The inspiration behind my philosophy of heart to heart connections in building strong, meaningful relationships with children (and everyone else!) came from the book Loving your kids on purpose (LYKOP) by Danny Silk. This book married up with the practical and academic experience I gained during my degrees in psychology and functional behaviour assessment which taught me to come from an idiographic (i.e., every person is unique) treatment perspective. This means that to see lasting changes (and build great relationships) in treatment (and in everyday life), you must make a meaningful connection. Moreover, making a meaningful connection is made by acknowledging the other person as who they are and giving them the power to make their own choices because you value their individuality, insight, and ultimately, their person.
But how? I can understand the how impractical this must sound.
“It’s great to harp on about meaningful connections but what does that mean to me, a single mother, who fights with her disrespectful teenager non-stop because she doesn’t even do the simplest thing around the house. She won’t even talk to me. How could I possibly connect meaningfully with her?!”
You’re totally right. It is a difficult circumstance for you to even imagine even connecting meaningfully with your daughter. Let me ask something though. How is your connection with her? Describe the time you spend connecting with her heart-to-heart.
I have asked this question so many times in my life since reading LYKOP. Let me tell you, it is often a very humbling question. Again, that usually brings me to a point where I realise that I have been trying to over-control that person.
People strive for freedom. We die for it. We do all sorts of things for it. We don’t like when our freedom is taken away, and if this happens, inevitably, we rebel. So what is different about our children? When we take away their freedom and expect them to love the choices we have made for them, we disempower them and insight rebellion or learned helplessness.
In contrast, a heart-to-heart connection involves vulnerability for both parties. It involves you as a parent, husband/wife, friend, colleague being vulnerable, asking for forgiveness, and asking to know them and their heart, whilst sharing yours. This is a process, it does not mean spill the beans and vent to this person about every intense detail of your life, but it does mean sharing and being brave (not over the top) about your emotions. From there, build up choices.
What do I mean by this? I mean offer choices within boundaries (every child needs boundaries!!).
Your three-year-old is walking near the road while you have your other baby in the pram. You ask your child to hold your hand near the road and she says “No!”. Then you say, “Darling, when you scream you’re not being fun. You can either hold my hand or sit in the pram.”
Right here the three-nager has been offered a choice, join her sister in the pram or simply hold her mother’s hand until they are away from the road. She chooses her mother’s hand because she has been allowed the freedom to.
What if she doesn’t? I hear you ask. She has every right not to choose. However, not choosing then results in more options.
“Okay, Darling, you’re using a loud voice, that’s not fun. By using your loud voice, you have chosen the pram. Do you want to jump in the pram or do you want me to put you in?”
“You’ve chosen for Mummy to put you in.”
Cue: screaming for ten minutes, and eventually settling down.
“Mummy, can I come out of the pram?”
“Yes, Darling. Would you like me to help you?”
The screaming still happens, yes, but the child has chosen this. Eventually, they realise that they made that choice (and it wasn’t very fun), and behaviour follows an extinction pattern (sorry, I have done a Master in behaviourism and it comes out sometimes!). It is important that during highly emotional times, like this one, that you do not become emotional. Feel free to become emotional with them when they are doing something fantastic or you’re sharing a sad moment but not when they are emotionally volatile toward you. This just reinforces the attentional component.
It is also important to build up emotional intelligence in your child by seeking to find out what caused the issue in the first place. Ask them how the felt, and why they behaved that way. From there, collaborate to come up with solutions. For example: If you realise that your toddler’s screaming had an attentional component, revaluate the amount of time you’re devoting to connection with your child.
This is just one method, and there are many effective parenting methods. However, I love this one because both parties are empowered and celebrated for their uniqueness, yet are not punished for behaviour that is trying to communicate something. In true LYKOP style, this method is just a choice; you may choose to adopt it, or find another method that gels with you.
Thanks for reading, and happy choice making.
Nov Blogpost. 17