10 Habits To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

Habits To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

Are you unable to connect with your child? Learn these 10 habits to build a strong relationship with your child.

“I can’t believe how things with my daughter have turned around, since I started focusing on connection.” – Zoe

We all crave those close moments with our children that make our hearts melt. Connection is as essential to us parents as it is to our children because that’s what makes parenting worth all the sacrifices.

That connection is also the only reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents WANT to cooperate if they can. They’ll still act like kids, which means their emotions will sometimes overwhelm their still-growing prefrontal cortex. But when they trust us to understand, to be on their side, they’re motivated to follow our lead when they can.

Researchers remind us that we need five positive interactions to every negative interaction to keep any relationship healthy. And since we spend so much time guiding — aka correcting, reminding, scolding, criticizing, nagging, and yelling — it’s important to make sure we spend five times as much time in positive connection.

But we’re only human. There are days when all we can do is meet our children’s most basic needs. Some days it’s nothing short of heroic simply to feed them, bathe them, keep an encouraging tone, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour — so we can do it all over again tomorrow!

So given that parenting is the toughest job on earth — and we often do it in our spare time, after being separated all day — the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to build in daily habits of connection.

Here are ten habits that don’t add time to your day, but do add a connection.

Simple, but incredibly powerful, these habits heal the disconnections of daily life. You’ll find that using them daily changes everything.

1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day.

As family therapist Virginia Satir famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

Snuggle your child first thing in the morning for a few minutes, and last thing at night. Hug when you say goodbye when you’re re-united, and often in between. Tousle hair, pat backs, rub shoulders. Make eye contact and smile, which is a different kind of touch. If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when she first walks in the door, realize that with older kids you have to ease into the connection.

Get her settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub. (Seem like going above and beyond? It’s a foolproof way to hear what happened in her life today. You’ll find yourself glad, many times, if you prioritize that.)

Also read How To Make Entitled Kids Grateful: 7 Helpful Strategies

2. Play.

Laughter and rough-housing keep you connected with your child by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin in both of you. Making laughter a daily habit also gives your child a chance to laugh out the anxieties and upsets that otherwise make him feel disconnected — and more likely to act out. And play helps kids want to cooperate. Which is likely to work better?

“Come eat your breakfast right now!”

or

“Little Gorilla, it’s time for breakfast — Look, you have bugs and bananas on your oatmeal!”

Also read Why Your Kids Should Play Sports? 4 Reasons

3. Turn off technology when you interact with your child.

Really. Your child will remember for the rest of her life that she was important enough to her parents that they turned off their phone to listen to her. Even turning off music in the car can be a powerful invitation to connect, because the lack of eye contact in a car takes the pressure off, so kids (and adults) are more likely to open up and share.

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Dr. Laura Markham

Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, and her latest book, the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook.View Author posts