Today, I interview Alice Sheldon, local mum and founder of The Laughing Giraffe. Based on Partnership Parenting, The Laughing Giraffe provides tools to raise children in a positive way and to interact with them without shouting, punishing and rewarding.
The Laughing Giraffe offers local courses for mums, dads, grandparents and carers of children. I, myself, have been learning about Partnership Parenting recently and found it very interesting. I was intrigued to learn about the mum behind The Laughing Giraffe so requested an interview with Alice. Luckily she accepted!
Tell me a bit about yourself.
Love good coffee, sea swimming, and currently a child who is sparkling about Christmas.
Do not love busy shops, call centres, and bedtimes where there is no bed or sleep involved.
What are your thoughts on raising children in north-west Bristol?
As an ex-Londoner who moved to Bristol when my daughter was 8 months old, I still get off the train at Parkway feeling as though I’m on holiday. The fresh air, lack of tall buildings, view of fields from various points in the city, and nearness to the beaches and countryside of the South West are still a delight.
I’ve lived in Cotham and Henleaze, and Gloucester Road feels like my spiritual home in Bristol. I love the community feel, the independent shops, and the eclectic mix of people. St Andrew’s Park is my favourite park in Bristol.
The only current downside for me is the lack of provision in the state secondary sector because so many children continue into private education at 11. I would love to see excellent state schools for all children in North West Bristol – partly to ensure that everyone has access to equal educational opportunities regardless of means, and partly to keep a wider social mix in all schools.
Are there places in Bristol you particularly enjoy visiting with your daughter?
Bradley Stoke Leisure Centre children’s pool. It’s the warmest one I’ve found, and so both my daughter and I can enjoy being in it for ages. There’s also a library there which is open 7 days, and a small play area and cafe, so plenty to do if there’s time to spare, or you have to wait for entry to the pool. It gets busy on rainy days and holidays.
@Bristol: very specifically, the sand on the potters’ wheels where we can both spend hours.
Cribbs Causeway: Hobbycraft – a recent discovery, with a wonderful mix of easy access crafts for kids and adults, and high end materials for serious artists.
Are there any places in and around Bishopston that you enjoy taking your daughter to?
Maybe it’s my city upbringing, but we have a number of favourite shops and cafes that we can really enjoy. Here’s a selection from Gloucester Road:
Charity shops for toys. I want her to have the pink sparkly things she loves (despite my provision of wheels and tools and machines when she was younger…). So we recycle toys regularly, and go and really enjoy choosing new things for her that are affordable and okay enough for my values around parenting and the environment.
Coffee #1. Best coffee in Bristol to my mind. We can happily spend an hour with a story book and a coffee.
Bamba Beads on Gloucester Road. We both love the colours, shapes and huge variety of the beads available, and can go and enjoy running them through our fingers, or buying some for a particular project.
Bishopston Hardware. This may seem a slightly odd one, but we discovered the delights of the paint mixing machine whilst renovating our home. Almost worth going and buying a pot to see how it works. Then there are the endless drawers full of interesting cogs and screws and clips and nails. Good for a 10 minute break if you’re on Gloucester Road and it suddenly pours down.
Tell me about The Laughing Giraffe.
Many parents find they come to parenting thinking they’ll do it differently – that they won’t shout, that their children will be happy, that they’ll change the things that didn’t work for them as a child. And then after the early days of babyhood, usually around the time a child starts to say ‘no’(!), many people find themselves unexpectedly challenged in their parenting.
For some or all of the time, and to varying degrees, many of us find ourselves being with our children in ways we don’t enjoy. My aim through The Laughing Giraffe is to offer tools for parents to find different ways of creating the relationship they want with their children.
What is Partnership Parenting?
Partnership Parenting is an approach which involves sharing power with our children, rather than operating from a dominant (power over) position, or a permissive (power under) one. It offers alternatives to shouting, telling, demanding, bribing, manipulating, threatening, rewarding, pleading, using consequences, withdrawing affection and the other strategies we use which usually don’t feel good.
The priority is on building relationships founded on deep connection, compassion, mutual consideration, trust and respect through using communication tools designed to help parents and children more able to hear and understand each other.
What are the advantages of this method of parenting?
What I love about Partnership Parenting is that it offers some immediate communication tools for shifting how we are with our children, and then the possibility of a long journey of shifting our ways of being with our children so that we can all flourish. Many parenting resources I’ve found are either focused on tools or on a general approach.
For me, tools-based approaches offer strategies which can be extremely effective, but can be hard to generalise across stages of development, so that tools learned can’t always be carried through a childhood. So for example, setting and enforcing a boundary for a two year old, a seven year old and a thirteen year old is very different, and on a tools-based model will need to be separately learned as they arise.
On the other hand, I’ve found resources which are based more on shifting our whole way of parenting can be hard to grasp because there are few concrete tools to take away, so that whilst the concepts are very appealing, it’s hard to put them into practice.
I love the simplicity of the Partnership Parenting model, and at the same time its depth, so that it can be learned at whatever level you want to use it. That could be to pick up a few different tools to improve communication, or to explore ways of shifting deeper patterns.
What are the details of the courses you offer?
The core course I offer runs over 5 mornings, once a week from 09:30 to 12:00 in Henleaze. The new January term courses start on Wednesday 9th or Friday 11th January. Then we have a rapidly growing peer group set up by one of the previous groups through the course. It meets monthly on a Thursday evening for inspiration, support and ongoing learning – otherwise people who come on a course and really want to carry on can find it hard to keep the material alive.
There’s a Facebook page called The Partnership Parent, and an open group called The Partnership Parent cafe for anyone who is interested in joining conversation around parenting
And I’m launching a new 60 second parenting video log in January, with the first topic a mini-series on anger. If you’d like to be kept in touch, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up to the email list through The Laughing Giraffe website.
What are YOUR thoughts on Partnership Parenting? Have you attended one of Alice’s courses? Please do comment below!
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