.  I have to say, I DO want my son to grow up to be a tough guy like dad. I still believe in masculinity, but I also believe in emotional intelligence. So, part of me sees his point, but the other part of me doesn’t mind them being in there with me and I know they have always felt better sleeping with me. Do I talk to dad, who likely won’t hear what I have to say? Do I let son sleep in my room and not tell dad (something I’d rather not do)? But it’s because I don’t mind them being in there with me and I know they have always felt better sleeping with me. Do I stick to dad’s wishes, knowing that son will be okay…and there are other ways to connect and make him feel safe?

Such good questions! I think there are several issues here, two of which are co-sleeping with older children, and managing your relationship with your ex-husband. Continue reading

Children sitting in playground with backpacks

How was school today? Using Special Time to get the answers you need

When our kids first start school, it can be so infuriating that they often aren’t interested in telling us much about their day. (And as the parent of a teen, I can tell you that it is often the same when they get older!)

Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand in Hand Parenting, explains why you don’t get much of an answer when you ask the question “How was school today?”. She explains how to use Special Time to reconnect – with young children, and those heading into adolescence. Continue reading

Why Reaching for Consequences Doesn’t Work

It can be so easy to reach for consequences when you feel frustrated with your children.  And while you are more powerful than your child, they might get some results.

But in the longer run, that exercise of power doesn’t work.  As our children get older, and gain some power of their own, your efforts at coercion will show up in conflict and tension. Continue reading

Fireworks in the sky - celebration

What do I wish for us in the New Year?

I love working with parents. I love listening to us, I love how hard we work, I love what a force for change we represent – we would do almost anything for our kids. I love how hard we strive for integrity.

This year, what would I like for parents? I’d love that we get paid for the work we do. I’d love that we had enough training. I’d love that there was enough practical help and support that we could get a regular, reliable break when we needed it.

But the real killer, for parents, is what happens to the inside of our heads. We are soooo hard on ourselves. I’d love for us to stop that. Continue reading

Mother and teen daughter cuddle, enjoying one another

I’m so sick of nagging!

“How do I get a child to do as asked, and not when they feel like it, but when you ask them to? I’m totally sick of ranting, having to follow my child round the house to make sure he’s doing what i asked. He won’t come to dinner when asked, won’t go to bed when asked, won’t do anything when asked. Will do things I’ve asked him not to do. Not all the time, but mostly and when he sees fit. He’s too tired to get up and do things he even wants to do. I want him to be able to put himself to bed early, not after he’s done whatever he sees fit.”

Nagging wears us out. And it wears our kids out. Or more accurately, it wears our relationship with our kids out. Nagging our older children is one of those things which can seem so tempting and justified. After all, they are bigger now. They ought to be able to do it. And now they are older, you sure are sick if doing it all, which you’ve probably been doing, un-thanked, for years now…We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, nagging often doesn’t move anything much forward. In fact, it can move things backward. When your relationship with your child is characterised by trying to get them to do things but there’s no progress then its probably a sign that things need to change. Continue reading

Mean looking female teacher with class rules written on blackborad

“My Teacher is So Mean!”

“I have a 9 year old daughter whose first day of 3rd grade was today and it appears we have “the mean teacher”. I’m thinking of going to see the principal, the teacher, and maybe trying to get her moved into another class. But what can I do if that doesn’t work? Only 179 more days to go. Ugh.”

Sound familiar? It can be agonising trying to work out how to help our child through tough times with their teachers. In situations like this we need to be our children’s advocate. And we also need to keep our focus on building and repairing relationships – with the school and the teacher, and with our children. Around issues to do with school, there are things we can, and things we cannot control. And the place we have real power and influence is in our relationship with our children. Continue reading

Upset teen girl sits, head hidden, blocking us out.

A Little Bit of Special Time Goes a Long Way

It’s easy to put off Special Time.  After all, family life is busy, and in some ways gets oddly busier when we have older children.   But Special Time it brings rich benefits when we do it.  Most importantly it builds emotional safety.

Even when it is “pretty basic”, as this mother puts it, Special Time refreshes and renews our children’s sense of our confidence in and for them, and reassures them of our love for them.  This is what our children need in order to begin offloading the emotional backpacks they are carrying around.  As they get older, those backpacks are more tightly buckled down that they used to be.  Our children learn to “suck it up” and hold it in for fear of social death if they let their feelings show.

So after Special Time, this mother finds her 11 year old daughter’s grumpy mood dissolves, and out rolls a big upset.  It can be hard to know whether to go or stay when our children tell us to go away.  At least sometimes, however, it’s worth staying, and listening it out… Continue reading

Tween using mobile phone/cell phone to text. Photo by Carlssa Rogers,

When she must have a phone…

Sometimes, holding a limit on something – so long as we are pretty sure the limit is reasonable –  can open up a whole lot of feelings about other things. This is as true of our pre-adolescent and adolescent children as is is of our younger children. In fact, as young people internalise the message that they shouldn’t show their feelings, a well-held limit can provide just the opening. Here’s how it worked for one mother and her daughter: Continue reading

Helping Young Children Sleep

Mother kisses daughter goodnightDoes your child put off going to sleep?  Do they wake during the night? Will they only sleep if you are with them or they have their “special toy”? Are you ready for them to move into their own bed?

Maybe you have tried different things to solve the problem, but these have only seemed to work for a while.

Every parent deserves a good night’s sleep, at least once in a while!  Healthy children over 6 months old can sleep through the night much of the time. Many families struggle to establish workable sleep routines, but often the common approaches to solving sleep problems seem harsh and damaging to our relationships with our children.

You can deal with your child’s (and your own) sleep challenges while building your connection with them and deepening their sense of trust in you.  If your child has persistent sleep problems, it might be worth checking with your doctor.  However, if there is nothing physically wrong, then Hand in Hand offers a reliable way to work through your child’s sleep difficulties.

Whether it is getting to sleep, or staying asleep, feelings are often the cause of the difficulty.

Emotional tensions accumulate during the day, or are left over from difficult experiences earlier in children’s lives.  These tend to bubble up in their minds during the night, waking them.

Children also often experience sleep as a separation.  They love us, need us, depend on us, and do not want to be separated from us.  Many children accumulate fears – some light, some heavy – about separation.  If we know how to help our children release those feelings, bedtime can become an easy, fun routine instead of a battle ground.

Connect first by promoting laughter-filled play

A good place to start is not at bed-time, but In the daytime, and early evening, you can make a family tradition of play that helps children (and often the adults) to laugh.  Ideally this play would include with lots of warm, physical contact.   It’s important that you ensure that the children, not the adults, are the winners – they are the inventive, the stronger, and the more persistent.  (And a quick note: don’t tickle.  It would take more space than we have here to explain why, but tickling is not helpful.)

We call this Playlistening. When children get to laugh with us, and get to win, they regain their sense of connection with us, they gain confidence, and tensions dissolve. Laughter actually dissolves lighter fears and embarrassments, all the while connecting us . This can sometimes be enough to solve persistent sleep problems. And if not, the connection built will provide the emotional safety our child needs to really work through their big feelings which are bubbling up around sleep.

Children need us to respond to them when they wake in the night. 

That is one thing I am sure of.  Sometimes we can successfully “comfort” our children back to sleep.  But often, this gets harder and harder over time.  Like many fear-based problems, if not addressed effectively, the problem often gets bigger – it snowballs.  What started as waking only once in the night, or some fretting before bed, shifts over time to several night wakings, or nightmares.  The way I understand this is that the fears are not resolved by our comforting, they are just “tamped down”. The fear keeps bubbling up, and our children find more and more forceful ways to bring these underlying fears to our attention.

There are effective ways to respond which actually assist a child to resolve the emotional tensions that wake them in the night, or which make them not want to go to sleep.

You may need to set limits – but with love and warmth. 

Setting limits at these times – while staying warm, close and connected – can often provide an opportunity for children’s big feelings to surface and be released.  You can gently, with the warmest tone you can muster, say “No” to the request for another bed-time story, or to finding teddy who has fallen out of bed, or to the dummy, or to moving into your bed.  And then you can …

Stay close, and listen to their feelings

Often, children will need to cry.  Sometimes they will also struggle, perspire and tremble.  These physical processes help release emotional tension.  Did you know that stress hormones are washed out of our bodies in our tears?

During the day, you can also listen. 

When you child is upset, resist the impulse to “fix it up” or to tell him to stop being upset.  When children are carrying around emotional tensions big enough to wake them at night, they are likely to be bringing those up in the daytime also.  All those little upsets about things that don’t make sense?  They are actually about big things.  Your child may never be able to tell you what they are really crying about. But you can be confident that those tantrums and tears are “draining the bucket” of feelings that are waking your child in the night.

After upsets, reconnect with Special Time

Special Time is also a wonderful way to fill your child’s cup of connection. When you are in a phase of needing to set limits and work through deep feelings with a child, regular Special Time can re-balance your relationship. It reassures them that you love them, want them, cherish them, and it puts them firmly in charge, at least for a little while! It’s the delighted “Yes!” that needs to go alongside the warm “No” of limit setting.

Consistency is not vital

Can you believe this?  This nugget of wisdom is perhaps the most important thing that I learned when I first came across Hand in Hand Parenting.  So much of the advice about sleep, and about limit setting in general, holds that you will need to “hold the line”  and remain consistent in the limits you set.

There’s a lot to say about this, but in brief, in the Hand in Hand approach, what is needed is your consistent warmth, approval and connection with your child.

When you bring limits, such as proposing that your child sleep alone, or get to sleep without a pacifier or dummy, you will likely bring up the feelings they have been “tamping down”.  These however, are exactly the feelings which have been making it difficult for them to get to sleep, or stay asleep.  Listening to these feelings is the key to progress. But if you have listened for a while, and can listen no longer, or now need to get to sleep yourself, it is OK to bring the child back to your bed, or give them back their dummy.  They will probably stop crying, and may be able to to sleep.  You are unlikely to have completely drained the bucket of fears that are keeping them awake.  But you can come back to it another time.

The thing is, you are not trying to “teach them to sleep” (which might require consistency), but you are aiming to drain away the feelings which stop them from sleeping.  Every little bit of draining you can do will help.  But it is important that you approach this project at a pace that is manageable for you and your child, and maintains your child’s trust in you and sense of connection with you.  Pace yourself.

You may have an “emotional project” on your hands

Difficulty getting to sleep, or staying asleep, often indicate that your child is carrying a load of fear.  It is a fear they will return to, time and again.  This is what we would call an “emotional project”.  Helping your child unburden themselves of the fear may take some time, flexibility in your approach, and creativity.  The feelings that are holding them back from a good, deep sleep, may not resolve in one good, vigorous play, or deeply felt cry.  You may need to develop a Connection Plan to guide you as you and your child work through this project.

Developing a Connection Plan.

We can get so desperate around the issue of sleep that it is easy to move into trying to deal with the problem before we are really ready.  But it may take a while, and you will need to understand it’s dimensions, and look after yourself in the process.

You will need to :

  • understand clearly why your child might be waking in the night.
  • know how to set limits effectively around your child’s sleep issues – which will involve building connection into your relationship, and understanding that solving sleep problems may involve listening to upsets rather than fixing problems.  Learning to listen can also be quite a skill.
  • get support for yourself, somewhere that you can “download” about your fears and worries, and get the emotional support we all need in order to keep meeting our children’s underlying emotional needs as well as their practical needs.

Get information and support

One of the best ways to learn about how to solve sleep problems is to work your way through the course “Helping Young Children Sleep“.  Its a self paced course involving approximately three hours of video outlining the “why” of children’s sleep problems and “what to do” about them. Add to this a couple of Parenting Consultations with me – I’m a Hand in Hand Instructor with over 20 years experience helping families through just this kind of challenge.  In a Consultation, you can have your specific questions answered and develop a plan that fits your family, and you should find yourself well on the way to a good night’s sleep!

Good luck!  Please be in touch – I’d love to help!