Podcast: Connected Parenting


Lindsey and Wellspring therapist, Melody, discuss the importance of nurture and structure in parenting.


Host: Lindsey Steffen, LMHC
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Guest: Melody Canton, LMHC


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00:00                                     Welcome to wellspring on the air where professional Christian counselors share practical life and Bible insights. Why? Because hearts and minds matter. We're glad you joined our show today to hear from our host Tova Kreps, president of wellspring counseling in Miami. Tova is a licensed therapist with many years of experience as a Christian counselor to have a teacher's rights and consults and life. FM is pleased to have wellspring counseling, restoring hearts and minds in our community. Hi there. I'm Lindsey Steffen, a licensed mental health counselor at wellspring and cohost for wellspring on the air. Today I'm here with melody, one of our therapists at wellspring. So welcome. Hey Lindsay, so good to have you. Today we're going to be talking about connected parenting, but before we get started, melody's been on the air with us a few times, but why don't you just tell us a little bit about yourself as a clinician?

00:49                                     Well, my favorite thing in the world to do is to work with children and family. I love to work with kids who have experienced trauma and I love to work with families who are coming together through adoption or foster parenting. And how that transforms their life. But just in general, helping families navigate life's hard bumps and trials that they come across. Yes. She's our expert. All things attachment and parenting children. Yeah. Foster adoption. So it's a big need. There's a lot of families who come and have very unique issues. So today we're going to be speaking about connected parenting and how this is for parents, whether your children are coming from unique situations or your biological children, but um, how to parent in a more connected way and how to best nurture your children. So why don't we go ahead and get started. So what is connected parenting, first of all, how would you define that melody?

01:48                                     Well, I tell people that, you know, there's many styles of parenting that are out there and they've kind of ebbed and flowed over time. More popular types of parenting style or authoritarian, the parenting style that is my way or the highway or fear-based, where kids are kind of forced into behaving, which is not optimal because when they're away from the parent, then they don't have that fear based instruction coming at them always. And so they don't know what to do. And so connected parenting is a style of parenting that focuses on connecting with the child first and then correcting once you've established your relationship with them. And it simply is, you know, letting the child know you're okay, you're okay with me, but we need to work on this. And so it's really good for developing a strong base for the child and from making them feel safe, secure and loved and knowing that their parent is connected to them in meaningful ways.

02:55                                     I love how you describe that and it kind of, as you're speaking, it just as logical, so you're actually giving them the life skills, the decision making skills to grow and do that. So it's not just when you're here you follow the rules so you don't get in trouble. But then when you leave it's like ah, freedom and kind of that extreme. So it's like we're wild when we're out and then we're home. It's super strict and maybe legal listic yes. And being a teacher. Previously I saw that a lot in the classroom when parents would come in for activities and the child would just be like perfect and following every direction while the parent was present. And then as soon as the parent left, you know, fall apart and not know what to do and how to respond. Yeah. So I kind of, I hear as you talk about that just the child that can't feel good for them.

03:43                                     Like you said, they don't feel safe and secure because they don't feel like I know what to do. You know, I don't know how to navigate life. And even when they're little, they're navigating some big life stressors sometimes with friendship or bullying, different things at school. Yes. Anxiety. Okay. So one thing that I think is, you know, key and connected parenting is that we often relate the word discipline to punishment. And, and in all actuality that is not accurate. The root word of discipline comes from disciple, um, which means to learn. And so the premise to have connected parenting is to teach and to be able to come alongside of our children and show them through modeling, show them through giving them abilities to try it again, um, that they can learn and grow. Not that when you mess up and you make a mistake, that's it.

04:41                                     Here's your punishment. That's good because I hear a trust between the parent and the child. There's a bond there, so it's not like, Hey, I'm doing something bad. I'm going to hide from you or reminds me of my dog. If he's doing something, he hides tearing up something or whatever, but it's more the, hey, you know, I can, maybe I can even talk to you about this. You know, you see that difference between pair or kids who may be, they try drugs one time or do something, and I've had kids in my counseling who they told their parent that day and I'm always impressed. I'm like, wow, that's a good bond that they have and they know that the parent is going to be reasonable and going to maybe talk to them and sure, maybe ground them or punish them, but still have a conversation, not just, oh, that's it.

05:26                                     Your, you know, phone taken away. No conversation. Yes. And it's amazing how even at tiny young ages, toddlers starting, like you mentioned, being afraid and trying to hide something that begins in the first year and a half of life that we're intrinsically designed to know, oh, this is wrong. I shouldn't be doing this. And so you start right from ground one working at that with the little teeny ones and teaching them like, it's okay. You don't have to be afraid. You don't have to hide what you're doing. Yeah. Even when you're speaking down to that age, so young, I think of like spilling a, a drink or something and you see kids who get immediately really scared and you know that the reaction is usually they're yelled at. Yes. Whereas you do see parents who know it's okay, it's an accident and just kind of that connection where you're allowed to make mistakes, which I think we need that going forward in life cause we're going to continue to make mistakes and you need to be okay with that.

06:24                                     Right. Not Be scared of failure or perfectionistic, which probably unconnected parenting might breed. Yes. Yeah. And we will definitely touch upon that. We'll get there in it. Okay. Very good. Why would you encourage parents to parent this way? Well, as a counselor, my favorite theory is the attachment theory and the premise of the attachment theory is helping kids to grow up to be securely attached individuals. And so that is um, that's a challenge. And so, um, but I feel like if we do that, then we set our kids up for successes and when they hit failures, they know what to do and so their life doesn't fall apart and they aren't left wondering what's next for me or going to that shame based place. Um, so I feel like I'm parenting from this style takes a lot of work and it is difficult. It is not couch side parenting.

07:28                                     It is very active and engaged. But when you begin to do that, when you provide that for your child, they are just going to thrive and blossom. And one of the things that is key in this style of parenting is that you're looking at children's achievement, which sometimes we tend to stay there and all we want to do was be able to say, oh you did good at this. Or Oh that wasn't so good. We need to change. And that could be related to school, it could be related to sports teams, it could be related to how we function in our households. And so one of the keys for connected parenting is that we help kids to understand that there's two parts of them. There is that achievement place, which is very important and we want them to grow and be successful, but there's their emotional side.

08:22                                     And so for us to develop that as importantly as the achievement based side grows our children into being well-rounded, um, securely attached individuals. And you know, that's rewarding and it's hard for us to recognize the emotional side, I think because it's hard for us to measure it. We can't say, oh, you did really good there. You got an a, because nobody's grading that emotion regulation and that situation was a plus. Yeah, you're right. I mean, we can reward for good emotional choices, but um, we tend not to think in that way. We tend to stay towards the achievement based parts of life. Yeah. This kind of makes me think of just the parent's work to be in a healthy place and kind of have their own emotional development to the level it needs to be so that they can then model pass this onto their kids.

09:18                                     And you know, that's important. And we, when we come into parenting, we come with our own attachment styles and both mom and dad bring that to the situation. Um, and so we have to work at it. We have to be able to see where am I at this, you know, am I a dismissive type of parent that just wants to brush things aside and not focus on that tough emotional side of life? Sure. Or because of my own avoidance. Yes. Yeah. And it's been spoken and that, you know, as parents join this style of parenting to give themselves a break in the beginning and to know that statistically we're gonna work at connected parenting and get it right 30% of the time. Okay. And so, so the pressure's off. Yeah. You're not going to be perfect on it either. Yeah. And so it's really good to know that and just to be able to grow yourself and know you know, how to do it and how to learn better ways of doing it.

10:18                                     Well, yeah. I wonder what you said about shame and kind of the kids, maybe if there isn't connected parenting, they might segue into that shame place. Any other thoughts on the, and shame and guilt, you know, and I think depending on our own attachment styles and what we bring to that picture, if we are dismissive, you know, and we push away, that makes a child feel not worthy and not wanted as much. And although we're not trying to gain that in that type of parenting, that is sometimes the consequences of it that, you know, they feel like, oh my mom or dad doesn't want me even in their sight, they want me to go, you know, whether it's time out or go to your room or instead of really coming together and saying again, you're okay, you're okay with me, we just have to fix this.

11:11                                     And so shame of course leads to other things. And I think those are things that are hidden. We know that we want to go away from our parents and be like, oh, I don't want them to know I'm doing this with addictions, more serious things as we go. I kinda hear then there's two parts to it where there is still that more traditional discipline of maybe timeout, but there's just explanation and telling them this is what's going on. You are okay affirming who they are. And we're not saying that you don't actually give consequences, but that's coupled with a conversation. And so there is two parts to this style of parenting being that you just brought that up. It's important to know connected parenting is a huge style of parenting for people who are adopting kids from trauma backgrounds. And so in that setting we don't use things such as timeouts or consequences because the shame core is so deep and those things are not effective.

12:13                                     But when you're raising a child, your biological children with that base of thinking consequences come on board naturally because you've developed from the beginning the ability for the child to know that they are connected to you as the caregiver or the parent. And so when that base is established, yes, you can do those things. Okay. I still personally have over the years grown too. I'm looking at timing versus timeout even with biological children because again, it grows the connection and there's not a, it's not that you're like, uh oh, everything goes. It's not like that. The time is just keeping the child close until they have the ability to regulate parents going about their business. When the child's ready, the child signals to mom or dad, okay, I feel okay, now I'm ready to talk and discuss this. Okay. Versus sending away, but makes a lot of sense.

13:14                                     I hear respect there too for the kids respecting their space that they don't have the skills to regulate perfectly. We don't as adults even so giving them their time and then them letting you know, hey, I'm ready, let's deal with it. And when a child is in that brain space of dysregulation, you cannot really effectively communicate. You have to let them come back to their regular brain place, which is you know, their thinking brain and be able to communicate effectively and hear what you're saying. Okay. I like that you differentiated though how maybe with a biological child you've had from birth connected parenting will look a little different or maybe a lot different at times from children may be who, um, are coming from foster care you've adopted. So we're going to go ahead and take a break, but I'd love to hear more about that after the break. So I'm Lindsay Stephin with wellspring on the air and we'll be right back.

14:09                                     Wellspring now offers professional Christian counseling at six locations in Dade County. Therapists are now taking clients at two new locations, one at Crossbridge, Miami Springs, and key Biscayne for more information, (786) 573-7010 or wellspring miami.org for more information.

14:31                                     Well, welcome back. I'm Lindsay Stuffmann with wellspring on the air here with melody. And today we're talking about connected parenting. So if you missed the first part of our show, go back and listen. You can check out our podcast, a wellspring on the air, so you can look that up on your podcast app or on our website wellspring, miami.org we have our shows. So let's go ahead and dive back in. So we've been talking about what connected parenting is and why this is a great parenting style and how this has beneficial to both the parent and the child, how they can be more connected and have a trusting bond. So let's go ahead and talk a little bit briefly before we keep going. Just how might this look different for parents who are listening, who are raising children who are adopted or maybe from foster care?

15:18                                     I really became aware of connected parenting through my journey of helping adoptive families come together. And my training was through Texas Christian University and they have a phenomenal program and they have studied this for years to help kids that have not developed that secure attachment base in their early years. So I tell families that are in the journey of fostering or adopting that you're almost starting from day one, that you have to put aside things that were normal to you in parenting and leave them, um, kiddos that don't have a secure base and don't trust caregivers have to gain that nurturing and have structure set for them. In a way that we do with our babies when they come into our lives. Um, we're meeting a baby's need constantly and consistently and that is how a baby learns to trust us as their caregiver and learns to grow and develop in a healthy normal way.

16:26                                     Uh, and that baby has their needs met consistently to, if we're attuned to them and parenting from a secure attachment style. And so a Kiddo that hasn't had, that needs their foster or adoptive parent to come on board and provide that. And so that means a lot of needs being met consistently. That is tough when you have a child that's eight or 10 or 15 come into your life and you're like, how do I meet their needs consistently? You almost feel like you're being a permissive parent, but that's not it at all. It's building a base that is helping that child to understand that you're there for them and you do want to help them by meeting their needs in developing trust in you. So it's quite a bit different. You're, you're investing for the long haul. Yes. I hear you're working with maybe let's say a 15 year old, but emotionally they're ages not 15 that's their chronological age, but you might be starting at two or three and you need to kind of maybe have a mindset of, okay, I'm dealing with a three year old when it comes to impulse control or emotion regulation, a million questions a day and you're like, why are you asking me all these questions when truly they are learning and they have missed out on so many parts of life that seen that modeled for them.

17:49                                     It can become challenging. Yeah. I'm so glad. Melody's with us because I think there is, there's so much parenting in general. It doesn't come with a manual and there's so much parents I think are like, you know, they bring kids into the office, they're like, I just don't know what to do. But I think when you have children, especially with these even more unique needs and maybe trauma histories, that is even less of a manual, you know, you may be, depending on your own experiences, it just, it might feel like I'm in a world that I don't know how to navigate. Yeah. And I think on top of that, every child's view of their own trauma impacts them differently. And so we have to meet that individual child where they are. Right. So that's important as well. Okay. Very good. Well, let's move on and I'd love to hear how is the style of parenting actually helpful to the children?

18:41                                     So in the attachment theory, the goal is that we grow a securely attached child and the PR, there's four different premises to this and they seem very simple as I, I'm going to read them to you, tell them to you. But it really carries throughout life. It's not just something that we do in our early days of parenting. And so those four premises are that we're able to give nurture that were able to receive nurture and that we're able to have our needs met. And then become our autonomous self. And in the Christian realm, that fourth one I like to say, I think the secular world, you know, is like we become our autonomous self when we are ready to launch out into the world and we feel good with who we are and where we've come from. And we kind of know where to navigate through life.

19:37                                     But for us, I believe that oftentimes we forget the piece. And so incorporating this into our parenting style that we're created and that we're designed to be something important in God's eyes and he has a plan for our life. And so I feel like this goes hand in hand. So I know that inherent value and yes. Yeah. Yes. So with these four premises, if we help our children, and again, if we start from day one, giving nurture and meeting the needs of our baby, as our baby grows and becomes a toddler and a young child, then they know how to in turn, give that back to somebody else. Yes, they've been able to receive it in effectively and it's good and it's right. And so then they're able to do the same for their parents, for other family members. And then as they join peer social settings, again, they know how to do that.

20:34                                     Not without flaw, not perfectly, but they're set up for a better way. And one of the major groups that has focused on this over the year is a group called circle of security. And their goal again is to, they do a circle and the top part of the circle is achievement based. In the bottom part of the circle is emotional needs. And in the center is the parents as the secure base. And so we know as we watch babies, when they learn to crawl, they inch away from mom and dad and then they look back, where are you? Am I okay? Are you still there? And that continues to happen as a child grows and they constantly are like, where's mom and dad? Do they know what I'm doing? Are they okay? Are they here for me? Are they rooting me on? Are they here to pick me up when I fall?

21:25                                     And so as a child grows with that, knowing that there's a secure base, they're able to go further and further. And we see this in the classroom where they're able to take risks and they feel brave in the academic settings because they've been given that base and they know I'm doing the best that I can and my parents want me to be successful and do well. And so that goes straight out to the teen years into adult years. And so, you know, the goal for us as parents is that we eventually want to launch our kids out into the world. We don't want them to live in our house forever. Sometimes they come back and that's okay, but the goal is that they can go navigate through life. And even when they hit their adult years and they had storms of life, they can look back to us and say, there's my secure base.

22:18                                     What do I do now? How are you going to help me? And so as parents, are we standing with open arms welcoming them in? Or are we saying, oh, you messed up again. Yes. And so that is what helps, um, children to grow healthy and why this parenting style is great for kids and families. Man. As you're talking, I'm just, I'm inspired because I'm imagining this is life changing for kids. Cause like you said then it's teen adulthood and I just hear confidence like they're empowered to take risks as you said. I mean they can, they can achieve so much because it's not fear-based or shame-based, but they're ready to take on whatever life brings. And I just imagined that's a fulfilling life. Yes. And you know, when we talk about getting our needs met, like it's easy to see that when it's an infant, like they need to be held, they need to be burped, they need to have diapers changed, they need to be rocked to sleep.

23:16                                     But when you're an adult and you're relating with other people, it's important that you have words and understand how to get your needs met and all of your relationships. And so jumping into a career, if you're able to communicate well with your boss and say, you know, well, I'm ready for a raise now. I'd like to talk with you about this instead of manipulating or being deceitful or trying to step over other people to get higher. This is just a firm foundation for good life. Yes, I do. And I even, I think of some of my adult clients who they really, it goes back to self worth, but they, they tell me, I don't know how to make decisions. You know, I feel everything I do, I overthink it. I get anxiety. I'm not sure if it's right, but I hear exactly what you're talking about.

24:04                                     They lacked a secure base and so now they still, as an adult, they don't just all the sudden, oh click, I'm an adult now I'm, I'm confident and know what to do. But they lack really big life skills just to navigate everything from relationships to career job. And then eventually they have their own kids and then they're bringing them for counseling because like you're saying, they never got the skills to then pass on. And I want to give hope though, and I know melody would agree that let's say you were raised and you didn't have a secure base. You can still go to counseling, find support in your community or maybe in your church and really grow those life skills later and then you can pass them on. Right? Yep. That's the best thing about this premise. And for foster and adopted children who didn't have a secure base.

24:51                                     And for adults who are navigating these things, it is always changeable. And by getting good, close relationships, like you said, and you know, wherever you find that, whether it's in the counseling room or whether it's friendships or church friendships, small groups, you know, that is where we can establish those things and start to grow again. And in the counseling world is called earned security. And so yes, it can happen at any time of life. Yes. So take heart. If you're listening and thinking, oh no, I'm going to screw my kids up. That's absolutely not true. Because I think in most of us, no one had a perfect childhood. That's true. So all of us across the board have things we need to relearn or learn in a new way. And no one is a perfect parent. And so I raised two biological children not knowing these techniques.

25:44                                     I did no security and I didn't know how to meet their needs and do things of that nature, but I didn't have the training to work on the emotional abilities of my children as strongly as I wished that I had. And so I, you know, I learned it now and um, I think you know that again, everybody has their opportunity to grow and change. Yeah. And I like that. I guess as parents you take responsibility as much as possible. But then also children as they become adults, then they also, you take responsibility and you, we say at wellspring fixed what you can. Yes. So things are, they're never perfect, but we always do have the opportunity and the control to fix things in our lives and we can't undo the past or Redo it, but we can fix now what's going on and symptoms that are coming up.

26:34                                     So we go into the future with really a different trajectory. Exactly. All right, so melody, how would someone learn more about connected parenting? Are there any resources out there they could look up? So some of the big good ones that I really recommend is the circle of security. It is a parenting style that is often taught by therapist and groups, but their website has some really great resources that you can read about and look at. And there are some good books as well. Some great books for parenting in this way. Come from Dan Siegel. Um, there's two that are on the top of my mind, parenting from the inside out and the whole brain child. And Dan Siegel is huge in this field of connected parenting. My counseling supervisor was an attachment guru and he learned from the best and actually he started his beginnings here in Miami at the University of Miami and he is publishing a book in 2020 but in the meantime, he has a website that in the book as well growing connected.com and some great resources there, great information.

27:49                                     And we love the book, the Connected Child. It's focus is on adoptive parenting, but again, that's where I learned what I learned. And so it is good for any parent, but the focus is for parents who are stepping into, um, the adoption arena. Um, so these are just a start of things and then, you know, eventually I think that a wellspring would love to be able to put on seminars for teaching and helping with this parenting style. Yes. I think that would be a very popular one cause a lot of parents, they are bringing their kids and kind of out like I don't know what to do and I think they would love to know what to do and they would carry it out. They're willing but they just need some trainings. We'd love to offer this in the future and we'll definitely keep you posted when something materializes. So. Well, melody, thank you so much for being here today. You're welcome. I'm glad to do it. Yeah, I hope this was helpful for our radio listeners and um, tune in next week we'll be back. But for now, I'm Lindsey Stephin with wellspring on the air because hearts and minds matter

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