4. Connect before transitions.
Kids have a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. They need us to “co-regulate” them through those moments when they really don’t want to give up what they’re doing to move on to something we want them to do. If you look him in the eye, use his name, connect with him, and then get him giggling, you’ll give him a bridge to manage himself through a tough transition.
5. Make time for one on one time.
Do whatever you need to do to schedule 15 minutes with each child, separately, every day. Alternate doing what your child wants and doing what you want during that time. On her days, just pour your love into her while you follow her lead. On your days resist the urge to structure the time with activities. Instead, try any physical activity or game that gets your child laughing. (For game ideas, click here.)
6. Welcome emotions.
Sure, it’s inconvenient that kids have such big emotions. But your child needs to express those emotions to you, or they’ll drive his behavior. Besides, this is an opportunity to help your child heal those upsets, which will bring you closer. So summon up all your compassion, don’t let your child’s anger trigger you, and welcome the tears and fears that always hide behind the anger. Remember that you’re the one your child trusts enough to cry with, and breathe your way through it.
Just acknowledge all those feelings and offer an understanding of the pain. That creates safety, so he can move through those emotions and back into connection, Afterwards, he’ll feel more relaxed, cooperative, and closer to you. Yes, most kids start by being angry, so you have to stay calm and patient in the face of their anger if you want the more vulnerable feelings to surface.
This can be really, really hard. Regulating our own emotions in the face of our child’s anger is one of the hardest parts of parenting. But that doesn’t mean we’re excused from giving it our best shot.
7. Listen, and Empathize.
Connection starts with listening. Bite your tongue if you need to, except to say
“Wow!…. I see…. Really?… How was that for you?… Tell me more…”
The habit of seeing things from your child’s perspective will ensure that you treat them with respect and look for win/win solutions. It will help you see the reasons for behavior that would otherwise drive you crazy. And it will help you regulate your own emotions so when your buttons get pushed and you find yourself in “fight or flight,” your child doesn’t look so much like the enemy.
8. Slow down and savor the moment.
Instead of rushing your child through the schedule so you can spend a few minutes with them before bed, use every interaction all day long as an opportunity to connect. Slow down and share the moment with your child: let him smell the strawberries before you put them in the smoothie. When you’re helping him wash his hands, put yours in the running water with his, and share the rush of the water.
Smell his hair. Listen to his laughter. Look him in the eyes and meet him heart to open heart, sharing that big love. Connect in the magnificence of the present moment. Which is really the only way we can connect. (For most parents, this is also the secret to being able to tolerate playing that same game yet again.)