In all of my studies surrounding parenting, there is one reoccurring variable that continues to support healthy child-parent relationships, and that is making the effort to genuinely connect with kids. It's not always easy, but making the effort to communicate, and create nurturing relationships with our children from the start, creates closer and more trusting relationships as our children grow into adults. Here are five effective steps to take, towards making that connection happen.
1-Talk About Everything - Children are much smarter than we give them credit for. They also have more emotional awareness than we would like to believe, and can sense that something unseen or unspoken is unfolding around them. Being open with them and talking to them about things (like arguments or doctor's visits for example), builds a trusting relationship with them from the very start. This, in turn, allows them to feel safe and trust that you will always be open and honest with them when they want to approach you with their feelings and concerns.
2-Get Down to Their Level - No one likes to be spoken down to... Neither figuratively nor literally. Research has proven that a person's physical position can affect their receptiveness during a discussion. Although we must discipline and reprimand our children at times, why not get down to their levels and make eye contact instead of standing above them and shaking our fingers at them? This teaches children that we respect them as human beings and not just "little beings" that are beneath us. Believe it or not, it gets our messages across much better than standing above them and scolding them ever will.
3-Say Sorry - We are constantly telling our children to apologize to each other and to other adults, but when we are overwhelmed and lose our cool, we tend to justify our actions by blaming our children instead of just saying sorry! Apologizing to your kids not only shows them that you practice what you preach, but that you are not afraid to be vulnerable and wrong at times. This creates a safer environment for them to approach you in the future when something is upsetting them, and it innately encourages them to have respect for you as a parent. If that isn't enough, then just realize that saying sorry shows that you value them more than you value being right. Don't we all want our children to know that we feel that way?
4-Discipline With Love, Not With Anger - Studies are showing more and more that anger driven parenting is not nearly as effective as love driven parenting. When you need to punish your children, by taking something away for example, remind them that you love them, but you have to do this because "it's not okay for them to behave that way." Making sure that your children know you will love them no matter what enables them to accept their punishments and learn from each lesson more easily.
5-Create a Routine That is Only For You and Your Child - If you have multiple children, try to have a different routine for each. My husband takes our three-year-old to the local market to have lunch about twice a month. They sit together, they eat, chat, giggle and enjoy each other's company. Every parent should have a comforting routine that they share with their children. This will provide the parent a safe and comfortable place to take their child to as they grow, where they can discuss things with more ease.
Think about how we feel as adults when we receive a memo from our employer or a call from a loved one saying "There is something I want to discuss with you." It's nerve wracking! Now.... imagine having to approach your child about even more serious issues as they grow? Instead of saying "please sit down, there is something I need to talk to you about." How about "Hey, let's go get lunch and chat." Your child will already feel safe in her familiar routine and space, and will be much more relaxed and open during your conversations.
Parenting is the hardest job out there. Kids don't come with in, akes, we all do; but with a little love and a lot of patience, we all have the ability to raise wonderful children.