Nurturing and supporting your child to create a strong relationship is an investment that you will benefit from all your life. We frequently have clients who come to us because they are frustrated and feeling helpless with the direction things are going with their kids. They are looking for new skills to help improve their parent-child relationship and for a happier family life. There is no question that parenting can be a stressful job, but there are definitely certain things that we can do to help strengthen those ties.
Take a moment to consider that every interaction you have with your child contributes to your overall relationship. If you work long hours and then come home to point out their flaws, they will look elsewhere for emotional support either in their friends, other adults or eventually in their boyfriends or girlfriends. Here are some tips to take into consideration:
1. More time is better. Some parents believe that it’s quality not quantity. However, it takes time to build strong relationships and if you’re not available, it makes it more difficult to create that bond. The more ordinary time you give them, the more chances you have that your children will open up to you. You don’t need to be sitting face to face, but hanging around in the kitchen cleaning up dishes while they are doing their homework offers them the opportunity to talk.
2. Devote undistracted time. When you are shopping or at the playground, are you on the phone with a friend or checking your email while they off by themselves or trailing behind you? Children thrive on positive attention, so do your best each day to make sure you give them some of your undivided attention.
3. Listen closely. You may be completely preoccupied with your own worries and hear them talking, but not really pay attention to what they’re saying. The more you show them you care about what they are saying, the more they will open up to you. It’s a good pattern to get into early on, so by their teen years the communication channel is well established.
4. Role model respectful behavior. Yes, you need to set the rules but if you do it by barking out orders, they will learn that this is how to treat others. You might even catch them treating their friends in this manner while they are playing. If you want them to treat you respectfully in their teen years, teach them now how to speak clearly, honestly and with respect by following your lead.
5. Be positive. Kids look to their parents to help build their self-esteem. If you spend a lot of time focusing on their negative behavior and criticizing them, they won’t feel very good about themselves and they won’t come to you for your opinion. Instead, point out the good things they do as they are doing them. This means that you don’t have to wait until they win the first place award to give them praise, but give it to them while they are working on and improving their skills.
Taking these practices to heart will help to build the trust you need for a strong foundation. It’s time and energy well spent.