I love reading my kids the board books from Sandra Boynton. I didn’t read them in my own childhood, but they have come to be my treasured favorites for my children. As my kids have aged, I have purged their bookshelves of almost every other baby book, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of these. They are the books I plan to read to my grandchildren.
I read this fascinating piece in The New Yorker about the potential depth of the Boynton books and it made me look differently at the words and images that have become so familiar. Today I read one of my favorite books in the Pookie series and saw not just a mama pig putting her baby to bed, but a great example of connected parenting techniques in action.
If you aren’t familiar with connected parenting, there are lots of great resources out there. My favorite ones originate with Karin Purvis. In connected parenting you want to raise your children with a lot of empathy, consistency, nurture and structure. It’s a great approach for all kids, but especially kids who have come from trauma. The heart of connected parenting is about building a trusting relationship with your child. If you want a basic primer on connected parenting, maybe Night-Night, Little Pookie is the right place to start. I can find three core principles of connected parenting hiding in plain sight (just like Little Pookie does twice in the book).
Giving Your Child a Voice: As Mama Pig is helping Pookie get ready for bed, she gives him two choices for his pajamas. He chooses a mix and match option that is generally not a favorite with adults, but she just rolls with it. Mama Pig recognizes that this is a great way to let him use his voice and make a choice in an area that has no risk attached to it. We want our kids to feel empowered to use their voice and ask for compromises. This is part of creating an environment of safety for them where they know they are valued and loved. When we can respect their choices, we can earn trust with them that makes it easier for them to respect our choices when we are in a situation where compromises isn’t an option.
Playful Engagement: When it’s time for Pookie to go to bed, he runs off and hides. Instead of responding with frustration, Mama Pig decides to go with the playful engagement approach. She’s being silly back to him and he quickly reveals where he’s hidden. Sometimes we can diffuse a situation by choosing to be playful with our kids rather than heightening the situation with anger. Mama Pig knows when you start with anger you have nowhere to go. When you start with playful engagement, you can often solve a problem before you ever have to get to a more serious response.
Pre Teaching: When it’s time to tuck Pookie in bed, Mama Pig tells him exactly what she’s going to do before she does it. She’s going to tuck him in, turn out the light, give kisses, and say goodnight. That’s exactly what she does over the next four pages. She creates an environment of safety by being a person of her word and rehearsing with him what’s going to happen. He knows the structure and that allows him to trust her to do what she says.
When you start learning connected parenting principles, you begin to see them everywhere. While Night-Night, Little Pookie is a great example, the other Pookie books are also pretty “connected” in their parenting approach. What’s Wrong, Little Pookie shows Mama Pig again using playful engagement to comfort her child while validating his sadness. I love being able to read books to my kids that affirm this approach to parent/child relationships.
So tell me, what mom from a children’s book is your parenting inspiration? I’m always up for adding new options to our library.