It’s already becoming a well known concept in coaching youth sports, that connection is key. And yet, we don’t intentionally cultivate this in parenting. We think loving them is enough. We assume that, as long as we love them, and it’s obvious to everyone and their mother, then they KNOW IT too.
We think things like “as long as the relationship between me and my child isn’t ‘bad,’ then we have a ‘good connection.'”
But connection is not about how much you love your child. Connection isn’t about how much you talk to them. Connection isn’t about telling them that they can come to you with anything and that you want to hear what they have to say. Connection isn’t even about how often you talk to them or have conversations with them. Connection isn’t even about how much time you spend together.
When I talk about CONNECTION between you can your child, the most important factor is HOW CONNECTED YOUR CHILD FEELS TO YOU.
Remember I said that you’re doing to have to take a good hard look INSIDE. And that you’re going to have to be willing to get really honest with yourself. And that it may get uncomfortable or downright painful?
Some of that may come up right here …
Do they feel heard? Do they feel considered? Do they feel like their thoughts and their feelings are valued and considered?
Or do they feel like they’re always being told what to do?
Do they feel like they get talked AT more than WITH?
Do they feel like the majority of the “discussions” you have with them about really important things are more like “lectures” than actual conversations?
Do they feel like questions you ask are a set up for the answer YOU want?
Do they feel like the questions you ask are a “test” to see what they’re going to say?
Do they feel like you’re constantly judging what they say and do, how they say it and do it, and when they say it and do it?
Do they feel like you are “always on them” about “everything?”
Do they like you focus more on they things they’re messing up? And sort of just gloss over everything they’re getting right because they’re “supposed to do that?”
A good indicator of whether or not you have a strong connection is …
What does your child do when they makes mistakes or mess something up or just don’t do a good job with something? Do they readily come to you to let you know and talk about it or work on what a solid next step might be? (strong connection)
Or are they trying to avoid it or hide it? (weak connection)
Can they be honest with you about just about anything? (strong connection)
Or do you regularly “catch them in lies?” (weak connection)
Do believe in their trustworthiness? (strong connection)
Or are you still waiting for them to prove that they can be trusted? (weak connection)
Most parents could stand to make some adjustments in this area. In our American culture, there are many popular beliefs/thoughts/perspectives that break down parent-child connection like …
- Children are meant to be seen and not heard
- I’m the parent. You’re the child.
- I know best.
Common things parents do that are NOT helpful for building strong relationships include things like …
Brushing off children at a young age because you’re doing something super important and they’re just trying to show you a “flower” the picked outside or they’re asking you the 4 millionth question of the day or their problem isn’t nearly as big as the one you’re tackling at the moment.
From a very young age, we are often already sending a message that, “I don’t have time to listen to you” or “I don’t want to hear about your problems” or “Your questions aren’t important.” And then we suddenly expect them to come to us with the “big stuff” when they get older. But what we often fail to understand is, to them, it was ALL big stuff and we haven’t been listening for the past 8-10 years so why should our kids believe that we’re going to listen now and they’ve gotten SO used to NOT being able to talk to us about their “big stuff,” how can we expect them to suddenly trust is with those things now when we’ve never been interested in listening before?
We also tend to focus SO much on what they’re doing wrong. If a child comes home with 6 As, 1 B, and a D, which grade gets the most attention? Which grade causes you, as a parent, to take an action? Are you taking them out to dinner and celebrating all the As and that B? Or are you possibly have serious talks about the D? Maybe even threatening to take away an activity or a privilege if the grade doesn’t come up, etc?
Our kids can often do 90% of the things they do on any given day right and only falter with 10% of it and yet we will spend 90% of our time addressing that noticing that 10%. We are going to notice the one unfinished chore, the one missed assignment, the one slightly harsh, impatiently said remark, the 5 minutes they made us wait after we told them what time we were meeting them, etc, etc, etc. This is not helpful. Just think about how it would feel if your spouse was constantly on your back only about all the things you didn’t do well today and barely noticed or mentioned or paid any attention to what feels like the million and one things you did do right today?
We know, as adults that it’s demoralizing and it does NOT make us feel closer to that person. It does NOT make us feel more respected, nor more appreciated, nor more “seen” for the wonderful person we truly are. So let’s stop doing THAT to our own children.
These are just a few examples of “how most people do things” that just aren’t helpful and that break down our CONNECTION with our children without us even realizing it.
It’s the LITTLE things, things you don’t even give a second thought to, that you’re doing day in and day out, that’s either strengthening your connection with your child or breaking it down.