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The Big Answer


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Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear

a book by Pam Leo

(our site's book review)

Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear is compassionate and insightful as it focuses on children's emotional needs, and explains why children's unmet needs are the cause of most behavior problems.

Pam Leo believes the goal of parental discipline isn’t controlling children's behavior by punishing or threatening them when their behavior is unacceptable, but instead to teach children to do what is right. The old idea that discipline is about punishment is obsolete and needs to be dumped.

Ever-increasing amounts of family TV viewing has weakened the parent-child connection
Ever-increasing amounts of family TV viewing has weakened the parent-child connection

“The stressful pace of modern living, the loss of extended family support, and the ever-increasing amount of time adults and children spend with television and computers have further weakened the parent-child connection,” says Leo. As a result, unmet needs are expressed as more acting out than ever. More conservative and traditional parents have tragically concluded that this requires more punishments and threats and controlling of kids’ behavior by parents as well as more mothers staying home to do caregiving. Some busy parents and teachers simply label the kids as having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and drug them so as not to have to deal with them so often. See Reclaiming Our Children.

Some busy parents and teachers simply label the acting-out kids as having ADHD and drug them so as not to have to deal with them
Some busy parents and teachers simply label the acting-out kids as having ADHD and drug them so as not to have to deal with them


Alfie Kohn wants classrooms to move from compliance to community, with kids working with teachers cooperatively and teachers treating students as fellow citizens in a small community where everyone deserves respect—not just the teacher
Alfie Kohn wants classrooms to move from compliance to community, with kids working with teachers cooperatively and teachers treating students as fellow citizens in a small community where everyone deserves respect—not just the teacher

However, wiser parents realized it must be unmet needs that is causing their kids to act up. They started adapting their lifestyle to create conditions that meet their children's need for more human connection, especially parent-child bonds. The author believes that attachment parenting is one of those conditions. There are reams of evidence backing her up.

The author correctly sees that lack of people resources is the most common reason for kids competing to get their needs met as well as acting up when the people watching over them are too busy to provide the kids with the attention they need. If a family had more people resources, for example, it wouldn’t force the caregiver to have to bring the child to the bank or the store because there would be someone else to provide caregiving to the child. Very little kids often get frustrated by banks and stores and it’s better if their adventures out and about start when they are ready. Most parents dread what they know will happen when they bring an active 2-year-old on these outings, but they often have little alternative.

Leo says that “parenting never used to be and was never intended by nature to be a one or two person job. Families work best when everyone's needs are met. It does take a village to meet the needs of children and parents.” This is critical to understand. She not only hit the nail on the head, she defined THE biggest issue standing in the way of children’s needs being filled so well that they become happy, creative, compassionate, responsible, insightful human beings.

Leo hits the nail on the head about the barrier to children’s needs being filled
Leo hits the nail on the head about the barrier to children’s needs being filled

In Connection Parenting, connection means feeling loved and listened to, and disconnection means feeling hurt and unheard. Since the goal of Connection Parenting is to meet proactively children's need for connection, then this means a significant shift in context for most parents when they adopt this parenting method.

Leo reminds us that it’s up to parents/caregivers to meet kids’ needs, but it’s not up to kids to meet parents/caregivers’ needs. Parents that live through their kids, pressuring them into performing (sports, music, dance, etc.) are trying to perversely get kids to fill their emptiness and unmet needs and expectations. Such parents need to totally reevaluate why they had kids in the first place, and if it was to use them this way, they need to either get off their kids’ backs and let them find their own way and make their own choices, or hire caregivers such as nannies who will meet kids' needs.

She says that it takes the same amount of time and attention to meet a kid's emotional needs as it does to deal with behaviors caused by his or her unmet emotional needs. Correcting and controlling and judging kids’ behavior is wrong discipline strategy. It generates the very “misbehavior” it’s trying to stop. Concentrating on creating a close attachment with kids and filling their needs is the only correct, appropriate discipline strategy.

Interestingly, the author believes that chores and responsibility are easy to deal with by simply remembering one basic thing: kids want to do these chores with us, not alone. So, making dinner, washing the car, planting the garden, and raking the leaves are no problem. Once kids learns to enjoy themselves working with you, they will see that they can contribute to the family too, they’ll be proud, and they’ll refrain from seeing chores as work to avoid.

She believes that we teach children acceptable behavior by teaching them how to make it right when they mess up, via apologies, cleaning up a spill, etc.

Leo would like us to quit diagnosing and fixing problems, but, instead, prevent them in the first place. Using Connection Parenting will prevent many, to be sure. However, like she says, until we get enough resources (“it takes a village”) helping with the caregiving job, we won't be halting the diagnosing and fixing.

Parents’ needs are as important as kids’ needs. We need to take care of ourselves as well as our kids, and without extra resources, this verges on impossibility. She says that in creating such resources “We re-create the ‘tribe’ by creating an ‘extended family of choice.’ We adopt people we love and care about to be ‘honorary’ aunts, uncles, and grandparents.”

Connection Parenting is very effective. When parents utilize it, kids are less stressed, smarter, more moral and autonomous and better behaved. You cannot go wrong using this parenting style. Pam Leo has done an admirable job putting together this method, which is kind, gentle, respectful, thoughtful, nonpunitive, and compassionate.

Her contention that it is nearly impossible to do a great job of taking care of ourselves as well as our kids without extra resources is right on. We need to form our own “extended family” group, not rely on a rotating cast of strangers in normally substandard daycare centers or homecare places—that’s her message.

We need to form our own 'extended family' group, not rely on strangers in substandard daycare centers or homecare places
We need to form our own 'extended family' group, not rely on strangers in substandard daycare centers or homecare places

Okay, there's a huge childcare problem in the U.S. with no help in sight from the government or elsewhere, how do we help ourselves? The answer, at first, is to use babysitting co-ops to alleviate some of these issues. After all, if poorer families need 1/5 of their income for childcare, won't it give them more time with their kids if they get free childcare by being in a co-op? This fits Leo’s idea to a T.

But only MCs (microcommunities) can get anywhere near a total solution to the optimal childcare we all—including Leo—want for our kids. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match