Time to Stop Doing That: 3 Common Withdrawals to Stop Taking from Our Relationship
Our true power as parents comes from the relationships we have with each of our children. A strong connection is based on respect, trust, and honesty. Our child can rely on us to be there to listen, to follow through, and to love them through even their darkest times. When our relationship is strong, we are more effective parents and handle situations differently than when a relationship is weak. We have more patience, our tone is milder, and we are more mindful of our child and their experience.
A strong relationship does not happen overnight. If you hope to have a strong relationship in the future, you have to start building for it now. The Parent-Child Relational Bank Account is a simple way to visualize the strength of your relationship and can help you empower your parenting when you learn its concepts. Remember, to truly be an effective and empowered parent, the relationship is our greatest ally and is worth the investment.
The strength of a relationship is measured by the balance of the Parent-Child Relational Bank Account. Just like any checking account, withdrawals take away from the balance while deposits add to it. As parents, we need to be aware of how our actions and interactions with our children are taking from or adding to the relationship.
It makes sense that we want to have our focus on meaningful deposits to help increase the balance. When we do this we are making memories with our children, fostering trust and respect between each other, and feeling like we are in a parenting flow. A high balance in the relationship is a wonderful feeling!
While it is important to focus on ways that can make deposits, there are also things we can stop doing that will keep the balance strong too. Combining deposits with minimizing withdrawals is an investment in time and energy that will be worth it. There are going to be withdrawals that have to happen, such as discipline, that we cannot prevent. However, there are withdrawals we might be making each day that we can easily limit, if we are willing to invest the time and energy.
To help limit withdrawals, we are going to focus on three common withdrawals that happen because of our behavior as parents. In other words, these are things we are doing to ourselves and the relationship with our child that is making parenting harder for us. Be open with yourself as you read these common withdrawals and make the changes needed if you find they are part of your life.
Withdrawal #1: Focusing on a Screen, not Our Child
When working with parents, it is not uncommon for them to point out their child’s technology use as a problem, but rarely look at their own tech habits. If parents are using their phones and tablets frequently, it demonstrates to their children that is acceptable. In essence, we could be making a problem for ourselves without meaning to. It also is a big hindrance to building strong relationships.
The more time we are focused on our screen means the less time we are focused on our children; it is that simple. If the phone is present, it is a distraction that gets in the way of our interactions. When we are waiting for the vibration or chime of a notification, our attention is not on our children. The more often this happens, the more damaging it is to our relationship.
Here’s the thing, our children know when our attention is not fully on them. Have you ever noticed when you start to use your phone or talk on it, your children start to get louder or act out? It might get frustrating, but they are attempting to communicate with you. What do you think they are saying? Put the phone away and play with me! Recent research has even shown that toddlers experience anxiety-like symptoms when they see their parents on a cell phone.
Other research on communication has shown that a phone being visible is all that is needed for the interaction to be rated poorly. They are distractions that take away from quality time. Our children need us to show them undistracted attention to help them feel loved and needed. When our phone is present, this is not the message they are receiving. When we are on the phone, we are sending the message that we are not interested in our child and want to do something different. That may not be the message you want to send, but that is the message that is received.
Our world is connected through technology, there is no doubt about that. We are more connected with the globe than we have ever been in the past. However, we are also more disconnected from those closest to us than we have ever been too. The remedy for this one is simple, put your tech away for a few moments each day when interacting with your children.
Your social media notifications can wait, so can your texts and emails. If there are times due to your profession that you need to be available, try not to schedule your quality time with your children during that time if possible. If you can’t avoid it, communicate with your child and let them know. The key is to limit your technology use as much as possible to help foster the strongest relationship you can with your child. There will always be time to play Fortnite, you won’t get the time back you miss with your children. Make it count!
Withdrawal #2: Debating instead of Listening
One of the crucial points for determining how big of a withdrawal we make is when our child has misbehaved in some way and we step into the situation. Frequently we do not give our child a chance to speak, and instead we impart our point of view on the situation. If we do listen, it is probably for where we can refute what they say and we turn it into a debate rather than a chance to solve a problem together.
Humans naturally feel more connected with someone when they feel they are being listened to and validated. This connection comes from the sense of mutual understanding and respect that comes when we are allowed to discuss our experience openly and the other person truly listens to us. When we feel heard and understood, we feel more secure, trusting, and hopeful about the person and the situation.
When we decide as parents to react and turn away from listening, we miss a powerful opportunity to connect. What does our reaction do instead? It maximizes the withdrawal we are making, which weakens the connection we have with our child. Now we will have to work even harder as a parent to rebuild the relationship.
Taking the time to stop and listen, even if you know what is already going to happen, is a powerful thing. It builds the relationship which increases the security our child has in us. Also, when we are willing to listen to the little things, it sets the precedent that we will be there to listen no matter what. This comes in handy with the big topics such as sex, drugs, peers, and underage drinking.
If you are not in a place mentally or emotionally where you can listen without reacting, let your child know you need a few minutes to gather yourself. There is nothing wrong with taking a few moments to regroup and come back to the situation, and in fact those few minutes might just be the difference between a strong, enduring relationship with your child versus one marred by constant conflict and struggle. Take the time to listen, you might be surprised how much more effective is than lecturing!
A low balance in the Relational Bank Account often leads to lots of power struggles which means more withdrawals and an even lower balance. If that sounds like your situation, then you need to check out the From Power Struggles to Empowered Connection Online Parenting Course!
Withdrawal #3: Invalidating Our Children’s Emotional Experiences
Think of a time where your child was crying and upset over something that to you was not a big deal. You walk into the room, quickly assess the situation, and you are not seeing anything worth having a meltdown over. How do you move forward in this situation? What is your typical response to your child?
A lot of parents respond, in an attempt to console the child, with comments like, “it is not a big deal” or “calm down, it’s not that bad.” While we are not attempting to do anything negative here, these types of comments are withdrawals from the relationship. At that moment our child is experiencing something that to them is a big deal. By saying “it’s not that bad,” our child can see it as meaning what is important to them is not that important and that their emotions are wrong.
Emotions tend to be a tough topic for parents to address in general and we wrestle with a ton of questions inside. How do I teach them to handle their emotions? Their tantrums get to me, how do I stop them? If I let them show their emotions, is that weak parenting? Being fine with their emotions makes me a permissive parenting that will let them get away with anything, right?
Helping our children learn and manage their emotional experience is a critical part of parenting. We do not need to invalidate their emotions just because something is not important to us. Often we just need to adjust our phrasing a bit to reach the level of consoling our child rather than invalidating. Instead of a comment such as, “it’s not a big deal, calm down,” we can replace it with “whatever happened really got to you, what’s going on?”
Be careful of those small comments that can be dismissive or invalidating of what your children are going through. Yes, as adults we face a lot of stress and struggle in life that makes our child’s broken toy feel like nothing. Remember though, these are the moments where your children are learning how to manage themselves so that when they do become adults, they can manage those stressors. Invalidating or deflecting sends the wrong message and erodes the relationship. Validating their experience takes the same amount of time, so why not make it work in your favor and build the relationship?
Parenting is not easy, and there is a lot on our shoulders. To help build strong, lasting relationships with our children we need to take inventory of our behavior and what we are doing that could be making parenting harder for us. Find ways to maximize the deposits you are making and limit the withdrawals you take to foster a strong relationship between you and your children. This will be an investment that is more than worth it!