These Connection Codes tools have transformed our parenting and our home. I hope you will implement these tools and through them find relief, hope and connection. You will not do them perfectly (nor do we) but as the Connection Codes have taught me: Parenting is about presence not perfection.
Let their river of emotion flow. Stopping the river is not an option, any attempt will only create a temporary dam and a wall between you and the child. As parents, we want to build bridges between us and our children, not walls.
Slow down. Kneel down. Make eye contact. Hold them when they are flooded with emotion. Giving our eyes, ears and arms to our children creates healthy attachment and helps them to coregulate/process emotion. Slower is faster when it comes to emotion. Slower is better.
Abort the mission and coregulate. Whenever possible, stop whatever task you and the child are trying to do, sit down, hold them, hear them out. Resume the mission after the emotion is processed. (Often I think I don’t have time for this but responding this way usually ends up faster- the emotion is processed faster and the task ends up completed faster.)
Teach them to access, identify and verbalize their emotion. Learning to pause, turn inward, identify the emotion, name it and speak it to someone trustworthy is how they will learn to healthily process emotion. This will assist them in becoming emotionally and mentally healthy adults.
Respond with “I hear you.” Don’t defend, explain, or encourage in the moment of emotion, just listen, remain present. And if you are in a hurry that you feel cannot be avoided follow “I hear you” with “That is important. Let’s talk about that. We need to *fill in the blank*. Come talk to me while we do that.”
Let them get through the tunnel of emotion before discussing logistics. I cannot outlogistic my child’s emotion. Intense emotion shuts down cognition, therefore logic will be disregarded until the emotion has subsided. All emotion needs is “I hear you.” Any other discussion must come after that, on the other side of the tunnel.
Say this, not that:
Instead of “Don’t cry.” Say: Its ok to cry, I cry too sometimes.
Instead of “It’s no big deal! You’re fine!” Say: Oh man, that is hard.
Instead of “Why did you do that?” Say: Let’s talk about what happened there. (Why indicts, or creates walls, what happens invites, or creates bridges.)
Understand the significance of coregulation. We joke that the mamas kissing the booboos is magic but it is science. It takes 80% less glucose (energy) for a child to coregulate than it does for them to self-regulate. When the mama kisses the booboo, her touch, her presence decreases the amount of energy the child needs to process that experience. Our children bring their hurt feelings and hurt bodies to us because they are coded to coregulate. Their cells know this even if they (or we) are not conscious of it.
Redefine the “tattle-tale” mentality. When our child comes to us with hurt feelings it is often because of the innate need to coregulate rather than a desire to get another child in trouble. Allow them to coregulate, then give them the tools and language to respond to the friend or sibling that triggered the emotion.
“Nevertheless”. Separate the practice of obedience from the emotion about obedience. (Example: “I hear you. I see how hard this is for you. It’s ok to feel sadness about doing chores. Nevertheless...you must still do the chores. Sometimes I feel sad that I have to do laundry. Doing things we don’t always want to do is part of life.”)
When we respond to our children this way we notice a peaceful, respectful, team-oriented atmosphere within our family. Life is not perfect and neither are we but this atmosphere is one in which we can all connect and thrive.
Please ask me questions if these need clarifying. And stay tuned for Connection Codes Parenting Part Three!
(Check out Connection Codes Parenting (Part One) for more of our story and the paradigm shift the Connection Codes have brought to our life.)