Dr Kirsty Pakes, Parenting Consultant and Clinical Psychologist


Hand in Hand Parenting

Hand in Hand Parenting is often known as Parenting by Connection. It is a practical and emotionally intelligent approach to parenting that puts the quality of your relationship and emotional connection with your child at the heart of parenting. It is an authoritative approach, as opposed to a permissive or an authoritarian one.

Authoritative approaches to parenting (characterised by high warmth and high expectations) are well known to be associated with good outcomes for children in both emotional wellbeing and behaviour as evidenced in the well-regarded research by Diana Baumrind (1966) and Maccoby and Martin (1983). Conversely, authoritarian and permissive approaches are associated with poorer outcomes for children.

Hand in Hand parenting teaches parents practical tools to support them to parent in a way that promotes life-long well-being and resilience. The tools help us to build our emotional connection and delight in our children, support them with their feelings, use play to connect and to manage difficulties, set kind and loving limits to difficult behaviour and get emotional support as parents.

The 5 Hand in Hand tools are:

  • Special Time
  • Staylistening
  • Playlistening
  • Setting Limits
  • Listening Partnerships

The approach is based on well-established research in the fields of attachment psychology and interpersonal neurobiology (the intersection of relational psychology and neuroscience), focusing on the crucial role of emotional connection in children’s positive emotional development.

It is a wise and compassionate approach that promotes deep emotional well-being and resilience in children.

Hand in Hand Parenting was developed by Patty Wipfler in the US over 30 years ago. She was an early years educator who recognised the immense value of listening fully to children’s feelings, the central role of emotional connection and the value of play to children’s emotional well-being. The organisation is not-for-profit and is based in Palo Alto, California. It offers parenting support in the form of courses, groups, consultations, webinars and many articles at https://www.handinhandparenting.org/

In professional circles, it is described as an attachment-based, trauma-informed, emotion-focused, resiliency-building approach which is grounded in mainstream psychological theory and research.

I love teaching the Hand in Hand tools to parents both in group courses and in individual consultations. It is a simple and powerful approach which I have seen has helped so many families in such positive ways. It is really heart-warming and enlivening to work with parents and see what a difference these tools make to them.

Hand in Hand has been immensely valuable in my own parenting and has given me a map, support and encouragement to parent more and more consistently in a way that puts connection at the heart of my parenting, especially in those difficult moments!

I know how hard parenting is and I am so grateful for how much my family and I have benefitted from Hand in Hand. I have a deep desire to share this with other parents so they and their families can benefit too. It is truly transformative!

Read about my personal experience of using the Hand in Hand approach.

Read an article I wrote addressing sibling rivalry using the Hand in Hand approach.

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