Featuring: Kirsten Nottleson of Hand in Hand Workshops
Kirsten Nottleson is mama to two boys here in Austin and the founder of Hand in Hand Workshops. She will be leading a free Playful Parenting Workshop at the Olive Tree Learning Center on September 17th from 10am-noon. You have to register in advance here as space is limited. She will also be leading a three-week class at the Olive Tree for parents, starting in October. Thanks to Kirsten for answering our questions below.
LiveMom: What led you to start Hand in Hand Workshops? What services do you offer?
Kirsten: I had been presenting trainings at the preschool where I was a teacher and for a couple of other organizations for about five years, when my son, Josh, was born. I left my job as a preschool teacher so that I could be home with him. After a few months I found that I really missed working with families and preschool staff, and that I LOVED teaching about child development. I knew I wanted to be able to have flexible hours, and I liked the idea of working for myself. And so Hand in Hand Workshops began, almost 12 years ago.
I offer classes for parents and school staff that cover almost anything having to do with child rearing, family life, play, etc. I also offer one on one consulting, classes for moms/dads groups, play sessions with parents and/ or children, workshops on wrestling with your child and in-services. One of the nice things about having my own business is that I can bring my expertise to the table and make myself available in whatever way is most useful. For example, I have a weekly phone consult with a non-parent man, from another city, whom I have never met in person, who is working on letting his playful self out.
LiveMom: What’s your connection with Hand and Hand Parenting?
Kirsten: Hand in Hand Parenting is an amazing grass roots, non-profit organization in California that offers training and support to parents and caregivers through the approach that founder, Patty Wipfler, calls Parenting by Connection. I began integrating these ideas about parenting after learning about them from my supervisor at Family Connections, and from several of Patty’s workshops. I found that the relationship with my son became deeper. The solutions for discipline issues seemed so human and really made sense for developing solid young adults. I became a certified instructor in 2007. My work is heavily influenced by Parenting by Connection, which is essentially: connect with your child, listen to your child, allow them to have their feelings, get the emotional support you need (REALLY) and parenting will be a more joyful journey. People have asked me about the name. Funny thing is that I had been using the name Hand in Hand Workshops for several years when Patty changed the name of their organization from Parent Leaders Institute to Hand in Hand Parenting, without first realizing that it was so close to the name of my business. I love that we are so simpatico that we chose almost identical names for our ‘babies’.
LiveMom: Has your work impacted the relationship with your own family?
Kirsten: Absolutely. I am so inspired by all the parents I meet who are striving every day to create wonderful lives for their families. They think I’ve taught them something, but really it’s the other way around. Being with them keeps my thinking about people and relationships fresh.
LiveMom: You recommend Playful Parenting on your website. How would you describe that philosophy and why do you find it effective?
Kirsten: Playful Parenting is a fabulous book by Larry Cohen, PhD. I think Playful Parenting is about finding creative and playful ways to connect with your child, to create a stronger relationship and help them out of stuck spots. It’s making a game out of getting in the car seat or brushing teeth. Or playing the dunce to get your teenager to laugh and open up about sex or drugs. Once you decide to be playful about an issue you have a lot more options for to handling the things that anger or scare you as a parent. When you can be playful you are meeting your child in their world, so they know that you are their ally. It also puts the fun back into parenting.
LiveMom: What do you see as the challenges parents face today?
Kirsten: I see that parents are heavily burdened with financial worries. No matter what socioeconomic group they are in, most parents worry A LOT about money. And this makes it hard for them to focus their attention on the things that bring joy into their lives. Many parents feel an underlying fear about their children’s future. There is a lot of instability in so many areas that it is hard for parents to notice what is going well for their families. Many parents have little support. Families are often far apart from each other. The tribes are missing. The good news is that many realize this and new tribes are sprouting in a myriad of ways.
LiveMom: What is your favorite Austin family activity?
Kirsten: Barton Springs, it does a body good…
LiveMom: Is there anything you would change about Austin?
Kirsten: That’s a no brainer… temperature. Thirty days over 100 is plenty, I think.
LiveMom: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Kirsten: An artist.
LiveMom: If you had a whole day to yourself (and unlimited money/resources), what would you do?
Kirsten: Oooh la la now there’s a lovely thought… I would gather a bunch of girlfriends, get massages for everyone, head out to Krause Springs, have Anita Stoll from Big Heart Yoga come out and do some meditation with us, catered sushi lunch, hang around and read trash magzines in hammocks in the trees, Indian food for dinner, and swim in the “cold tub” at night.
LiveMom: What’s the best way for people to keep informed of your services?
Kirsten: Check out my website, Hand in Hand Workshops and sign up for my newsletter. I will be adding monthly tips and reader ideas soon.
Written by: Nicole Basham