Building positive relationships with their children is the goal of every parent.
You’ve worked so hard to raise your children to be “successful” adults, whatever that might mean to you. But, as you focus on that long-term goal, you can sometimes stumble and lose your way.
You can forget that what your children need most from you in order to be “successful adults” is to have a healthy relationship with you.
Building relationships, especially strong relationships, takes work and effort. There are many parenting advice, strategies, and manuals available for parents but you only need to remember three important tips.
Here are the 3 principles for building positive relationships with your children.
1. Lose your agenda for what you want them to be, do, or become.
Your children were born to become themselves, not someone you or anyone else might want them to be.
An acorn will become an oak tree no matter how thoroughly you groom it to become a blue spruce. And a tulip will never become a crocus.
Your agenda for what they need to do or become will only frustrate them — and you!
It won’t bring you closer to the larger goal — for them to grow up to be “successful” adults.
After all, when was the last time you appreciated another adult telling you what you ought to do with your life? Put your agenda aside and get to know and delight in the uniqueness that is your child.
2. When you’re with them, pay attention to them!
Really get to know them. Leave the technology and smartphones alone. Look at them.
Laugh while you play a board game across the table from them. Enjoy a walk in nature, side by side. Toss a ball. Read a book. Play tag.
Actively listen and try to really get to know them just as they are and for who they are. Kids need attuned, attentive “time in” with you whether they’re 18 months or 18 years. Yes, even through their teen years. (Maybe, especially through their teen years!)
That’s the only way you’ll be able to build a real relationship and be the kind of support they need to become fully themselves.
Spending time with them is not just something you can do “every now and then” either.
This is an everyday kind of thing, even if all you can spare is just ten focused, undivided, and undistracted minutes a day. It’s worth it in the long run.
3. Set clear, consistent, and reasonable limits and follow through on enforcing them with dignity and respect.
No matter how old you are, you’re allowed to think and feel whatever you think and feel. It’s your behaviors — what you say and do because of what you feel and think — that can cause harm.
And it’s your behaviors that need to have limits placed on them. Your children learn this from you in order for them to grow up to be capable, connected, and contributing adults.
This is foundational for healthy adult relationships. Their rights to express their emotions and ideas end at the metaphorical and physical noses of others.
And, they need for you to set these limits in a way that models respect for their metaphorical and physical noses too.
So if you’re able to set down your agenda, engage with them, and teach them how to live with respect for themselves and all others, you’ve got the makings of a beautiful relationship.
And the foundation for your children to grow into healthy and “successful” adults.
Use these strategies to go about successfully building positive relationships with your children, and the bond you share will only grow over time.
Judith Pinto is a Registered Occupational Therapist, Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional with extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT). For more information, visit her website.