Monday, September 18, 2017

Connection-based Parenting

Much of what I read in the Positive Parenting world is about connecting with our kids. Rather than give advice about how to "get" our kids to do things, advocates of this parenting style are trying to ask a better question: how can I do a better job of connecting with my kids? They realize, of course, that while short-term they can punish and/or reward their kids to manipulate them into doing what they want, but they also know that in the long term the cost to the relationship is too high (not to mention that nobody wants to raise a child to be an adult who is obedient and easily manipulated).

I just started reading Brené Brown's book "Braving the Wilderness." The entire premise of the book is that we are a connection-driven species. According to her research, loneliness increases our odds of dying by 45 percent. One passage stuck out at me as I was reading:
"When we feel isolated, disconnected and lonely, we try to protect ourselves. In that mode, we want to connect, but our brain is attempting to override connection with self-protection. That means less empathy and more defensiveness..."
Oftentimes, in my hurry to get things done (because it's getting late and we have to get to school or get to bed or get somewhere) I try to control and manipulate my kids to get what I want. I'm often surprised when it all blows up in my face, although I shouldn't be. If my children become disconnected from me, they have no choice but to go into self-protection mode. The only thing that matters in self-protection mode is them, not getting somewhere on time. Clearly, if I started with connection first, I would have a much greater chance of gaining their cooperation.

Connecting with my kids to gain their cooperation requires a whole new mindset. As Nathan McTague points out on his blog:
"We’ve got to quit our addiction to Behaviorism.
It should be pointed out, for those of you who’ve never heard the story, that Behaviorism — a pseudoscience based on the notion that human behavior is a malleable commodity to be controlled and harvested for economic advantage — was designed to make subjects do whatever they were told. Not simply to do what was preferable, or intelligent, or kind, but anything that was commanded and associated with reward and/or punishment."
It would be all too easy to tout connection as the latest parenting trick to "get" your child to do what you want. The bigger picture, however, is that as a connection-driven species, we need to work harder to make sure that the most vulnerable among us does not lack connection. I think Nathan McTague says it best:
"When it comes to raising our children — we want them to know, and understand, and feel it in their bones, that we love, and value, and cherish them for no other reason than that they are."

For Further Thought:

1) Have you noticed your own feelings of connection/disconnection?

2) Have you noticed patterns of connection/disconnection in your family?

3) What gets in the way of establishing connection in your family?

For Further Reading:

1) Alfie Kohn at NYT:  When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’

2) Visible Child: Finding the Right Question

3) Creative Child: Connection-Based Discipline

1 comment:

  1. Then I get plagued with guilt, as I am today because I got upset in front of the t(w)een over how we are parenting them. Although I was upset with myself and sciDAD, I fear that the t(w)een will again interpret this as somehow their fault (everything is their fault according to them).
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