Parenting 101: The Basics

Parenting 101: The Basics

Dec 27, 2023

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 As we kick off 2024, it seemed like a good time to return to the basics of compassionate parenting. Plus, “Parenting 101” is a really fun title for our 101st episode! Today, I’ll walk you through some foundational principles and invite you to think about what you want to focus on as a parent this year.


The Basics of Human Needs

In his book, The Myth of Normal, Gabor Maté talks about the two essential needs of humans - attachment and authenticity. 

Attachment is what drives human behavior. It’s primal. Our nervous system is wired to seek physical and emotional closeness with other humans because we are safer when we are in a community. 

This need is even stronger in children, because they are completely dependent on their caregivers for a pretty long period of time. The attachment between child and caregiver is vital to their survival. This attachment looks like physical safety, biological needs being met and emotional safety. 

Ultimately, if I feel attached, I feel safe. 

The second primal need is authenticity. This means being able to know yourself and express who you are inside. This is a more individualized drive to understand ourselves, and includes building our intuition, trusting our gut and knowing what we’re capable of. It is at the root of self-esteem and self-concept.

Ideally, we want to feel unconditional attachment with the freedom to express our true selves. 


The Struggle Between Authenticity and Attachment

Tension arises when being our authentic self threatens our attachments. This can happen a lot during childhood.  

Kids (and all humans) express their thoughts and feelings through behavior. What often happens is if the caregiver finds the behavior unacceptable, they detach from the child or do other things that threaten their sense of attachment and safety. 

In parenting, this might look like:

  • Time outs
  • Spanking
  • Ignoring our kids
  • Only giving them our attention when they’re behaving the way we want

Time outs are often used as a punishment, rather than the original intent of providing a break for the child to calm themselves. The message is that your behavior (and therefore you) is not acceptable, and you cannot be here with us until you can act right. It tells them that your attachment is conditional on behavior. 

Spanking is another example where attachment is broken. The message is that you are going to hurt their body in order to teach them how to behave. Ultimately, they learn that they are not safe when they misbehave.

You can threaten attachment to get control over your kids and manipulate them into behaving a certain way, but they’ll likely develop a low self-concept in the process. The child only learns to be performative. They try to figure out how to get their needs met through behaving a certain way, which leads to suppressing emotion, people pleasing and insecurity. It turns into a feeling that, at their core, they are not okay. 

Kids are constantly looking for reassurance that they are safe in the relationship and that they can rely on the adults around them. 

Attachment should never be conditional. The process I teach allows you to acknowledge that your child is struggling, set limits around the behavior and help them handle their feelings in a way that works for everyone. You can think of this more as a “time in”. 

On the flip side, when we reassure our kids of our unconditional love, they grow into adults who are secure and feel safe and worthy. They’ll be able to take risks, work toward big dreams and overcome obstacles. 

If you’re using any of these strategies I’ve mentioned, I don’t want you to freak out, blame yourself or think you’re a “bad” parent. These are traditional strategies designed to get compliance. 

Realize that you do these things because you don’t know what else to do with misbehavior. You aren’t intending to hurt your children. You just don’t have the tools and skills (yet). By reading this blog or listening to this podcast, you are learning a new way. 


Parenting 101: The Strategies

The strategies I teach are meant to give you the skills for parenting in a way that your kids won’t have to heal from. We do this by strengthening our kids’ feelings of attachment, safety and authenticity. 

The most important thing to remember about behavior is that it is always driven by feelings or unmet needs. 

There are behaviors that we need to work on, but we’re not going to use attachment as a way to control our kids. Instead, we reassure them that the attachment and our love is never in question as we guide them toward better behaviors. 


Communicate Your Unconditional Attachment

When misbehavior happens, your kid will be upset when you follow through on a consequence. Younger kids, especially, might worry that you don’t love them. 

You can hold your limit while still reassuring them. “Listen, you’re safe. You’re okay. I’m not mad at you. This is just part of learning and growing. I love you exactly as you are. You can make mistakes in this family. It's not a problem.” 

Let them know that you are the grown up. You’ve got this, and they can trust you. We want to have a sense of leadership inside of us and know that we are strong enough to handle it. 

To support authenticity, practice communicating to your kids, “I unconditionally love, welcome and want you. No matter how you feel, act or think, nothing can threaten my love for you. I will always have your back.”

They don’t have to do or be anything different to win your love, and nothing they do can ever threaten the relationship you have. 


Validate Feelings

We can also show unconditional acceptance by validating our kids’ feelings. Letting them know that their feelings make sense (even if the behavior still needs work). 

As you validate feelings, beware of falling into the permissive parenting trap. Feelings do not excuse misbehavior. We’re still going to set limits and follow through on consequences. We’re just going to do it in a way that maintains the connection with our kids. 

This looks like, “Your feelings make sense. I understand why you’re behaving that way, but let’s work on it and try some new strategies.”


If you’re new to this type of parenting, you probably need support, modeling and guidance. I’d love to see you in one of my upcoming programs. 

In a small group setting, I teach you how to calm yourself, validate your kid’s emotions, set boundaries and follow through on consequences that aren’t painful. There are lots of specific strategies, tools and scripts, along with a ton of individualized support.

Let’s build the relationships in your family in 2024 and strengthen your authenticity and attachment.  Learn more here.


You’ll Learn:

  • Two things that all humans need
  • Why authenticity can be squashed in the search for attachment
  • Traditional parenting strategies that don’t really work long-term
  • Ways to support your child’s emotions while improving behavior

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