What is the approach? Where did it come from?
NVR as an approach was created by Haim Omar. He wanted to help parents to feel back in control, to resist challenging behaviours and ultimately stop them.
He took this approach from the socio-political version that was used by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Park and other people who brought around huge change without recourse to violence.
He adapted that approach to be used within a family setting. It’s now being used in many different countries around the world, and not just in family settings – it has also been adapted to be used in workplaces, in the Israeli Army and the UK police to resist gang violence. It’s also used in domestic violence situations and in sexual exploitation.
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“One of the most wonderful things about this approach is it CAN be used by anybody in any situation. I have used this approach with adults as much as I’ve used this as a parent.”
I discovered the approach because I needed it within my family setting but it has now become a way of life, and the way that I try to approach everything. I’m not perfect, I don’t always manage it and I certainly don’t get it right 100% of the time, but as much as possible it is now my ethos and my approach to life.
It has become second nature and has had a big impact on my family. Ultimately as a parent and a mum, that’s what I wanted to do – to create a really strong bond with my son and help him grow into the amazing young man that he is growing into.
I found out about this when things were very difficult in our family life, and it really did change things. It’s not a magic wand – it took months of hard work to get there but we have. I don’t recognize the family life that we have now compared to the one we had five years ago.
Back then, I didn’t believe this was possible. It is.
Our family life isn’t perfect, we still have arguments, but on the whole it’s good.
Connective Parenting is a way of connecting with our children. There are different parts of the approach. I’m going to start with what I call the “central pillar”, and that is our Parental Presence.
The Central Pillar
We use our presence as parents to help our children to connect with them and to resist the challenging behaviours.
When we think about presence, we’re thinking about the image they have of us in their minds, how we connect with them, how we see ourselves as parents. It’s not about trying to force them to change, but how we react and interact with them and how we resist challenging behaviours to bring around a change in how they respond to us.
That’s the important part.
It’s also arguably the hardest part.
We, as parents, have to think about our own responses and reactions and whether they are actually helping us to change things or hindering it.
Sometimes our own responses can escalate a situation further.
One of the key things we think about with Connective Parenting NVR is “How do I respond to my child to meet the unmet need that is coming out in this challenging behaviour”.
I.e., how do I help them to meet that need and ultimately help them to not need this behaviour over the longer term. It’s not a quick thing, it will take time.
When I refer to presence, I’m referring to the quality of time you spend with your children, not the quantity.
It’s very easy to be with our children all day every day but they don’t have our full attention all day every day – that’s just not possible.
We are trying to get to the point that whether we are with them or not, they have a positive image of us in their mind. Ideally, we should be spending some quality time with our child every day, giving them our undivided attention – whether that’s when we tuck them in at night and spend five minutes with them listening to how their day was or watching them play their computer game. The options are endless and you’ll know best how you can spend that time with your child, but the emphasis is on quality, not quantity.
As we are raising our presence, we are connecting with our child in a way that works for them.
When we are coming from a place of wanting to create connection and raising our presence, we are showing our child that we want to be around them, that we are interested in them, that we love them and that they deserve to be loved.
That starts to create a shift for them in their minds and it’s hugely powerful.
Relatively small tweaks in how we spend time with our children can make a big difference to behaviours and to what’s happening within the family home.
Some parents will assume that their child doesn’t want to spend time with them – that their child doesn’t want to connect with them. But maybe that’s because the child thinks the parent doesn’t want to. Sometimes, just creating that connection in a very short and easy way opens the door. Bring them a drink, ask them how their game is going, put their favourite music on in the car for them.
Reaching out to your child can set you on a path to a different type of connection. That’s what parental presence is: creating that connection and showing them that you are there for them, that you are interested in them and that you love them.
Parental presence is just one of the aspects of Connective Parenting NVR and for me, this approach is a framework that we adapt to meet the needs of every child, there is no one size fits all here.
Every child is different. What works with one child may not work with another. Our children are different individuals and therefore they’re going to need slightly different things.
That being said, Connective Parenting NVR will work with every child and every family. It may take a lot longer for some for various reasons, but we dig in and keep going.
On top of parental presence there are a number of other aspects of Connective Parenting NVR.
One of the key parts for me is actually looking after ourselves. If we’re not looking after ourselves, then the rest of it, even parental presence is really hard to do. If you are running on empty, you need to look after yourself. It’s very hard to create connection when you’re running on empty. This approach is about us as parents thinking about our own behaviours, beliefs and triggers, and acknowledging those in order for us to be able to connect with our children and respond appropriately in those heated moments. Read more about looking after yourself here
This is often the thing that I’m asked about most, and when parents come to work with me, this is the bit they want to get to. So often, de-escalation is the bit that makes parents seek help. De-escalation is thinking about what we do in the moment when our child is struggling, and what we don’t do. You can read more about de-escalation here. This is one of the most powerful aspects of Connective Parenting NVR.
This is the conversation that comes after the de-escalation – it’s an incredibly powerful conversation looking at how we can help our child understand themselves and how we can help them meet those unmet needs, so that they don’t need to respond or use certain behaviours in the future to help themselves. The stronger the connection we have with our child, the more powerful those deferred conversations are.
Showing our child we love them irrespective of the behaviour. These are small gestures, like giving them their favourite drink or sending a text message. They create connection and the knowledge that they are loved and cared for. You can read more about Reconciliation Gestures here
I talk about Baskets a lot and they are a way of prioritising what you’re going to deal with first. They take away the overwhelm, stop the nagging and overtime help create change. Read more about Baskets here.
Having people around us who understand us, our children and who genuinely care about our family. You don’t have to have supporters to use this approach, but it absolutely helps and it’s important to know that your supporters don’t need to be your immediate family if they’re not the right people. Having helpful help can make a real difference. Read more about your supporters here.
Those are the relationship parts of Connective Parenting NVR that we use to really strengthen the relationship with our child, and using those bits helps to see huge change within a family setting and where there are extremely challenging behaviours we can really reduce those as well as reducing things like defiance and the need for control.
For those where the behaviour is more embedded or we need to use something a little stronger, we have the Announcement and The Sit In. I’m always slightly hesitant about telling parents about the announcement and the sit in, because I don’t want anybody rushing to them as they’re not as powerful if you haven’t built the relationship up first. You can find more about those here.
Connective Parenting NVR really is about creating a connection with your child, helping them to understand themselves and express themselves in a way that is safe for them and those around them, and really creating strong bonds with them.
It does take work on the behalf of you as the parent. Your child does not need to engage in this approach for it to have an impact over time. Over time things will start to change and you will notice changes when you change the way you react and interact with them. You, as the parent, are in charge of this. If you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, this approach will work.
This approach is hugely powerful.
If your child has a trauma background, Connective Parenting NVR will work very well to help them to create a connection with you and to feel safe, but they will still most likely need therapy to help them deal with the trauma that they’ve gone through, and Connective Parenting NVR works very well alongside other therapies on the assumption that they’re not a traditionally based rewards and consequences approach.
I’ve worked with families whose children have ADHD, FASD, Attachment needs, sensory needs, are autistic, developmental trauma or are neurotypical, and this approach works. I am so passionate about it. Working with other families and seeing the change is amazing.
What to find out more about how it works in practice? Join my FREE private Facebook Group, Connective Parenting Using NVR here.