I think that what it’s like to be a baby is it’s like being in love in Paris for the first time after you’ve had four double espressos, which is a very nice way to feel in some ways but it does mean that you tend to wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning crying.” Prof Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley
Professor Alison Gopnik studies how children’s minds work. Our understanding of how children’s minds are organised has changed profoundly over the last few decades. Rather an being a blank slate, or a “booming buzzing confusion”, Gopnik says “In many respects even the youngest babies are smarter even than grown-ups. They think, they make up theories, they try to figure out how the world works, and they pay attention to other people and try to understand things about what’s going on in other people’s minds.” Children have what Gopnik calls an “explore perspective”.[i]
Sometimes, parenting is hard because we have the wrong framework for understanding what a child is doing. Continue reading →
I live in Australia, and it’s clear that we are facing a climate crisis of the most profound kind. As parents we have a special and particular responsibility to understand what the science is telling us, and to find ways to take action. Our children will ask us “What did you do?” There will be many ways we can respond.
“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, at least two of which are co-sleeping with older children, and managing your relationship with your ex-husband. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
“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 →
“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 →
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 →