What Is Parenting By Connection?

Raising tiny humans is the most precious of roles – not to mention, one of the most challenging things you’ll likely ever do! And sometimes, a little support is worth your weight in Tim Tams.

Have you heard of Parenting by Connection? This is a really supportive, helpful skill-building workshop that many parents find super helpful for navigating those tough days (and weeks!). Here’s what one of our recent participants had to say about Parenting By Connection:


“This course has given me back my connection with my little girl. We had lost that connection and it was breaking my heart… I didn’t know how to get it back. So, this course has given me that connection again – when we go to sleep at night we are looking at each other’s faces and we’re delighting in being together and when we wake up in the morning, we’re happy to see each other. I’m getting that affection and connection back, it’s just absolutely amazing. Having those tools to set limits in a loving way is amazing. It’s been very valuable. Thank you.” – Happy Parenting By Connection course participant

So, what exactly is Parenting by Connection? Parenting by Connection is an evidence-informed approach, aligned with current neuroscience and psychology research. It is backed by over 40 years of experience, and the fundamental cornerstone is a simple one – listening.

“Parenting is vital work and you deserve support as you nurture your family,” says Meerilinga Parenting Facilitator Belynda Smith.

Did you know that when your toddler throws herself on the floor and starts banging her little fists and wailing – all because you gave her the blue cup instead of the green one –  her tantrum may actually have been triggered by an uncomfortable feeling of being disconnected from you? Yep, according to the Parenting by Connection approach, challenging behaviours are often a signal from your little one that she needs to reconnect with you.

According to the Parenting by Connection approach, when children feel secure thanks to a healthy parent-child connection, they can blossom into loving, caring little humans who learn readily.

On the flipside, when kids feel disconnected, they typically display irrational behaviour, or they will spontaneously release tension, often through crying or tantrums.

We asked Belynda to answer a few questions about the Parenting by Connection method for us. Read on for her insights, below:

What is the philosophy behind Parenting by Connection?
Hand in Hand Parenting’s vision is a world where parenting is valued and supported. In Australia, we call the Hand in Hand approach Parenting by Connection. Parenting by Connection supports parents and provides them with the insights and skills they need to listen to and connect with their children in a way that allows each child to thrive. We teach five key tools to meet all of your everyday parenting challenges.

Why is it important for children to feel connected?
Children thrive when they have a warm physical and emotional bond with their parents. When children feel safe and seen, their intelligence can flourish, and they can make good decisions, be flexible and learn well.

What happens when children feel disconnected?
Feeling disconnected and stressed causes children’s behaviors to flare and connection to break down. Children signal us in a number of clear ways that they need our help at these moments.

What are some specific connection-based strategies that parents will learn about in the Parenting by Connection course?
Listening is the key strategy for building connection. It conveys deep respect and creates enough safety over time to dissolve the emotional tensions that disrupt caring relationships. When parents listen well and set limits well, children instinctively offload their negative feelings and regain their sense of connection and good judgement. One strategy we always suggest leading with is called Special Time. It is a simple tool but a profoundly helpful one. Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore present the Parenting by Connection approach in the book Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges.  They say: “In Special Time, you set aside some time—from three minutes to an hour—and your child tells you the recipe for reaching him. You say when and where you’ll have time to connect. Your child tells you how. Special Time can be occasional or even a daily practice, depending on your family. Either way, as Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen says, it’s meant to ‘fill your child’s cup’ with connection.’”. Regular Special Time can really help our love for our children land in their hearts in ways they can deeply feel.

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So, if you want to spend less time wiping up your little one’s tears (or peeling them off the floor after a meltdown), and more time truly enjoying each other’s company? One of the most effective strategies you can use is to give her your true, undivided attention. By setting aside some Special Time – whether it be 5 minutes or a whole hour – to spend giving warm, focused attention to your child, you will be building crucial connections in your relationship and helping her to feel secure and connected.

Parenting by Connection teaches the use of five tools to solve everyday parenting challenges:

Staylistening is what really sets this approach apart, and current neuroscience is firmly indicating that this is what our kids need – a loving anchor in times of emotional upheaval.

Playlistening is a fantastic way of connecting well with our kids to help them use giggles and play to work through any issues they are facing.

Special Time gives families a chance to connect well and deeply on a regular basis.

Setting Limits is vital for our kids; setting limits without harshness is a key parenting skill to help our kids thrive.

Listening Partnerships provide parents with the support they need to in turn support their children well.

According to Belynda, who is Certified by Hand in Hand Parenting to deliver the Parenting by Connection course, this approach presents five simple tools to meet your everyday parenting challenges. Meerilinga’s one-off Parenting by Connection sessions (including Potty Time, Sweeter Sibling Connections, Playful Parenting and others) introduce two of the tools and give parents a chance to share successes and challenges. The longer three- or six-week classes allow you to build your knowledge of connection-based strategies, with opportunity to experiment with the tools and report back. Our attendees report a strong feeling of support as they learn how to make connection their go-to approach to help their families thrive.


Want to enjoy a stronger bond with your children? Parenting by Connection could be for you! To learn more about these workshops and classes, or to sign up for our next six-week Starter Class, please contact Meerilinga Parenting Service by emailing Belynda Smith at belynda.smith@meerilinga.org.au.