By René Syler
Research shows that we need at least five positive interactions for each negative interaction to maintain healthy, happy relationships with loved ones. It’s no different with our children. When parents let the daily grind of life interfere with having positive interactions with their children, balance is lost. Whether they’re 3 or 13, this lack of balance will make kids resist us and develop sassy attitudes. Keep reading if you need some ideas on how to get closer to and build relationships with your kids.
Say “I Love You”
Kids love to hear that they are loved, just like adults. At some point, your kids will figure out that I love you is a phrase used often by all kinds of people and sometimes said so casually that it has almost no meaning. Every now and then, grab your child by the shoulders, look him in the eye, and tell him exactly why and in what ways you love him.
Have Fun Together
Doing fun things together is a cornerstone of any relationship. When we have fun with others, feel-good emotions are sure to flow. We should plan to do things that are mutually enjoyable and not connected to grades or behavior. The activities should be free of restrictions (other than safety restrictions, of course) and an opportunity to get to know each other better. You know what’s even more fun? Spontaneous activities. Imagine how thrilled your kids would be if you did something completely unexpected that they love.
For as long as they are alive, life will get countless chances to knock kids down. During those times when kids do wonderful things—when they are showing effort and improvement—parents must acknowledge it. It’s our job to help kids develop a sense of self-worth and encourage their interests and abilities by being a constant cheerleader.
Naturally, we expect our children to be dependable and trustworthy. But kids don’t easily acquire those traits without seeing good examples. In fact, they learn as babies to trust us because we pick them up when the cry and feed them when they’re hungry. Kids’ needs change as they grow, but not the need to feel they can depend on their parents no matter what. We have to follow through on what we say we’re going to do and make amends when we can’t. After all, parents are the adults that kids should trust the most.
Get Into Their Space
No, we’re not suggesting that you invade your kids’ privacy. We’re saying that literally and figuratively you might want to see the world as your children do. Get down on the floor to play with small children. Build LEGOs, play with dolls, or engage in imaginative play. The way to get into a teenager’s space is to have an interest in books, music, movies, or TV shows they enjoy. You don’t have to become a fanboy or a fangirl—it’s enough to ask questions about characters or stories.
Let Your Children Help You
Every now and then, our kids will ask if they can help with something like cooking dinner. Many times we say “no” because we know we’ll get the job done quickly and more efficiently. But we should consider allowing our kids to help and find something they can do such as bringing items from the pantry. They’ll be more confident about their abilities and that simple “yes” from you builds trust.
Communication Is a Two-Way Street
Communication involves listening as well as talking. Sometimes parents forget the listening part because we have lots of knowledge to pass on, but good communication helps relationships grow. Give your children your full attention when they want to talk. Put the phone down, turn off the television, and listen. We can learn so much more about our children’s interior lives when we take the opportunity to listen a little bit more than we talk.
Spend One-on-One Time With Each Other
Parents will find this difficult to do the more children they have, but it is important to interact with each child individually. Every child is unique and possesses their own qualities that set them apart from their siblings. Children will feel special and valued when you take time to do something just for the two of you. Next time, it’s somebody else’s turn.
Don’t Take Bad Behavior Personally
This is so hard because we love our children fiercely and they unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly!) wound us deeply with their actions and statements like “I hate you” or “You don’t understand anything.” Though instinctively we might want to lash out or withdraw, we adults are the ones with the fully developed prefrontal cortex. We have to remain cool and realize that our children are emotionally immature. It’s better to respond calmly and constructively.
Keep Everything in Perspective
All human relationships take work. The ones with our children are likely the most important, so they will take even more work. Just because we naturally are programmed to love our children doesn’t mean it takes less work to build happy and positive relationships with them. Adopt an optimistic and long-range view as you raise your children. And remember this adage: The days are long, but the years are short.
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