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Joyful Musings--a weekly blog

Joyful Parenting Coaching is focused on clarity, consistency, connection, being an effective parent, finding balance as a parent, and above all being a confident and joyous parent. Topics include communication, having difficult conversations, having constructive conversations, chores, routines, family meetings,  I teach parent education and parenting classes because parenting is a skill—not something we are born knowing. Get the parenting skills you need today!

October Newsletter: Forming a Close Connection with Your Kids

Elisabeth Stitt

Joyful Parenting Coaching Newsletter  October 2014

What’s the silver bullet of parenting?  

Well, there is none really.  But if there were, it would be forming a warm bond with your kids.  Think about it.  Aren’t you more willing to go the extra mile at work when you feel part of a close-knit team?  When you’re appreciated by your boss?  When you have had some good laughs at the water cooler before getting down to the nitty gritty in the conference room?  I bet you do, and your children are the same way. The rule of thumb is attend to the relationship first and the issue second.  Below I list 5 tips—by no means an exhaustive list—for making deposits in the cooperation bank.

Forming a Close Connection Tip 1:  Being Constructive

         A great way to form a close connection with your kids is by being constructive.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it could mean literally constructing something like a tree house or doing some maintenance around the house like fixing the door.  You might be thinking, "My kid doesn't want to help fix the door."  Yes, he does!  More than anything, kids want to be right along side, doing what their parents are doing, making a contribution to things that count.  Oiling the door and being appreciative that the door that was sticky is now opening smoothly, that makes a difference!  Here the child has worked together with the parent to make the home a better place, and the child can take pride in that along side having had time to be together with and to cooperate with Mom or Dad.  Of course, constructive could also mean baking or gardening or creating a scrap book or wrapping presents together for someone's birthday.  The idea is to find something that results in a product at the end of your time together.  There is a great deal of pride in being able to show off what you have done.  You have baked these cookies and now the family can eat them or you have created a scrapbook of the family vacation which can be taken out and looked at over and over.  Creating a product doubles the pleasure:  You get the pleasure of the shared activity and every time you remember it, you relive that close bond. 

Forming a Close Connection Tip 2: Clearing Your Calendar

         It is not fair to your kids to be so over scheduled that you walk in the door, stressed, harried and needing time for yourself.  If you want your kids to greet you joyously at the door, you need to not be on the phone while you do it, to not immediately check your email.  You need to be fully present for them. In light of the fact that we are sort of expected to be always available for our jobs--we have our cell phones, we have our computers, we can be pinged or buzzed wherever we are--it becomes especially important to say, "Wednesday night, that's my date night with dad," or "Every Saturday morning my mom and I go and get bagels."  For kids to have that firm foundation that they can really rely on--this time Mom is 100% mine, Dad is 100% mine, they won't take a phone call, they won't check their email, I am going to be heard, they are going to take an interest in my life--if a kid can relax into that, you are going to hear about your kid's life. You are going to hear about the things you haven't been hearing about.  You are going to be able to share with them bits of your own childhood in a way that feels really different than the other random times during the week.  So, at least once a week, put a big red x on the calendar that blocks out time that is just for your kids, for your family, not for the call of all the gadgets in our life.

Forming a Close Connection Tip 3:  Being Silly

         When our kids are babies, we do a pretty good job of rolling around on the floor, singing silly songs, or going to the park and racing down the slide.  But as our kids get older, we tend to lose that sense of play.  That's too bad!  Being silly has real value--especially for preteens and middle school kids.  As kids move towards adolescence, they are so worried about their own dignity, about looking just right or behaving just right, that one of the best gifts that we can give them is to lose OUR dignity and to be silly or to mess up in an embarrassing way.  So, what are some of the ways we can still play with our older kids?  An impromptu pillow fight?  Not letting them pass as they come down the hall?  Perhaps they are feeling all tense and worried about the homework they face that night.  When you stop them in the hall, come up against them physically.  Yes, at first you may make them madder, but throw in a big hug and some wrestling and DON'T LET THEM PASS until they start pushing back.  When they do that, you've got them!  You are giving them a chance to release  some of the pressure of their day.  Now, they might be rolling their eyes at you.  Hopefully, they are.  That's their job at this age, but you will have brought them back to the ease of childhood when all they had to do in the world was to roll around on the floor.

•Forming a Close Connection Tip 4:  Getting Up Off the Bench

     We spend so much time sitting on the sidelines of our children's games.  Games are meant to be played.  Getting out on the field or shooting some hoops with your kids has as much if not more value than cheering their game from the side.  Play is such an important part of a child’s life, but adult directed activities like T-ball or soccer for 5 year olds, do not provide the benefit of the give and take that supports social/emotional development.  Kids need the model of enjoying outdoor play just for the fun of it.  Develop their love of sports through joining in their informal games.  Think of playground games, like tag, where there is no thought of what excellence in the game will lead to.  I played hours and hours of four square with my boys.  No one once suggested that I should sign them up for the four square team!  It was just time to spend with them, doing something active, something they picked.

Forming a Close Connection Tip 5:  Modeling Failure

         When is the last time you made a big mistake?  You failed miserably? Demonstrating how you recover from failure is one of the most reassuring lessons you can model for your kid.  Show your kid how you forgive yourself when you make mistakes, how life goes on, how people still love you, how you can make amends.  This allows your child to be resilient when she makes her own mistakes.  It could be something small like spilling your wine at dinner.  At first you are upset.  You can't believe you did that!!  But then you provide the example of the recovery: "Oops!  I need to clean that up" or "Boy, I've just been rush, rush, rushing all day today.  That's making it hard for me to be careful.  I really need to take a deep breath and slow down."  By providing the calm reaction, you are giving your child the recognition that even Mom and Dad make mistakes and life goes on.  The child feels safe and secure.  She does not have to be perfect to be a valued part of the family.  She can learn and grow from her mistakes.  Just like you.  This example gives her the courage to climb to the top of the jungle gym, to paint something new, to try out for the school play, to do the bonus math problem, in short, to live life to the fullest.