Building a strong relationship with your child can be hard sometimes.
Do you sometimes feel like you have a good connection with your child, but it could be stronger? You’re not alone. Many parents would like to strengthen the bond they have with their child.
But what’s the best way to do that when you’re already trying your hardest? Read below for 7 simple ways to make your relationship with your child even stronger.
Strengthen by doing daily distraction-free quality time
Spending time with your child is investing in your child. You’re communicating to him: “I care about what’s going on in your world.” As he grows up and his friends become more important in his life, the time you’ve spent with him will be memories he can recall for guidance in sticky situations.
Also, when you spend time with your child, it boosts his self-esteem because you’re telling him “You matter.” This helps him to feel good about himself, so he can grow, develop, and succeed.
Easier said than done, right? You would be surprised by how little time it takes to connect with your child if you make it a daily routine. You don’t need to book off an hour, either (although that’s ideal!). Start with 3-5 minutes. Ideally, making it the same time every day can help get you and your child into a routine of talking and listening to each other.
Remember, quality time is only quality time if the phones, TV, and social media are turned off. Show your child he’s important by unplugging. Encourage him to do so too. If he has a phone, have him put it in a drawer a few feet away, and put it on silent. I’ve seen many teens distracted by the vibrate alert in their pocket, and your child may be pulled to end his conversation with you because he wants to know what’s happening on his phone.
If he has younger siblings, find a way to redirect them to another activity, so they don’t barge in and become intrusive. Better yet, create some distraction-free time for them too. This will help them to understand how important this time is.
Strengthen by caring about your child’s interests
A strong relationship with your child is a two-way street, and you can pave that road when you connect with your child about what he’s interested in.
You know what your child is interested in: the latest photo on Facebook, the new kid in the class, or his favorite Monday night TV show. Those are perfect openers! Talk about them! You will be surprised how much you learn about your child by discussing what interests him.
You may feel the urge to finish the argument that started in the car on the way home from school or take the opportunity to circle back to that “C” he got in science. If you do that, however, you risk your child shutting down.
When you have a successful conversation about what interests him, you’re building a foundation of positive rapport that both of you can reflect on when you do have to have those tough conversations.
The best part about this strategy is that it’s reciprocal. Showing your child, you care about what he cares about helps him to care about what you care about. The result will be your child thinking “I can go to my parent about anything because s/he cares.”
Strengthen by knocking it off with the advice
Pre-teens and teens are notorious for thinking what their parents say is ridiculous, even if it is the best advice. But before you can give advice, your child needs first to believe that you understand him and that you understand the problem.
Have you ever sat down with a friend, poured your heart out, and then your friend starts in with saying “You know what you should do….” or “Well when that happened to me, I would…”? It wasn’t exactly helpful, was it? Did it make you feel like you wanted to talk more about it, or just steer the conversation in another direction?
What did you need to hear instead? I bet it’s more along the lines of “That’s rough, it sounds like that situation really bothered you.” That would just open up the lines of communication for you even more, wouldn’t it? That’s the experience you want with your child.
So when should you give advice? When your child asks for it. Listen for him to say phrases like “So what do you think about…?” or “What should I do about….?”
If he says “I just don’t know what to do,” ask before you give advice. My favorite line is: “I have some ideas, would you like to hear them?” If he says no, that’s OK. Go back to empathizing and validating his feelings. This will help your child to open up and ask for help when he’s ready.
And please, make sure you put periods at the end of your sentences. That means take some time to pause and listen to your child. I know you’ve trained your brain for the last decade or so to teach and advise him. However, speaking at length without room for dialogue is not going to strengthen your relationship. If your words are like an air bubble that’s taking up the whole room, there’s no space for your child to talk! So you have to create the space.
Strengthen by staying calm when disagreeing
If you’re not calm when you and your child get into a disagreement, you are doing your relationship a disservice. Sit down and ask yourself “When I’m not calm, what am I thinking? What’s preventing me from remaining calm?” Are you triggered by your own experience as a child when your parents got riled up and yelled at you? Do you have difficulty controlling your own emotions in general?
You have to put in the work on yourself, so your message is most effectively communicated to your child. This way your relationship is strengthened by your ability to stay calm and in control.
Strengthen by talking to your child like you love him
The way you talk to your child becomes his inner voice. From when he was a baby he learned from your tone of voice how to feel about himself.
When you criticize, name call, or use judgmental language, it’s those words that become his inner voice and tell him “I can’t, I’m not good enough, and I’m too dumb.”
But when you talk to your child like you love him, even when you are really mad, he learns that it is OK to make mistakes and try again. Ultimately, you are communicating that there is nothing he could do to lose your love.
In addition to talking with love, you need to behave with love. What does that mean? It means modeling respect and courtesy.
The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work. Your child is a sponge, absorbing everything in his environment. When squeezed (so to speak) he’s going to do what he’s seen and experienced around him. So you need to take an assessment of how you behave around your child.
Think through your last argument and the words you said and how you said it. Is that the way you want to be talked to? Would you listen if you were spoken to in that way? If not, try changing your tone, throw in a few more “please” and “thank you’s,” and see how that affects your relationship. I bet you it’s for the better!
Strengthen by setting boundaries and limits
Boundaries keep your child safe physically and emotionally. When you tell your child what is acceptable to do, and what is not acceptable to do, it’s another form of telling him “I love you and I care what’s going to happen to you.” He may not acknowledge this now, but later he will appreciate that the limits you set were meant to keep him safe.
When you set boundaries consistently, and don’t let your child break them, you’re helping him to build trust with you. It also teaches your child to respect himself by learning how to communicate his boundaries to others. This is necessary for him to have healthy relationships with friends, future partners, and even his own children.
Strengthen by doing self-care
Ever been on an airplane? You know how they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help others? Same thing for parenting! Your child is more likely to thrive when he sees his parent taking care of him/herself. Other than self-care helping life feel better for you, here are a few good reasons taking care of yourself is good for your child too:
- You’re modeling self-regulation, which is the ability to handle life’s stressors as they come your way.
- You’re demonstrating good self-esteem because self-care communicates to your child you are valuable and worthy of taking care of.
- You are working on creating a more calm and focused state, which can improve intellectual and social-emotional intelligence, which helps in all facets of your life. This directly benefits your child as he grows to be a capable young adult.
Bottom line: It’s not easy being a parent. Nor is it easy being a child. But the relationship the two of you have lasts a lifetime, not just until he turns 18. Strengthening that bond now can only help the two of you as your relationship continues to grow and evolve.
Please comment below or discuss this in the Wright Wellness Center Facebook Group: What areas in your relationship with your child need strengthening? What can you do to make them stronger?