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Ann’s story – the power of connection

I’m always in awe of people that have birth plans that they actually stick to! While I’m quite organised, I never quite got to the point of making one because my child has always been one step ahead, and her birth was no different. She fast-forwarded me into motherhood 12 weeks early – almost 200 miles away from London, where she was supposed to be born. By the time I arrived back in London, ten weeks later, I felt pretty confident that I knew what I was doing, but I was always worried about her reaching her developmental milestones, comparing her against other babies of her age, and whenever I was tired - which was often - my patience could easily get the better of me.

When my daughter first started school, she was thriving socially and academically. But when maths started to become more complex, the teachers were telling me that she was struggling with some of the concepts. At home, she was starting to find doing the homework increasingly frustrating, and I could see her confidence in maths eroding.

Had she been born at the 9-month mark, she would have started school a year later. I started to wonder if she simply wasn’t developmentally ready for some of the concepts that others found seemingly easy. I didn’t want this to impact her self-esteem and her love of learning, and I wanted to make sure that she had faith in herself and her abilities. I wanted her school years to be a positive experience where she would develop a healthy self-image and have great friendships. There were things I could do to help nurture her development, and I knew that as there were gaps in my knowledge, I could reach out to people who knew more than I.

So I joined a positive parenting course at The Parent Practice and learned some simple habits that changed the way I communicated and connected with my daughter. As I put them into practice, I could see the changes in her, and in our relationship.

This experience of how the power of language and connection could build my daughter’s self-esteem; how being familiar with stages of child development and temperament made it easier to understand and support her; how gaining insight into neuroplasticity made me aware that every experience shapes the brain … all these helped me to effectively support her learning and it inspired me to train as a parent educator. At about the same time, I read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success and was intrigued to adopt her growth mindset strategy of giving greater attention to the process and praising specific effort, attitude and improvement rather than focussing on the outcome. This book was a game changer for how I parented – the results of which continue to amaze me as she now prepares to head off to university.

I’ve been teaching positive parenting skills and habits to help mums and dads parent in a more effective and empathetic way since 2008, both in London and now in Westchester County, New York and in New York City. As I speak Spanish, I am on the Board of 5 Steps to Five and I take these skills to Spanish-speaking mums. I have also served on the Heard in Rye team for the last 6 years. I am a member of NPEN, the American National Parenting Education Network. I am a provisional trainer of Zero to Three’s The Growing Brain programme and have completed The Yale Parenting Center’s basic parent management training and the Yale Child Study Center’s S.P.A.C.E training.

As I have a background in leadership and organisational culture, I’m fascinated to bring these ideas to the context of family leadership and family culture creation. Parenting in a purposeful way in which we live our core values enables our children to grow up with positive qualities and healthy habits that they will take into their adult life.