Connecting with kids is essential for being a positive influence in their lives and having a peaceful relationship. Here are five ways to achieve a connection with your child.
Most parents hope they’ll form a strong bond with their child.
That they’ll be able to share advice with them about being true to oneself, living out dreams, and taking a stand for what’s right.
Or have deep conversations about their child’s hopes, fears, and aspirations.
Or that they’ll spend time each week in spontaneity and fun, playing games or being silly together.
But reality can be different.
Amidst the chaos of life, it’s easy to discover that the meaningful connection you hoped you’d have with your child simply isn’t there.
Instead, you find that you’re butting heads, your child is frequently defiant, and the communication between you feels strained.
Key elements contribute to forming a strong connection with kids and once we understand and practice them, a bond with our kids should naturally form.
As with any relationship, it takes a bit of diligent time and practice at first – but forming a close bond with your child is probably more achievable than you think.
What does it mean to connect with children?
The word ‘connect’ can be difficult to understand in-depth when referring to the parent child relationship.
To paint a better picture, take a moment and reflect on the people who’ve been most influential in your life.
Maybe you have a close relationship with a parent or friend, a co-worker, a manager, or a mentor you look up to. Whoever the person may be, they’re influential to you because of the bond and connection you feel with them; and with that, you’re more willing to open up to them, trust them, and feel respect for them. Not only that, you’ll most likely listen to and take their advice.
Now, think about your relationship with your child. If your child feels that same sense of connection with you as you do with your influential person, they’ll do just the same. Your relationship will be more joyful, result in fewer power struggles, and you’ll have a positive influence on your child’s development.
Why are our connections with our children so important?
Connecting with kids is the most powerful tool you can utilize as a parent. When you connect with your child, you’ll be able to communicate with them better, and, more times than not, they’ll listen to what you have to say and be more willing to cooperate.
Simply put, connecting with kids is the solution to most parenting challenges, and parenting becomes easier and more enjoyable when you have a strong connection with your child.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have disagreements every now and then. Fractures in any relationship are completely normal. Even so, having a solid connection with your child makes it easier to repair those fractures, and you can move through life knowing there is a foundation of mutual respect and trust.
Whether you have toddlers or teenagers, no amount of parenting advice will solve the common challenges you face unless there is, first and foremost, a connection with your child.
Actions that can hurt your connection with your child
Before diving into how to form a connection with your child, it’s important to review actions parents often say and do that unintentionally hurt their connection with their child.
Here are some some of them that you should stop doing right away:
Criticizing your child means saying things like: “You’re terrible at keeping your bedroom clean” or “You can never do your homework by yourself.”
As their parent, your child naturally looks up to you, so when we say things like this, it creates a negative interaction that makes them feel unworthy and incapable. Not only that, they’ll be afraid to come to you when they’re struggling with something, for fear of being criticized.
When you label your child and say things like, “You’re so lazy” or “Wow, you’re such a little brat,” you’re telling your child that’s how you see them as a person, and, more likely than not, they’ll believe it to be true.
No child will feel respected and supported by a parent who labels them. Instead of labeling, work to find other, more positive ways to help your child overcome their challenges.
See related: 6 Reasons to Stop Labeling Kids
Punishing your child through spanking, time outs, or sending them to their room, for example, doesn’t teach children how to behave better. It only causes them to feel fear, think poorly of themselves, creates a power struggle between you and your child, and breaks any already established connection.
Of course, the answer isn’t to ignore bad behavior, but instead to teach children how to behave better. This article explains how: How to Discipline Kids While Reaching Their Hearts at The Same Time
Expecting the worst
When you expect the worst from your child, you’re essentially communicating, through actions or words, the expectation that your child will misbehave or do something bad.
Children often know what our expectations are, even when we don’t say them out loud. This is because our body language communicates our feelings and thoughts. And if children sense that we have low expectations of them, they certainly won’t feel a connection to us.
How to build connection with your child
Now let’s look at how you can build a deeper, more sustainable connection with your child.
Keep in mind these tips require consistency, empathy, and patience, before you’ll notice a difference.
Spend time together
One of the best things you can do to connect with your child is to spend quality time with them. Although that may seem obvious, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend hours together, and it’s not the only way to connect with your child.
For instance, you could spend three hours with your child, but if you’re arguing the entire time it can actually weaken your connection. On the other hand, if you were to spend 15 minutes with your child in laughter, meaningful play, or conversation, that interaction will be valuable.
The best way to spend time with young kids is to let them lead, and guide them through the activity –whether it’s playing a game of chase or reading a book together. Letting your child lead lets them know you care about their desires and are interested in what they find interesting.
With older kids, it can be more difficult to find time to connect as everyone is busy. Try focusing on little things like a good conversation in the car, or chatting over dinner at the end of the day. You can also find fun ways to hang out with each other like playing board games or doing other activities they enjoy.
Listen to and acknowledge what your child says
Like anyone else, children yearn to be heard and understood and will feel a greater bond and sense of trust with someone who has acknowledged what they have said.
This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything your child says, it’s simply giving them words of affirmation that validate their thoughts and feelings. This shows them respect and will make communicating with your child more effortless. It also teaches your child positive social skills that are necessary for healthy relationships in the future.
Consider your child’s point of view
By reflecting on where your child is coming from when they share their opinions or feelings, we’re able to show them empathy.
Now, this goes beyond just demonstrating that you heard what they said. The main goal is to let your child know you’re trying to understand. Whether they’re telling you why they’re upset or why they just want that ice cream so badly, put yourself in their shoes and watch your connection grow stronger.
Reflecting on and trying to understand your child’s point of view will help you find better ways to handle your child’s emotions and teach them how to express themselves in more appropriate ways. The more we understand, the more they’ll trust and respect us.
See related: Understanding Your Child’s Point of View
Show compassion when your child has big emotions
Showing compassion to your child when they experience strong emotions goes hand-in-hand with trying to understand their point of view. In other words, you can’t show compassion when you aren’t willing to understand why they are acting a certain way
When you acknowledge your child’s emotions and show empathy, it builds trust. It also models and teaches your child how to regulate their emotions.
Just remember that it’s OK to show compassion for your child before correcting their behavior. They’ll actually be more open to your instruction if you help them calm down and validate their emotions first.
Take an interest in what your child is interested in
Connecting with kids is a lot easier when you take interest in what they’re interested in.
Taking an interest in your child’s interests demonstrates to your child, or anyone for that matter, that you really care about what matters to them. Whether it’s doing a physical activity together and playing video games or going to a museum, concert, or sporting event –expressing your love in this way is sure to win their hearts. You might even find some common interests to share!
See related: The Best Way to Play With Your Kids
Connection is essential
Forming a strong connection with your child is essential to being an effective parent. It’s the most important thing to have when things such as power struggles, acts of defiance start, and other challenging behaviors pop up.
Before confronting or disciplining your child, remember to always seek out a connection first. As long as you make an effort and avoid actions that could hinder or hurt the connection between you and your child, you’re well on your way to having the most meaningful relationship and bond you’ve ever imagined.
What to do next…
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About Kerry Flatley
Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.