I am in the process of learning about this program. I have a almost 2.5 year old son. I have been doing special time (with a timer) and staylistening. I have a hard time with playlistening. It does not come naturally to me, and when I have tried a few of the things listed he will like them for a short time and then be done with them. I do try to follow his lead. He hasn’t ever been a cuddly boy, but seems to be liking more as he gets older. So when I try some of the snuggly stuff he seems put off. In one of the phone calls they mentioned a book that has ideas. When my husband and I are trying to check in or talk, he has been biting, pinching, and hitting and throwing stuff and would like some help.
It is so great that you are doing regular Special Time with your little guy. That is the most important place to start when shifting to this Hand in Hand Parenting by Connection approach. I think everything else will flow naturally from your Special Time together. You are really building safety and trust when you do Special Time and follow his lead. At 2.5, he is probably not making big decisions about his Special Time, so what is important is that whatever he decides to do, how ordinary or mundane – you simply delight in him and be as involved as you can without directing him. You can ask questions or make silly mistakes or be befuddled or you can simply sit with him as he plays and shine your love and attention on him.
The playlistening and being playful and goofy is tough for many of us – particularly if our parents weren’t very playful. The book referred to is Larry Cohen’s Playful Parenting. Larry has also co-written a book on roughhousing The Art of Roughhousing. Both are chock full of anecdote after anecdote. I am a great believer in not re-inventing the wheel. Steal other people’s ideas, I say. The common themes you’ll find in playlistening are that you want to take the less powerful role and be as ridiculous and goofy and befuddled as possible. You don’t necessarily have to be cuddly. You could dramatically act like you are going to cuddle your son or smother him with kisses and you can say in a dramatic voice “I hope someone doesn’t run away because I want to give him a thousand kisses”. Then when your son runs away, you just miss him or you are completely befuddled because you can’t find him. It’s the near miss or the fact that he got away that could get him laughing. He has outwitted you!
An Instructor Kate Orsen has written lots of lists of playful ideas for different subjects and you’ll find her blog posts on our website. Here is one example. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/2016/01/10-ways-that-laughter-can-transform-your-day/
There are 2 ways you can approach your son’s aggressive signal for HELP when you are checking in with Dad. The first is… you’ve noticed this is a pattern. So before you check in with Dad, do 10 minutes of Special Time. If Dad has just come home, it would be great if Dad could do 10 minutes of Special Time. Expecting a babe to wait when every cell in their body is crying for connection is just neurologically impossible. See if giving him that chunk of Special Time is enough so that he can play on his own while you two connect. You might even fight over him when Dad comes home. I get him! No, I get him! Having both of you shine your light on him will really fill his cup.
If it’s not, here is the 2nd approach, which Patty outlines in this great article about a kiddo who never seems to get enough attention. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/helping-child-emerge-attention-getting-behavior/ This is looking at your son’s need for attention as an emotional project which will take a combination of Special Time, Setting Limits and Staylistening.
As I said, it might be that Special Time and some rough n tumble play where he gets to push Daddy over and ‘win’ could be all that he needs. The most important thing to note is that it is a pattern and he is using his body (aggression) to signal for HELP in a big way. You can be prepared for that by keeping him close when you go to check in with Dad, so that you are right there to lovingly and warmly set a limit – “No, sweetie, I can’t let you hit me, throw that toy…” and then Staylisten. No amount of talking to him is going to help him get rid of the chunk of fear that is driving that off-track behavior. But expecting the aggression, staying close, setting a warm limit and then staylistening will help him tantrum, cry, kick – whatever he needs to do to release the fear. I suspect that if you are able to listen to him all the way through (yes, check-in with Dad will have to wait that night or even for several nights) you will find your son is possibly much more flexible for the rest of the day, and gradually checking in with Dad will no longer be a big deal.
One last thought is that, if you’ve had a practice of connecting with your husband when he first comes home, it may be easiest to adjust that to giving your son your undivided attention all through dinner and bedtime. The more attention you give him, the earlier and easier he might go to bed and then the more Special Time you could have with your husband. Just a thought…
I hope all that helps. Please come back with more questions, give these ideas a try and let us know how it goes.
Peace & Smiles,
Parenting by Connection Certified Instructor
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy