Picture yourself many years from now talking with your grown children. What kind of relationship do you hope to have?
Looking into the future may help you focus on your relationship right now. Are you creating a meaningful relationship with your children or are you just “getting through” the days? Are you taking time to connect or are you solely focused on the daily activities and to-do list?
Creating a meaningful relationship with your children is not another item for your to-do list. So much of how your children feel about themselves is based on their relationship with you. Not the stuff you give them or the classes you drive them to, but their daily interactions with you, your conversations, your ability to appreciate who they are.
If you want strengthen or deepen your relationship with your children, you can begin with these four steps.
We may think we are good listeners, but much of the time we are half-listening, or listening without eye contact, or partly listening while coming up with what we are going to say next. This is especially true when we are listening to our children.
Children talk a lot so they can share what they are learning and process what they are experiencing. They are always looking to be heard and validated by someone they love-it helps them believe in who they are. But so much of the time either we are not listening or we are in teaching mode; ready to explain why what they are doing or saying is wrong and why they should do it differently.
While it is difficult to listen intently all the time, we can practice our listening skills with our children; we can nod and listen, ask questions and reflect back what we hear. Maybe there are a few teachable moments here and there, but more of the time is spent really listening to what they have to say.
Speak respectfully to your children
From the time our children can talk, we expect them to speak respectfully to others, but very often we do not model this behavior. More often than not, we are impatient with our children or they become the recipients of our frustration, even when our frustration has nothing to do with them.
We may flippantly tell them that they drive us crazy or snap at them when they ask a question. Or we may accidently run into them and instead of apologizing, we explain why it’s their fault (if you weren’t in my way I wouldn’t have run into you!).
During interactions with our children we can do our best to use kind words, apologize when appropriate and say thank you. If we expect our children to treat people respectfully, we need to demonstrate what that means.
When we become parents we often believe there is a “way” we are supposed to be. We may feel the need to act or dress differently, or maybe we believe we have to let go of part of ourselves to fit the role of parent.
We may believe that we need to be more rigid and serious instead of easy-going or funny, but it’s quite the opposite-parenting necessitates a great sense of humor and an ability to go with the flow.
Maybe you need to let go of a habit or two, but it’s unnecessary to let go of the things that bring you joy. We need to model for our children what it means to have a full life, a life full of friends, hobbies and interests. There are times when these parts of ourselves take a backseat due to parental responsibility, but we don’t have to let them go completely.
You are not supposed to be perfect and you are not supposed to be like anybody else-you are supposed to be YOU, as a parent.
Be interested in their hobbies
As parents we are excited to share with our children-our interests, our hobbies and our sports team. This is a great part of parenting, passing along our joys, but we also need to remember that our children have joys, too. We have to be open-minded to their passions and realize they may be different than ours.
It is our job to advocate for our children, to be proud of who they are and who they came here to be, but much of the time we end up telling them to be different.
Instead of expecting them to love everything we love, we can notice their interests, ask questions, listen to their opinions and respect their perspective.
And really, mutual respect is the real secret to any great relationship.
Cathy Cassani Adams is a certified parent coach and mom of three.