Connecting with your kids has to be a priority. Your children, like adults, don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The sooner you accept that and act on it, the better off your households will be. How do children know you care? You intentionally spend time with them, you connect with them, and you build a relationship with your child. Kids want to know they matter. Connecting with your kids makes all the difference in the world.
My Experience As An Educator
In 1999, I was fortunate enough to hear the motivational speaker, Riney Jordan. He was a former principal and superintendent, and he was hilarious. At the same time, he seemed to be the kind of person every teacher dreamed of having for a boss and every child dreamed of having as their principal.
He said something at that motivational speaking event that I carried with me through 15 years of teaching. When he had the audience to where you could have heard a pin drop, he spoke, “Children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care!” That’s it- it’s all about relationships with children. Seems as simple as that- right!
It’s All About the Relationship- Connecting With Your Kids
Over my 15 years in education, I held a few leadership positions because this or that boss wanted me to pass on to teachers ways to get the results I was getting. I quickly learned it is hard to pass on your passion to others.
After evolving as a teacher and leader, I realized what I needed to pass on to my fellow teachers was how to build relationships with children. Why? Because until the kids knew how much the teachers cared, nothing else mattered. I owe every ounce of my career success to relationship building!
Now that I have become a parent, it’s no different. It’s all about the relationship. When the connection is broken, the days are rough. When my children are connected to their parents, all is well with our souls!
Parenting isn’t a set of strategies. It is a relationship. Source We intentionally use strategies to see the results we desire in our relationships with children.
My Experience As a Parent
Chris and I take a lot of time to keep a positive connection with our kids. Anytime we have a behavior going on with one of the kids that we are concerned about, we start discussing what could be the reason for this. It doesn’t take long to realize that we have let one of our connection routines slip through the cracks.
Every time I ask myself, “Why or how did we let this happen, and why did it take 2 weeks to figure out the issue?” Life happens! Spring break, t-ball practice, martial arts classes, a brother is born, you move, Mom starts a blog, friends come to visit, the list could go on. What I know is, if kids are unsure about the relationship with their parents, ultimately there will be some negative behaviors coming out. Several terms come to mind, but I’m going to go with: there will be a price to pay!
Your child may not take it out on you. He may take it out on the teacher or his brother or the dog. Anytime our children behave in a way that makes us feel like they are our enemy, then we need to ask ourselves, “When was the last time we connected?” Usually, the answer is, “We have not been connecting with our kids.”
In the Peaceful Parenting Happy Kids Workbook Dr. Laura Markham states, “Disconnection is a normal part of life, no matter how aware we are. So parenting effectively requires us to constantly reconnect.” Her source.
To put it another way, connecting with our kids is cyclical. It’s just a part of parenting. We can’t take any disconnection personally, and it’s not always us at the root of the issue.
Children Spell Love… T-I-M-E
Next comes the cliche: How do you spell love to a child? T-I-M-E!
There’s NO WAY AROUND it. Undoubtedly, our children need one-on-one time with us. You can look at this as preventive maintenance. Without a doubt, quality time is the only way to keep or mend the relationship.
The best way Chris and I have found to make it work is to schedule it into our days and into our routines. I have to make sure that I carve out time for each kid each day, and I put it on my schedule. Otherwise, there’s a good chance it doesn’t happen, and then not doing it becomes our new routine. It doesn’t take long before things become really chaotic. Connecting with your kids is in everyone’s best interest.
The below information is NOT age sensitive. You may have to change how you do it according to age, but what you read below is what all of our children want. There’s a good chance that the more they act like they don’t want to spend time with you, the more they really want it. You just have to get more creative in figuring out how to connect.
The 4 Best Strategies for Connecting With Your Kids:
**NOTICE: For all 4 strategies below: You turn off your device and give your child your undivided attention. Don’t let anything in the room distract you, and don’t think about your To-Do list. You are single-tasking here. Mastering this is an art in itself!
#1- Give Your Child At Least 20 minutes of Your Undivided Attention Every Day If Possible
- To give your full attention
- See things from his point of view
- Build trust
- Let him know he really matters
- Build a relationship with your child and the connection with your child is transformed
- Child cooperates more
- Less anxiety
- Connecting with your kids
- The child builds emotional intelligence
How Much Time?
- 30 minutes a day gets the best results, but it is sometimes not doable. Just do what you can.
- If you can’t do it every day, pick certain days, and keep that schedule.
- If you miss a day, get back to it. It won’t kill the connection.
What this looks like:
- During this time, ask your child what they want to do, and then do it. You may have to kick start it at first. Do you want to play something? Would you like to do something with Dad? Do you care to go outside?
- Note: In the book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, where I got this idea, they suggested trying to read or watch TV as little as possible during the special time because this is a time when we want the focus to be on the child.
- It should be noted, whatever your child picks to do, go with it, and let them lead it. It’s hard, but don’t take over the game or project. Use their ideas. When you first start, it feels a bit awkward, but keep at it. It will become really natural.
- You can alternate choosing the activity with your child, and when it is your turn to pick the activity, try to pick something that gets the child laughing. i.e roughhousing, chase, hide and seek, NOT tickling.
- You can even allow the child to name the time if they choose. Susy Time or whatever they create.
- Additionally, if this is new for your family, you will first want to have a discussion about it explaining your plan for a special time. How it will work. How often it will happen. The expectations of the parent and child. What happens when the timer goes off.
- It is good to set a timer because a lot of the time the child will not want the time to be over. When the timer goes off, it’s something like, “OK, our special time is up. I am going to go cook dinner now. Tomorrow we will have a special time again, and it is my turn to choose what to do.”
- It is important for me to mention that you should be prepared for the child to get emotional during some of your Special Times. They may seem to be having a fit or crying over nothing. Psychologist call this “Unloading Their Emotional Backpack”. Kids have these stored up feelings that they don’t know how to deal with, and sometimes having a good time brings these feelings out. Just be there for them and help them work through it. Show empathy.
- During this time, do the Name What You See technique. Try to ask a few questions as possible once the activity gets going. Questions usually disconnect rather than connect us. Try not to praise. Try to Acknowledge. Find out what it means to acknowledge rather than praise here. This one is challenging for me, but I am determined to master it!
- If you ask them if they want to spend time with you, and they say, “No!” make them spend time with you. It’s really a test to see if you really want to be with them. Lure them in some form or fashion. Intice them. Humor works well, so does ice cream. Roughhousing works well to get them in a better mood.
- It may take a lot of special times if the relationship needs a lot of repairs. There have been times it took Jock over a month to get his emotions and behavior back on track because our connection was so severed.
Without a doubt, this 20 minutes a day connecting with your kids x however many kids you have = the best investment you’ll make that day.
#2- Eat At Least One Meal A Day With Your Child. Be Intentional About Connecting With Your Kids At Meal Time
- To connect
- Learn manners by parents modeling
- Let him know he matters
- An easy way for the whole family to connect and find out what’s going on with each other
- Encourage healthy eating by parents modeling
- Children learn group conversation etiquette
- There are nutrition, health, social and emotional benefits.
- All of the reasons under purpose.
What this looks like:
- This is a good time to implement your family traditions, values, and culture.
- Turn off your phone or place it somewhere it won’t distract you.
- Encourage discussion. Don’t ask a bunch of questions. If you have a question, change it to a statement. Tell me how T-ball went today. Share what you did at recess. Share with me the happiest moment of your day. Tell me about any times you were sad today. Share something new you learned today. (not all, just a couple)
As a matter of fact, if there is something serious that needs to be discussed or disciplinary discussions that need to take place, save them for a time other than dinner. This should be a time when our children can relax and talk with us. Not worry when we’re going to bring up their latest issue.
#3- Take Your Child on Special Outings. (If you have more than one child, take turns having one-on-one dates with each child.)
- A date involves time spent one-on-one trying to learn more about a person, talking, asking questions, communicating, building relationships. The same is true if you take your kid on a date.
- All the same benefits of #1 special time except to the power of infinity.
What this looks like:
- It can be one hour or three+. There’s no set time.
- Aim for once a month per child.
- It can be one parent or both, but every once in a while get a babysitter for the kids and take only one of the kids out with both parents.
- Give the child a few options to choose from on what the date will be.
- During this time, do the Name What You See technique. Try to ask a few questions as possible once the activity gets going. Questions usually disconnect rather than connect us. Try not to praise. Try to Acknowledge. Find out what it means to acknowledge rather than praise here.
- Keep everything as positive as possible. Don’t discuss disciplinary issues unless the child brings them up.
- This isn’t something they have to earn. Love is unconditional.
- If you have several kids, here is another idea.
#4- Build In Rituals That Will Enable Connecting With Your Kids
- Anytime you can get in 5 minutes of connecting, snuggling, hugging, a short discussion to let them know you care, you are making deposits into your relationship bank with that child.
- Kids need structure and repetition; this gives them security, stability and a feeling that everything is ok. Rituals are things that only your family does. They help to communicate “this is who we are” and give a sense of belonging.
What this looks like:
When your child talks to you during these rituals, give them your full attention. Engage in the conversation. Make eye contact when possible. Whatever they say, give feedback. The below are suggestions, but of course, you do what your family needs.
Types of Rituals For Connecting With Your Kids:
- Morning time rituals: Connect with others, snuggle, connect with self, quiet time, stretch, energize, pray, consider the day and think about the schedule, when your child wakes up be sooo happy to see them
- Bedtime rituals: pray, read books, sing a favorite bedtime song, reflect on the day, have a bedtime saying i.e. Goodnight sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite,
- In the car rituals: games, discussion, play a family favorite type of music and singing together, not a bunch of questions
- Going on walks or bike rides rituals: on a ride with Dad every Saturday morning, name the birds you see, name the types of flowers, trees, etc., whatever your family’s special interests are
- Pick-up, and drop-off rituals: certain signals or sayings, hugs, I can’t wait to see you at pick up. I’m so happy to see you! Have an expression on your face that says, “I am thrilled to death to be picking you up!”
Call to Action
Connecting with our children and creating strong relationships with children takes time and work. I have found if I think of it in terms of the quality of the time I spend with my kids instead of the quantity of time it takes off some of the pressure. If we show up and give our best for that time, kids know we care.
Finally, we only have 18 years, and we reap what we sow. The days go by slowly, but the years go by quickly. Be intentional about connecting with your kids!
If you have a way that you connect with your children or a routine that works for your family that is not mentioned. Please share in the comments section. The more ideas we have to choose from, the better chance we have of finding something that fits our family dynamics.
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Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours! Remember to have fun, laugh and give God the glory! I love you! SS