The parent-child relationship is a special, yet complex relationship which requires consistent nurturing and connection. Each day we’re bombarded with barriers that can sabotage the attachment we have with our children. Are any of these five habits playing a part in interfering with your special parent-child bond?
I spent the entire morning taking apart bunk beds, assembling an entirely new bed, pushing mattresses up the stairs and then making beds with fresh sheets. It was time for the big kids to move into bigger beds with more space to spread out at night and roll around without being jolted awake when they crashed into the wall.
It was a lot of work and my body was tired, but I was excited to see how much they liked their new bedrooms.
“Do you guys want to see your new rooms? Come upstairs,” I yelled downstairs to the kids who were finishing up lunch.
They launched upstairs and ran into their rooms.
“Cool Mom, I really like my bed.” My son bounced on the end of his bed, not nearly the excitement I expected – or hoped for.
“You don’t like it?” I questioned.
“Yeah, I like it. Can I go play outside now?” That was not the response I thought his new room would elicit.
“Hold up mister. What’s going on?” He proceeded to tell me I hadn’t paid any attention to him this morning and while he liked his new room and was happy to have a “big kid bed,” he wanted me to pay attention to him. He wanted to feel important.
CONNECTION IS A NECESSITY OF LIFE
Connection is a basic need for everyone – and making emotional and physical connections with a parent is a necessity for children.
I was so determined to update the kid’s room in one morning’s time that I didn’t see my son. I didn’t hear him. I didn’t take his needs into account and because of this, our connection needed some repair.
The parent-child bond is a dynamic relationship of which the quality of attachment is established in the first few years of a child’s life. Attachment is what builds the foundation for a child and ultimately, will influence their future relationships and be the root predictor of traits such as their ability to handle stress, environmental pressures, and positive and negative views of oneself.
In the face of a disconnected relationship, a child can have feelings of being anxious, insecure, misunderstood, angry, and other negative feelings of self.
Having a powerful authentic connection creates positive feelings of acceptance, of being seen and heard. When the connection originates from the most important people in a child’s life – the parents – this is a necessity to building confidence and helping children to choose good behavior over naughty behavior.
The power a parent has to connect and make their child feel worthy and fully accepted, is often met with barriers throughout the day which can deter the small moments of meaningful connection. For me it was the well intentioned bedroom update but in the hard work of trying to complete the project I didn’t stop for 5 minutes to have a snack with the kids at the table or step outside and push them on the swings while we all took in some fresh air and connect with them.
There are many barriers each day that take us away from our children and the missed opportunity to make a connection.
1) PRESENCE VS. BEING PRESENT
Missing the small moments often happens right in front of us. It’s not that we aren’t around or missed being in the right place at the right time, it’s because although our presence means we’re there, we aren’t present in the moment.
Presence is a state of being, like sitting on the couch with your kids or on the sidelines watching a game, but not actively interacting, cheering or seeing what is going on. Being present means involving yourself in the moment – laughing with your children, making eye contact, sharing a hug and actively watching and listening.
Being actively present doesn’t mean blocking out an hour each day to tune in, it’s the small moments and granules of time it takes to recognize your child and be fully present with them.
Children don’t need big displays of affection to know they’re on your mind. Simple gestures like holding their hand, making eye contact when they talk to you, putting your phone down to listen and asking meaningful questions lets them know you’re present.
While you may be physically in the same room as your kids, you aren’t in the same head space when your technology, whether its your phone, smartwatch, computer or another electronic, is robbing your attention and causing you to be distracted and disengaged.
It’s easy to redirect your attention to your phone when your kids are in the midst of a tantrum or misbehavior, or even sitting quietly on the couch watching a show, but engaging with your phone in place of your children will take it’s toll on the behavior, emotions and communication in your home.
Make the minutes with your kids count, don’t waste them on electronics.
3) AROUND THE CLOCK WORK
It is extremely hard nowadays in the modern world to completely disconnect from work once you’re home from the office. While employers may not expect you to be available around the clock, but with the use of technology, completely shutting down email and access to work is tough and the mental baggage doesn’t go unnoticed from little ones.
Set boundaries when you’re at home with your family. This may mean if you still need to log on and respond to emails, to only do so after they’ve gone to bed or when your partner takes your kids out of the house for a stroll, you have 20 minutes to handle any pressing work and then close your computer for the night.
It’s extremely hard to turn off your brain from work when you head home, but the sooner you set boundaries for yourself and your family, the less people will have the expectation that your available after work hours have ended.
Running to activities each night might sound fun, and doable, when you hit the registration button, but over scheduling is one of the most common reasons for lack of connection in the parent-child relationship.
Finding time to make meaningful connections is about being purposeful with your time and no one can dictate your family’s schedule but YOU.
Kids don’t have to do it all and when they ask to sign up for gymnastics, soccer, pottery class and flute lessons, the person responsible for reigning it all in, is the parent. Children do not determine your family’s schedule. Sure, they like to participate in sports and try new things, but it doesn’t have to all be at once.
Don’t let FOMO – fear of your child missing out – reek havoc on your family’s social calendar.
It’s been shown time after time children benefit the most from unscheduled free time, not an over scheduled social calendar. In order to develop imaginations and foster creativity, children require time free from activities and sports. This is the best gift you could ever give to your child, not another activity sign up.
5) BEING A CONTROL FREAK ABOUT ROUTINES
Having a schedule in place, especially with babies and young children, can be the special elixir which makes the day to day go off without a hitch. As children get older and there is a little more give in routines, it’s Ok to allow more flexibility especially if children are involved in play.
Sure, sticking to a consistent bedtime is important for quality sleep and not having to wrangle an overtired toddler to bed but during the day, when there is flexibility to push lunch or even dinner by 15 minutes because your child is in the sweet spot of play.
When you’re connecting with your child over building a puzzle or coloring together, don’t stop what you’re doing just to stay on track. Give it a few minutes to enjoy the meaningful moment and soak in the sweet time you have together, before you move forward.
I know when it’s been a long day and I’m watching the clock for bedtime, I’m more focused on our routine than connecting and it’s a bad habit I’ve had to work hard to break.
BUILDING IN SMALL MOMENTS FOR CONNECTION
While I was singly focused on moving the kid’s rooms around getting beds assembled before my toddler’s nap time, I could have easily taken 5 minutes here and there to stop and pay attention to my children. Once I stepped outside to play catch with my son, all was well in his world again. He felt important because I was solely focused on him for a few minutes of uninterrupted time.
The next time I laser-focus on a project or getting a task done, I’ll build in small increments of time to break and play with the kids before launching myself back into work.
Need More Help? Learn How to Stop Yelling & Respond with Love
The Calm Parenting: Learning to Stop Yelling eBook and companion Workbook will take you through all the steps to:
- identify your anger triggers
- identify environmental triggers
- strategies to help you change your response
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- stop yelling and start connecting with your kids
Are you ready to stop bringing more chaos to your home and be the calm your kids need?
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