Parenting can feel so complicated at times.
You likely read conflicting advice from experts online and in parenting books, get different opinions from friends and families about the best way to handle things, and then have to take into account your own personal values and the unique needs of your child. When you add other complications, like trauma and adoption, it can feel overwhelming to figure out the right thing to do.
The “Rules of Connected Families” outlined in the book The Connected Child provide a great summary and framework for any parent to think about how they approach discipline, communication, and their relationship with their child.
The book The Connected Child is focused on parenting children who are adopted, in foster care, or have a history of trauma and neglect. But the approach of focusing on respect and nurturing as the foundation of parenting can be helpful for any family. Structure and limits are necessary, but are balanced with a strong focus on relationship, nurturing, and connection.
That balance between nurturing and limits is so important in order for our children to feel safe and grow to be successful adults. Children need warmth, affection, expressions of love, respectful communication, and someone to listen to their thoughts and feelings. They also need clear rules, limits that are enforced, an understanding of how their actions impact others, and sometimes consequences.
Here is the framework from The Connected Child:
The Rules of Connected Families
A child may not dominate the family through tantrums, aggression, back talk, whining, or any other tactic.
Parents are kind, fair, and consistent; they stay calm and in control. They administer structure and limits, but they also provide a great deal of nurturing, praise, and affection.
A child is encouraged to use words to express his or her needs directly and respectfully.
Parents honor a child’s boundaries and respectfully listen to his or her needs and requests. They never shame or ridicule a child’s perspective.
Parents meet all reasonable needs and requests. They say “Yes” whenever they can. Occasionally they allow a compromise, and at times they say “no” and deny requests.
Parents respond to misbehavior immediately. They redirect a child to better choices, let him or her practice getting it right, and then praise their child for improvement. Once the conflict is resolved, they return to playful and warm interactions with their child.
The book goes into more detail with specific strategies for implementing these “rules,” as it can sometimes feel challenging to know how to handle certain situations. But sometimes we can get caught up in looking for a magic tip or trick that will fix behavior problems, so it can be helpful to have a way to step back and refocus on a more big-picture view of how we want our family to be.
It is essential for children to feel safe (emotionally, not just physically) in their home, to learn to express their emotions and needs, to have their needs, emotions, and boundaries respected, and to live in an environment of love and nurturing. This will benefit our children not only in the short-term as we help them to be happy and well-behaved, but also in setting a strong foundation for their future growth.
As parents we also need to remember that what we model for our children is even more important than what we tell them. Responding to children with anger, harshness, and disrespect for their emotions and thoughts has the potential to damage their self-esteem, as well as teaching them that anger and disrespect are ok ways to handle problems.
If you would like to try to keep these guidelines in mind, I’ve created a printable for your reference. Consider hanging it in your room or on the fridge as a reminder for yourself. Click here to get your copy of The Rules of Connected Families.
And if you wanted to learn more about the connected child approach, you can purchase the book through the following link: The Connected Child. I believe that this book is essential for all families that are raising adoptive or foster children with backgrounds of abuse or neglect.
Need additional support in your parenting or need therapeutic services for your child? You can contact me to set up an initial consultation call.
Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR-BC is an art therapist and psychotherapist in Austin, TX. Carolyn works with children, teens, and parents (including those with foster and adopted families) who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and trauma. You can learn more or schedule therapy at www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
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