Parenting is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs around. Many factors go into a positive parent-child relationship and since no child is the same, there is certainly no “one size fits all” approach but there are specific ways to strengthen your relationship with your child. The means of building a strong parent-child relationship are right in line with actions that help any relationship grow. The difference, however, is that parenting involves the hefty responsibility of teaching relationship skills through modeling them in our relationship with our child.
A strong parent-child relationship is fostered over time and with purposeful decision-making. Here are 5 things to keep in mind as you cultivate a relationship with your child:
We often think of the importance of children respecting parents; however, it is crucial that parents also respect their children by regarding them as unique individuals. This does not mean that you should give in or let your child get their way in every situation. On the contrary, setting clear expectations and boundaries is helpful for children. Showing respect through kind interactions, valuing opinions, and truly listening by considering your child’s perspectives is a great way to model good communication and mutual respect.
To make time together count, you might have to be on your guard. This means being available to your child, even when things get busy. Quality time together offers the opportunity for your child to feel loved and valued by showing them that they are a priority. When possible, limit distractions (this may mean powering down your laptop or putting your phone away!) so that you can truly connect and be present with your child. Laughing together, making eye contact, engaging in reciprocal play, or an activity that you’re both focused on – like baking, playing a game of Uno, or working together on an art project, goes a long way. These moments can be planned or spontaneous and change and evolve as your child gets older. From sitting on the floor and playing Legos with your elementary school-aged child to having a conversation in the car with your teen, being fully present is a way to make the time together, quality time.
Take an Interest
Take a genuine interest in your child by learning about what interests them or gets them excited. Learning more about your child is a great way to demonstrate that you accept them as an individual. Asking questions, and showing curiosity towards the circumstances and affairs that inspire or excite them, even if they aren’t things that you have been interested in in the past, sends the message that you see the value in your child’s thoughts, ideas, and preferences. This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to learn about something new or uniquely interesting or important to their child!
Trust is maintained and grows as you demonstrate that your child can count on you. As an infant or small child, your child learns this by having their basic needs met and staying safe. As they grow, following through on things that you say and being reliable is key. If you promise to come to the school art show, it is important to show up. Things come up, and we all fall short at times, so talking to your child when there has been a change, or something was not possible, can help to maintain their trust. Building confidence that they can count on you to follow through is important and models the importance of keeping your word.
Be Mindful of Your Message
Children often hear the negative in a more pronounced way than the positive. Therefore, making an effort to give more positive feedback than negative is key. If your child hears you making requests or expressing disappointment much more frequently than noticing what is going well, the relationship may become strained. Catch your child in an act of benevolence and offer specific praise! While this may be tricky depending on the situation, your child will be more open to your feedback if they are also hearing what they are doing well. As a rule of thumb, I usually recommend 5 positives for every negative – which is helpful in all relationships, not just parent-child interactions.
With the competing stressors of managing a household, work obligations, and countless activities and commitments, it may feel to many parents that their family is moving in a million directions. It certainly feels like this to me in my house and with summer break just kicking off, writing this is a good reminder for me as well!
Working with a licensed therapist can help you develop your relationship with your child and learn more strategies specifically geared to your child. To schedule an appointment with Ashley Freimanis, click here.