4. Redefine “failure.”
If you want to connect with your children, notice your reaction when your child messes up. Sure, you may be sad, frustrated, even furious, but what do you do with these emotions? Your child isn’t causing your emotions.
They don’t have the power to make you angry; you’re responsible for how you feel. Children have a natural desire to please and not disappoint, but they need a safe space to stumble and fall so they can learn and grow. No one wants to mess up, so acknowledging their feelings, and you being present with their emotions is life-changing.
Here’s how to acknowledge:
- “I notice you’re angry or upset.”
- “I sense something’s not working for you.”
- “I realize you need your space.”
- “You seem sad or frustrated.”
Then… “Can you tell me what happened?”
Actively listen with curiosity from where they are, not from where you are if you want to connect with your children. Your faith in them despite their failings allows them to show up authentically.
5. Stop criticizing.
You want your children to believe, “I can do this,” but what they often hear growing up when they make mistakes sends a different message: “I’m not good enough.”
Do any of these questions sound familiar?
- “How could you not know?”
- “What’s the matter with you?”
- “Why is this taking so long?”
- “Are you kidding me?”
- “What were you thinking?!”
These are expressions of criticism that form your child’s “inner critic” and create the fear of not being good enough early on. Criticism of a child’s behavior creates guilt.
What’s tougher are the expressions of judgment that form your child’s “inner judge.”
- “How could you be so stupid?”
- “So, if your friends do something, you blindly follow like an idiot?”
- “That outfit makes you look _______ (fat, too big, silly, ridiculous…)”
- “Stop crying like a baby! That’s nothing to be upset over.”
- “You’re such a disappointment!”
It’s easy to justify criticism and judgment because you have your “right way” as a parent and believe you know better. Let that go.
Remind yourself that your child is your greatest gift and is trying their best to learn new things. What they need is someone who’s willing to listen to their world with patience, understanding, and compassion. They need common-sense rules and guidance.
Your “why” is the biggest piece missing for kids. Why do they need to care? What do you want them to understand? These are your values.
Contrary to popular belief, punishment is not necessary for children to learn a lesson. It’s taking the time to communicate what went wrong and why which makes it easy to connect with your children.
Criticism creates an invisible wall between you and your child. What will you share if there’s a fear of judgment or criticism? Not a whole lot.
6. Let go of expectations.
Children today feel enormous pressure because of the expectations to be happy and successful. Have you ever said, “You should be happy! Do you know what I had in my day?”
Today, there’s a mental-health crisis in children with increasing suicide rates, and many young people take pills or are in therapy, unable to cope with stress and anxiety.
You want the world for your children, and they feel like they have to deliver. Children want to please their parents. Expectations backfire to create a silent pressure for children to be more than what they can see in themselves.
Connect with you children by encouraging your children to try new things often runs into resistance. There’s a push into activities to “make them happy,” but is it working?