Talking About All Things Parenting with Katherine Winter-Sellery

Bestselling author and leading parenting expert Katherine Winter-Sellery, is the force of nature behind the world renown Guidance Approach to Parenting, a program which has helped countless parents. How? Great question. With  this approach parents learn to apply conflict resolution skills to communicate more effectively within themselves and with their children, as well as everyone else. Her book ‘7 Strategies To Keep Your Relationship With Your Kids From Hitting The Boiling Point’ recently hit the bestseller list because it has resonated deeply with so many readers. 

This is a must read for parents this year, and it will continue to be in years to come. Winter-Sellery was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with us, and we wanted to share it with you.

How important in your view is the communication aspect of parenting? 

HUGE.  Almost no one has learned to listen to others and focus on connection over instructions.  Everyone wants to be seen, heard and understood from their perspective.  One of my biggest “aha’s” is what I learned from Marshall Rosenberg, “ I hear you is my responsibility”.  WHOA, up until then I wasn’t intune that there were multiple messages and most of them had to do with my own interpretation of what I thought someone else is saying.  It is so often our interpretations that are the real problem.  The story we are telling ourselves about what we hear instead of really checking in about the sender’s intentions behind the communication.  In the parent/child . 

With digital communication and social media being one of the leading factors in today’s world, what are some of the tools that you feel parents should employ when it comes to tech and a child’s day to day life? 

Such a good question.  Most of the time it is seen as the thing to exclude from children’s lives, however, technology is here to stay.  My recommendation is that parents support their kids to have a healthy relationship with technology, that is crucial.  Technology can be a “go to” when kids are struggling with friend dynamics, with school work, with relationships in general and they escape into virtual land.  When kids are gaming too much, and other aspects of their life are suffering then we need to support them gaining the skills they need to address what they are escaping.  These are social and emotional skills.  Too much gaming can also mask learning issues and other things aside from those mentioned already.  It may also be a lack of self-control.  The games are designed to fire off dopamine in the brain to create craving more and more.  If a child can’t exercise self-control then a collaboration with a parent needs to happen.     

I know there are probably many but what do you feel are one of the main disconnects between  parents and children? Also, what are some of the strategies that they can start applying right now to help build a stronger relationship with their child? 

I think one of the main disconnects between parents and children has to do with autonomy needs in children being misinterpreted.  I spend a lot of time working on this in my 90 Day Parenting Reset.

Let’s back up.  What underpins this is a bigger question around parents’ beliefs about children.  If parents believe that children are to do as they are told, not object, not have opinions, or their own perspective (if it is contrary to the parents), then a child exercising any autonomy needs will be punished for doing so. It is the epitome of “do as I say because I said so” and any other response is “disrespectful”. 

The thing is that the more power and control a parent uses to force compliance with an autonomous child the more they activate retaliation, rebellion and resistance.  Then the dance of anger and defiance takes over.  The problem is the dance, not the dancers. Parents are so triggered by children’s assertion of any autonomy because in their families it was seen as disrespect too.  In reality it has nothing to do with respect.

In your book ‘7 Strategies to Keep Your Relationship with Your Kids From Hitting The Boiling Point’ you mention the story of Pia and what happened in Hong Kong with the little girl who bullied her. It’s a great story and illustration. That brings us to the next question, how does one spot bullying when the child doesn’t want to talk about what happened at school especially if the teacher doesn’t bring it up, but you can tell something went wrong at school? 

Thank you, another great question.  Ultimately parents are detectives. We get really good at picking up on all the subtle ways (and not so subtle) that children communicate.  I call it the tragic expression of their unmet needs.  When children (actually anyone) can’t meet their needs they usually express themselves through their behavior.  I jokingly say it is rare to hear a child say, “Mom/Dad, my needs for psychological safety in school today wasn’t met when I was being excluded on the playground and called names, this has given rise to hurt/sadness/worry and anxiety.  I was wondering if we could discuss how I can go about meeting my needs?”  NOOOO they kick the dog, say “I hate you,” slam the door, become silent, refuse to go to school and lots of other things.  Parents then punish them for their bad behavior as if the sloppy and often socially inappropriate way they are expressing their unmet needs is the problem.  Granted it is a problem, but, the problem behind the problem is the real problem.  When you resolve that the other issues are resolved too. I want us to get to the source of the problem and a behavioralist that uses and recommends rewards and punishments wants to manipulate surface behaviors. 

What is the best way for people to connect with you and if possible can you walk us through what happens in one of your breakthrough sessions?

The best way for parents to get to get through to me is to schedule a complimentary half an hour parenting breakthrough call with me.  Here is the link to use: 

What happens on the call is a chance for them to describe their situation and how it is affecting them, what they are worried about and what they would like to see.  Ultimately all parents want to have close, loving relationships with their kids.  They want their children to be happy, believe in themselves, care for others and themselves and to be good citizens who make a contribution.

I can help them with a plan to create the map to get the outcomes they want.  

To learn more about Katherine Winter-Sellery and her work, head over to her website.

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