There are dozens of parenting labels out there – connection parenting, attachment parenting, positive parenting, gentle parenting, conscious, intentional. Most of these have a positive spin to them, although they can easily be misunderstood as permissive parenting. There are more that have a more negative connotation – helicopter, authoritarian, detached, neglectful, punitive. Parents can easily get too bogged down in labels and ensuring we fall completely into the philosophy we choose. It’s important to not allow ourselves to focus too much on labels, but it is important to focus on our parenting habits and how healthy our family is.
Connection-based parenting is one of the many terms to describe a relationship-based, respectful parenting philosophy that helps foster a family connection, positive, guided discipline, that aims to raise healthy, responsible, and capable adults.
These points on connection-based parenting are a great starting point for parents of young kids who are just beginning their parenting journey, and for families of older kids who are looking to rewire their parenting minds and rework their parenting habits.
Key Points on Connection-Based Parenting:
- When kids have unmet needs (physical, emotional, etc), we often see behavior problems. Many undesired behaviors are a symptom of something deeper.
- Parents can often focus on the behavior, instead of the person. It’s better to focus on the person first and find underlying problems that may be leading to undesired behavior. This takes more work than simply punishing the child for the undesired behavior, but it’s worth the effort.
- Treating kids with respect, kindness, and dignity teaches them how to treat others the same.
- Kids shouldn’t have to earn dignity.
- We understand that undesired behaviors are part of a child’s developmental process (all kids will push and test boundaries at some point) and often a symptom of something bigger (like disconnection or internal feelings).
- Lack of connection can have an impact on emotional and physical wellbeing. This means that when kids feel disconnected, their feelings will be seen in their behavior.
- This type of parenting takes effort and work. It’s often easier to punish kids for misbehavior or tell them to “stop crying” or “get over it.” Looking behind the behavior and working on relationship or emotional intelligence when times are hard takes more effort. But it gives kids the skills they need, instead of punishing a problem away.
- We have a focus on emotional intelligence for both ourselves and our kids. We don’t push away our kids’ uncomfortable feelings, but instead share in problem-solving to feel better and manage how we feel. (You can read more on Emotional Wellness for Parents and Emotional Intelligence for Kids here).
- We model what we want our kids to see. Want your kids to handle conflict well? Want your kids to have emotional regulation? Want to see them treat others with respect? They need to see you live that and they need you to teach them how.
- We are proactive. We see emotions when they are small and deal with them before they become big and overwhelming. We work on connection when things are going smooth to keep our kid’s love tank full.
- Being a connection focused parent doesn’t mean that we don’t have expectations for our kids. We can still expect them to do chores, homework, work hard, etc. But we don’t just place these expectations upon them without being there to guide or support them when needed.
Connection-Based Parenting versus Permissive Parenting
Connection-based parenting is not the same as being a pushover parent or a permissive parent. There is often a lot of confusion here. It would be easy to veer from connection-based parenting to being a permissive parent.
Permissive parenting allows kids free reign, no boundaries, or consequences. There aren’t many or any rules or behavior help. Kids are often given too much independence or have to make decisions they aren’t capable of making yet. Permissive parents give in to demands, often because they don’t want to deal with conflict. Often these parents want their kids to like them or don’t own their authority as parent. They often rescue kids from failure or disappointment.
I’m sure most of us have exhibited some of these characteristics in our parenting journey. And that’s OK. We can’t expect ourselves to get it right every time. However, if we notice unhealthy patterns of behavior that are negatively impacting our family, we should make the conscious effort to improve.
In contrast to the permissive style, connection-based parents still enforce boundaries and allow kids to deal with consequences. We don’t solve all our kid’s problems or hover over their lives. We are involved in their lives, but not ruling over their lives or neglectful of what’s happening around us. We hold our boundaries (even though we may be willing to discuss them with our kids if they find them unfair).
Our kids need us to hold them accountable. They need us to set and enforce boundaries. They need us to be involved and intentional. And this can all be done with a focus on their hearts and our relationship with them.
Practical Application of Connection-Based Parenting:
So, what are some practical examples of what connection-focused parenting looks like? Here are a few examples of connection parenting in action.
Look behind a negative or unwanted behavior:
A child who refuses to do homework may not being rebellious, but maybe is struggling with something else. Many times, when we see our kids struggling with behavior, there is something going on underneath. Often, they aren’t even sure what’s going on within them that is causing them to feel off.
Find ways to connect:
Relationship is the key to parenting. When our connection is strong everything else will typically be easier. We work to build a strong, secure relationship with our kids, fill their emotional bank account, give them realistic encouragement, let them know we believe they are capable, and enjoy our time together.
Empathy and understanding:
We don’t have to agree with our child’s choices to still feel empathy for what they have to deal with. Furthermore, understanding who our kids are and what’s going on in their lives will help us relate to them and build our relationship.
All kids will test boundaries and break rules. Some more than others. This is a healthy part of development. Instead of punishing our kids for making mistakes or pushing limits, we use logical or natural consequences and we are loving and empathetic. Making a kid feel worse won’t help him behave better, especially in the long run. When problems arise, we work as a family to come to solutions. We don’t punish our kids for having problems or feelings, but instead guide them to make better choices, solve problems, or feel better.
You can read more on Proactive Parenting here, but in a nutshell, it means that we plan for trouble. Maybe you notice your child starting to struggle with certain things, so you talk with them and work together to find a solution before it becomes a big problem. This can go for emotions too. We notice small frustrations before they become full blown anger and guide our kids to learn to manage small feelings. Additionally, being proactive means we have some idea of how our kids will likely develop. We understand that a 3-year-old doesn’t have the ability to sit still for long, so we help them manage themselves when they do.
While parents are the authority of the family, they don’t rule with a non-wavering iron fist. Instead, they allow kids to have a say in boundaries and rules that the child is able to help with. This doesn’t mean we necessarily allow our teen to choose a 3am curfew, or allow our 5-year-old to choose to walk across town alone. Instead, it means we work together as a family to have rules or boundaries, as well as family values we all work to hold up.
Remember, parenting is a life-long relationship that requires a lot of work on your part. But the work is well worth the effort. Our kids deserve us doing the best we can, even when times are hard. And although we can’t get it right all the time, we can always love our kids well.
By: Emily Scott, PhD
This blog is written as an educational and general resource only. It should not be used to diagnose or as a substitute for parenting or relational therapy, advice, or counseling with a professional therapist or medical doctor. Renewed Hope Parenting is not responsible for results or use of the information provided in these pages if you choose to use them. Everything included in this blog and website is copyrighted to Emily Scott, PhD and Renewed Hope Parenting and may not be used without permission.