Strengthening the Parent-Child Relationship: 3 Deposits to Start Making Now
Have you found there are times that you are in a parenting flow? It just seems you and your children are going along smoothly without any real need for discipline or correction. Then there are those times where it seems all you are doing is correcting behavior and putting out fires. What happened? Why is parenting such a roller coaster?
During those times where the parenting flow gets replaced by lots of correcting and probably some temper flares, what types of thoughts do you have? Are they typically focused on you and your behavior? Or do they tend to center on your child and their behavior? If you are like most of us parents when in the middle of the heated emotions, we tend to go with the focus on our children and their behavior. After all, if they were listening and not being so bad or manipulative, we would not have to be disciplining all the time, right?
Is it really that our children have flipped a switch and gone from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde? Maybe, if they are hungry or tired. However, some of it is that our focus as parents have changed and our child is getting us to realign. Of course, they are not necessarily going about it the right way, but they are children, after all!
With younger children, especially, we tend to misinterpret some of their misbehavior. Chances are they are reaching out for some attention and connection, and what better way to get their mom or dad to focus on them then with some strange, loud, and trouble making behavior? While there are reasons for misbehavior beyond just connection, that will be the focus for this post.
As parents, it is easy for us to forget what it was like to be a child and look at things only through the eyes of an adult. When we do this, we forget to enter the world of our child and reach them at their level. This is where the necessity of focusing on our parent-child relationship comes into play.
The relationship is where we get out power as a parent. Those times that we feel like we are in a flow and our children are too are the times that our relationship is strong. In terms of the Parent-Child Relational Bank Account, that means our balance is high with regular deposits and minimum withdrawals.
When our relationship balance is high, our children are not worrying about their needs for connection getting met. They feel close to us, and we feel close to them. When a child has their needs met and feel connected to their parent, they are more willing to listen to what is asked of them or be receptive to their feedback. This is usually related to the fact that when the balance is high, and we feel good as parents, our delivery of requests and behavior correction is done in a much calmer manner.
The level of connection between our child and us has a direct relationship with the way that we parent. Even if the balance is high and we overreact, we are much more likely to apologize and repair the relationship than when the balance is low, and we get intense. When the relationship is strong, it is like we unconsciously recognize it and act in a way that keeps our balance high.
Why does this relationship give us power as parents? Think of someone you respect most in life, someone that you trust and know would be there for you. Chances are this person would even be able to give you honest feedback, and you would honor it because of the way they treat you and make you feel. Have that person in mind? I bet I will be safe in saying this is not someone you met last week at the bus stop and had one conversation only. The person you chose comes with memories of many experiences that have helped foster a deep relationship.
This same concept is true of our relationship with our children. When they feel that safety in us where they can trust us and know that there is mutual respect, they are more likely to accept feedback and work with us. Is this 100%? Of course not, they are children, they are going to make mistakes! However, when we as parents ensure to keep this relationship strong, this mutual respect and trust are what gives our voice power and meaning to them. They will seek out our guidance rather than run for the hills in cover.
While it makes sense that the higher our balance is in the relational bank account, the better things flow, it is not always something that we have in our immediate focus. Even if our balance has been high for a while, we can become complacent and forget to stop making deposits. Unfortunately, not making deposits is its own form of withdrawals as our children begin to wonder what is going on and feeling disconnected.
As parents, we need to have making regular deposits a top priority. Becoming an Empowered Parent means moving from a view of parenting being about correction to one that focuses on the power of connection. To help with that process, here are three deposits to start making now and to have as part of your daily parenting repertoire.
Deposit 1: Do a Task Together
At first, your child may not see this as a deposit, especially if it is something like cleaning a room. However, doing a daily task together has several benefits. One, you are spending time with your child, and as long as you are remaining positive and keep it light, that will not be a bad thing! You can always turn cleaning a room into a game, such as shooting dirty clothes like basketballs into a basket or throwing socks like a snowball fight.
You will also be teaching your children daily life skills without them even knowing it! How often do our children want to help us with a task, like the dishes, and we shut them down because we do not want to get water on the floor or make a big mess? Then, down the road, we are shocked when we ask for help on a task and they do not want to. In ways, we shut the door on that long before our child did! Take the time to work on a task with them, which will foster connection and provide the opportunity to learn life skills!
Deposit 2: Develop a Ritual for Connection
Children like to show their needs for connection in ways that can seem strange to us. They come up and grab onto our legs while we are talking to people, they pull on our arms and hands, or they jump up and down, yelling out, “Mommy, daddy!” The truth is we do not always have to go to great lengths to show connection with our children. We can find simple ways that can go along way for the balance of our relationship.
One father I worked with said that he has a special high-five for each of his children. Only that child knows the high-five, and they can choose when it happens. The dad said that there were exceptions, such as being on a business call or something along those lines. To address this, they developed a quick hand gesture that would work in the place of the high-five. This dad reported that once he started implementing this simple daily ritual, he felt a stronger connection to his kids and remembered to keep them a focus throughout his day.
Find a simple way to bring a ritual of connection into your daily behavior with your children. We do not always need to focus on correcting behavior or what is going wrong. Find a way to give your child attention in a way that is specific to them, and it can even be something as simple as a special high-five or handshake!
Do you and your child get into a lot of power struggles?
Is it taking away from your relationship?
Try out the transformational
Deposit 3: Daily Time Devoted to the Child
This one can come with many excuses on a parents part as to why it cannot be done. When working with parents in classes or therapy, it is not uncommon to get a thousand reasons why a parent cannot find time out of their day to spend one-on-one with their children. The fact is we need to make it a priority in our day to find time to spend one-on-one with each child.
It does not need to be hours upon hours. A few minutes here and there throughout the day are enough to make a strong deposit in the relational bank account. When we say that we do not have time for it in our day, we are saying that it is not a priority. It is amazing that when an emergency happens, how quickly we can re-arrange our schedules to get the time we need. Your children not getting time with you is an emergency; it is up to us to find that time.
Spending one-on-one time takes away the competition and distractions there are for our attention. Our child does not have to compete with a sibling, a cell phone, work, or anything else. They get our full priority and focus. It also gives us a chance as parents to fully immerse ourselves in our child’s world, and that is the key to this daily time.
I have worked with parents who have said that spending time with their children did not work. They tried to play sports with them, take them hiking, or some other form of activity. When asked if that is what the child likes to do, the reply was often something along the lines of, “I don’t know; that’s just what I like to do.” As long as our child shares the interest, that is not a problem. However, this one-on-one time needs to be what the child wants to do.
There is a popular meme on social media that shows a strong, bearded father wearing a tutu and having a tea party with his young daughter. That is what it means to enter our children’s world. We engage in the activities they want to do, play the games they want to play, and let them lead the activity. Often, we try to dictate how a child should play, and yet children are the experts of play!
Take the time to enter your child’s world, learn about their interests, and enjoy the deep connection that will come with spending this time with your child. Your child will know they can depend on you so that when the discussions go from tea time as a young child to sex and drugs as a teenager, they know they can come to you. You might also be surprised how much of a stress reliever it can be to enter the playful and creative world of a child; it definitely beats the stress of the adult life!
There is an unlimited amount of ways to build the relationship with our children. Make it a priority, and you will find that you are in that parenting flow more often than not. Keep the Parent-Child Relational Bank Account in mind as you implement these and other regular deposits into your relationship with your child. Learn from one another to maximize your deposits. Be that Empowered Parent who moves from going for correction to one who focuses on creating connection!