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How to Use Connection and Collaboration to Transform Your Family – and the World by Jen Lumanlan

How to Use Connection and Collaboration to Transform Your Family – and the World by Jen Lumanlan

Problems in the world – and at home

We are facing enormous social and environmental challenges in the world which, at their root, can be traced to White supremacy (and racism), patriarchy, and capitalism (a primary driver of climate change and social inequality). And parents are struggling! Our children throw tantrums, resist, don’t do the things they’re asked to do…and then look us in the eye as they do the thing we asked them NOT to do!

On the surface it seems like there is no connection between these issues, when they are actually intimately connected. We experience so much pain in our lives today because our parents shaped us to succeed in a White supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist culture. They told us things like:

  • “Are you sure you want to eat that?” (White supremacist-based valuation of body type)
  • “Do what I say or you can’t have any more screen time!” (Patriarchal use of power)
  • “I know you love art, but that won’t pay the bills.” (Capitalist-driven assessment of value)

Even though our parents meant well, receiving these messages hurt us. And if we don’t make a conscious choice to do things differently, we will raise our children in the same way that we were raised.

Perpetuating – or working to dismantle – these systems

There are many books available now on being anti-racist and raising anti-racists. We absolutely need to read those and talk with our children about issues related to race (and patriarchy, and capitalism). But any parent knows that our children don’t listen to our words; they watch what we do. If we’re telling them: “Don’t be racist” and then we force them to brush their teeth, our child is actually learning how a bigger, stronger person can use power to make a smaller, weaker person do what they want.

The way we interact with our children in our homes today shapes how they will go out into the world and treat others – and also how they will be treated by others. If we want to raise children who will:

  • Understand their own needs and advocate for these, even in the face of peer pressure…
  • Hold another person’s needs with as much weight as their own needs…
  • Be able to find ways of meeting both people’s needs

…then we must start practicing this at home.

Oh, and the good news? It also makes parenting easier.

How to make parenting easier

Our children resist us when their needs aren’t being met. We used to do this too when we were little, until we were trained to ignore our needs and do what our parents told us to do – we split off the part of ourselves with those needs and presented only the sanitized version of ourselves that our parent wanted to see. This book will show you how to understand your child’s needs and work with them to find a solution that meets both your and your child’s needs.

The Problem-Solving Approach

A simple, four-step framework that can be applied to any challenge you’re having with your child:

  1. Make a non-judgmental observation. So: “I see toys on the floor,” not: “Your room is a mess!”
  2. Understand each person’s feelings about the situation. Tired? Frustrated? Angry? Empathy for each other’s feelings creates connection.
  3. Understand each person’s needs. This is different from a strategy (aka a ‘want’): “I need 30 minutes alone” is a strategy to meet a need for self-care. “I want you to play with me” is a strategy to meet needs for connection and joy.
  4. Propose strategies that meet both people’s needs. This can be done 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time we can usually use boundaries and, on very rare occasions, limits.


Q: How does this work with very young children? With non-verbal children?

A: The parent will supply more of the conversation, looking for ‘yes’s or non-verbal assent: “I’m wondering if you’re feeling frustrated right now? Me too. I’m trying to understand your need…You wanted to be close to me [need for connection], is that right? I’m getting hungry. Would you like to play with plastic containers in the corner of the kitchen while I cook? Or we could make a frozen pizza?”

Q: How can I know what is my child’s need?

A: Look for patterns in your child’s behavior. If they never want to get in the car seat no matter where you’re going, they may have unmet needs for comfort or fun. If they only refuse the car seat on preschool/school days, then consider needs like safety and connectedness.

Q: The difficult behavior is everywhere. Where do I start?

A: The book walks you through the process of creating a child’s Needs Cupcake: the structure of the needs they have on a repeated basis. Many children have overriding needs for connection (with a parent/caregiver), safety, and autonomy. Start by identifying which of these is paramount for your child and meeting it as much as possible using tools like daily doses of 1:1 time that the child directs, and removing as many limits on their behavior as possible. You will likely find that once these needs are met, the child stops resisting as much.

Q: My child agrees to a solution and then it doesn’t ‘work.’ What’s happening?

A: It’s likely that one of two things is happening:

  1. You’re asking your child to do something they aren’t developmentally capable of doing. A two-year-old cannot stop themselves from having a tantrum. A three-year-old cannot stop themselves from hitting the baby. If we’re relying on a preschooler’s self-control to avoid difficulties, we aren’t setting anyone up for success.
  2. The solution we agreed to didn’t meet everyone’s needs. If your needs aren’t met, you’ll feel resentful. If your child’s needs aren’t met, they’ll refuse to do it. No problem! Just have another conversation to uncover more needs and develop a new solution.

What Are My Child’s Needs? Quiz

Parenting Beyond Power provides a lot of support in understanding a child’s needs, and when the child’s needs are met then the parent’s needs (which are often for peace, ease, and collaboration) are often met as well.  

But sometimes identifying your child’s needs is really hard!  Their difficult behavior seems very random, and goes from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye.

The How to Understand Your Child’s Needs quiz helps you to uncover your child’s most important needs that they’re trying to meet on a daily basis.  When you can help them to do that, they will be regulated more of the time - which helps you to meet your needs as well.

Take the What Are My Child’s Needs?


You can buy the book here



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