What is Connection Parenting? : A book review :)

Sharing my thoughts on Connection Parenting : Parenting through Connection instead of Coercion, through Love instead of Fear by Pam Leo.

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What is Connection Parenting?

Pam Leo answers this question…

Connection parenting is parenting through connection instead of coercion, through love instead of fear.

Pam Leo, page 18


…promotes parenting practices that create and maintain a healthy, strong parent-child bond. Creating a strong bond is our primary work as parents and the key to our children’s optimal human development.

Pam Leo, page 19

Connection Parenting was published in 2005, the year my third child was born. And reading this book was life-changing.

In my journey to taking a kinder path, I shared my frustration and sadness reading the parenting books available at my local library. Until the pivotal moment when I discovered How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish (review coming soon).

Now, I had hope. Not to mention a whole heap of practical guidance on building loving, peaceful and respectful relationships with my children. And I knew there must be more books like this.

Fast forward a few years to the first time reading Connection Parenting, I was blown away again. Another respectful parenting book that changed my life, and, I’m sure, that of my children too. And since then, I’ve read this book over and over again.

Connection Parenting is a short read at less than 200 pages. Written by Pam Leo after 16 years of running parenting classes and intended as a workbook to be read and discussed with other parents, it is jam-packed with wisdom and actionable advice.

And while I’m certain that reading Connection Parenting in a group would be a wonderful experience – one I’m totally up for 🙂 – there’s so much to be gained from reading this book, independently or otherwise.

You could read this book in one mammoth binge-read or a couple of long-ish sessions. And go right ahead, I certainly did the first time round.

But once you’ve gone through it at speed, I would suggest going back over it more slowly. You’ll likely gain the most from this book reading it chapter by chapter with some space in-between, just as Pam intended.

However you read it, the benefits of Pam Leo’s extensive personal and professional experience working with children and parents are available for all by virtue of the insights she shares. And these insights are bound to bring more understanding, love, joy, and connection to your relationships with children.

Pam Leo is clear on her intent…

Connection Parenting… is a book about children’s need for connection and the importance of meeting that need. Children have many of the same needs and also many different needs. Children are the expert on their needs, and they are always trying to tell us what they need. Connection Parenting is about listening to children and finding our best ways to meet their needs.

Pam Leo, page 20

Throughout the book she stresses the importance of a strong parent-child bond. And provides plenty of practical wisdom on nurturing that bond with clear and actionable advice on a whole range of issues.

This book can help us as parents to –

  • treat children with respect
  • speak respectfully and listen with love
  • decode children’s behaviour
  • avoid power struggles
  • and help with healing emotional hurts

Connection Parenting has seven chapters and they begin and end with us. After all…

It is an adult’s job to meet a child’s emotional needs. It is not a child’s job to meet an adult’s emotional needs.

Pam Leo, page 51

In chapter one, we’re encouraged to consider our parenting inheritance. And while this may be a painful place to begin, it can pave the way for healing our hurts, both personally and globally.

Connection Parenting is packed with compassion.

Compassion for our parents…

Every generation of parents softens what they got for their children. If what we got was harsh, imagine what our parents got. We parent our children best when we can forgive, heal, and not pass on hurts.

Pam Leo, page 33

Compassion for our children…

We can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. Children behave better when they feel better.

Pam Leo, page 28

And compassion for ourselves…

Connection Parenting is not child-centered parenting. Meeting the needs of children does not mean focusing so much on meeting their needs that we have no time or energy left for ours.

Pam Leo, page 165

In the final chapter, Connecting with Our Own Needs, Pam Leo has a Sample “Nurturing Myself” List and urges us all to make our own. You might find more ideas for your list in my post on self-soothing checklists 🙂

Pam Leo doesn’t want any of us beating ourselves up for being rubbish parents. There’s no benefit in that for any of us. Rather this is a hopeful book, reminding us…

It is never too late to strengthen our connection with our children. Every moment is a new opportunity to strengthen the bond. 

Pam Leo, page 31

She is keen to stress her belief throughout this book, that all parents are doing the best they can, at any given moment, with the information, resources, and support they have.

It is up to all of us to keep learning, and gathering and creating resources in our lives so we can work together to meet everyone’s needs. And in chapter 7 she gives advice for how we might create resources in different stages and seasons of our parenting lives.

But we don’t have to be perfect. Even when we get it wrong, Pam offers us some comfort…

The stronger the bond, the better able our children will be to weather the times when we parent in less nurturing ways.

Pam Leo, page 30

Connection Parenting is not a quick fix. Building a strong bond with a child takes time, effort and commitment. And Pam Leo walks alongside us while we learn the tools we need and the skills that’ll help us use these tools effectively.

Luckily for us, Pam suggests there are only 2 tools we need – connection and reconnection.

Connection, she explains, is built through eye contact, loving touch, respect, listening and spending time working and playing together.  

And reconnection, she describes with a simple 3 R’s approach. Rewind, recognising when we’ve messed up, Repair, making amends and saying sorry and Replay, beginning again with respect and with love.

Pam Leo is adamant this book shouldn’t be seen as an instruction manual that teaches you how to control your child’s behaviour.

And yet she has created a manual of sorts, a communication manual for healthy relationships.

There are concrete examples and helpful scripts throughout this book that we can use or adapt to suit our own circumstances. All designed to support stronger connections with our children.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Connection Parenting is one of my favourite respectful parenting books. And like all the best parenting books, it’s value extends far beyond the parent-child relationship.

Connection Parenting contains wisdom for all relationships, helping us to live more peacefully and respectfully with all we encounter.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Overwhelmingly, this book has received positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads*.

And the foreword is written by the Executive Director of the Holistic Pediatric Association. She makes a powerful assertion –

By following the guidance in this book, we can begin to turn the tide, and create a different world in which people love, honor and respect themselves and each other, a world of true health, harmony and peace.

Jane Sheppard, Connection Parenting, page viii

I wholeheartedly agree 🙂

Connection Parenting is a beautiful book. Deep, powerful and profound. Yet also short, easy to read and perfect for dipping in and out. Whatever page you land on, there are gifts to be discovered.

From the vivid images of an emotional fuel tank as a love cup containing the attention, connection, and nurturing our children receive from the people they love. Along with another cup we all carry around – the one containing our unreleased hurts. The first we want filled to the brim as much as we can. While, the second, well… Let’s just say if left to overflow, this can result in the most dramatic of outbursts, and not necessarily in a good way.

To the sobering reminders –

The children who now depend on us to meet their needs while they are young will one day be the adults we depend on to meet our needs when we are old. They will be able to give only what they have received.

Pam Leo, page 26

and –

Treating children in ways that take away their dignity teaches them to do the same to others. If we want kids to stop bullying, we have to stop bullying kids. The power of fear is easy and quick, but short-lived. The power of love requires more work and takes longer, but children never outgrow its influence.

Pam Leo, page 26   

Along with this heartfelt note ending the final chapter –

The children of today will be our world leaders before we know it. I want to live in a world with adults whose childhood emotional needs were met.

Pam Leo, page 176

Thought-provoking, yet essentially optimistic and hopeful, this book is packed with practical tips and speaks to us all. A complete package.

There are a whole heap of recommended books at the back of Connection Parenting and suggestions for further reading in each chapter. Not to mention the beautiful quotes woven seamlessly throughout the text. You will find wisdom from greats such as Gandhi, John Holt, James Baldwin, Ross Greene, and even Bob Dylan in this book.

Connection Parenting is a book I recommend for everyone who wants to build better relationships with their own children, other children or anyone really 🙂

For more book reviews, click here. And look out for a post coming soon where I share my top ten favourite respectful parenting books. If you want to be sure not to miss this, subscribe to the blog in the sidebar and we’ll let you know as soon as any new posts are published.

*Oh, and if you love reading and books, yet you’ve never heard of goodreads, or would just like to know more about it, you can find out more here.

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