How To Create A Better Parent-Child Relationship?
The job of a parent is definitely the most difficult in the world. If done right, it is also the most rewarding.
The first 7 years of a child’s life is considered to be a kind of hypnosis. Everything gets instantly absorbed and to such an extent that it affects every choice made in life as an adult. Before a child hits the age of 3, the brain is forming a million neural connections every minute.
Basically, parents are in the unique position of molding their child’s destiny. Therefore, a healthy parent-child relationship is necessary to allow for optimum growth and development.
“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”
The hope is to raise a child with enough integrity and sense of responsibility that when they have the rights of an adult, they continue to stay true to the teachings of their childhood.
Related : 3 Keys To A Healthy Relationship
None of this is possible without first establishing a relationship of mutual respect and trust.
They say that everything beautiful in life is won with great difficulty. It is especially true about a parent-child relationship.
The time I invested in cementing my own relationship with my parents, the books I read on the subject, and my discussions with professionals in the field led me to certain conclusions. I am sharing them in this post.
Points to remember as you interact with your child –
- Your child sees and hears more than you know.
- Child-parent relationship affects every relationship that a child forms as an adult.
- If a child has to seek security outside the home environment, it renders them vulnerable to deviant elements in society.
- The message you want to promote is that the child is valuable simply because he/she exists. You exist therefore, you have value.
- It isn’t just your behaviour as a parent but as a human being as well that matters.
- What worked with the first child will not necessarily work with the second.
How can you solidify your relationship with your child and raise them to be strong, independent adults?
1. Be openly expressive of your emotions
Your child should know that you experience all the same emotions as the rest of humanity. Once you establish yourself as open to emotions, through your own behaviour, you teach them a healthy way to process the said emotions.
This achieves three goals –
- You teach them that it’s perfectly okay, even healthy to feel vulnerable.
- They learn to express openly so there is no baggage from one incident to another.
- You show them that you’re just as vulnerable as they are; this allows the children to see you as human
Children have a tendency to hero worship their parents, but what happens when their hero fails to deliver?
If you’re against your child seeing you sad or afraid, it will create a problem when the hero has to deny its little fan something much desired.
India isn’t a very safe country for girls. As a teenager, whenever I asked my parents to arrange a solo trip for me, they refused point blank. Obviously, I was pissed off, but when later they explained that they had refused out of fear for my safety, I began to look at the issue differently.
It wasn’t just their words; they let me see the fear on their face. They were incoherent with it, but having shared their concern, the gave me the option of making up my own mind.
I chose to not go because it wasn’t important enough for me to cause my parents anxiety.
Also, if your child hurts your feelings, and we all know that children can be cruel at times, you must let them see the pain they’ve caused. It will teach them responsibility. They will understand that not just actions but even words have consequences.
The very idea that you have enough power to hurt your parent can instantly regularize your behaviour.
2. Don’t just be a parent
Think of creative ways to show your child that h/she is a source of love and laughter in your life.
Your kid is dependent on you for practically everything therefore, it is only natural for the child to question his level of importance in your life. I struggled a lot with the idea that my mother loved me because she had to!
It really hurt my self-esteem and in turn, it made me cold and reserved towards my mom. Today, we actively seek each other’s company because no matter what it is – shopping, gossiping, movies – we’re each other’s chosen partner.
It is good for a child’s self-esteem when he truly believes that the loved adults in his life derive enjoyment out of his presence. Such kids perform better socially.
A solid parent-child relationship has many dimensions to it. A parent has to assume multiple roles, that of a guide, mentor, friend, confidant!
3. Treat your kid like an adult
“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos.”
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
What happens when you get into an argument with your child?
Is it a lot of yelling with you laying down the law? Or Is it cajoling and subtle emotional manipulation?
Here’s a healthy alternative –
Listen, process, understand, share, and resolve.
Really listen to what the problem is with an open mind.
Before you do anything else, process all the information that has been shared.
Now, look at it not just from an adult’s perspective but from a child’s perspective as well. This will allow you to understand better.
Share your thought process. As you reach a decision, think out loud. Involve your child in the process.
After all the above steps, If the issue is still unresolved. Instead of imposing your will on the child, come up with a bunch of options that are acceptable to you. Let your child pick one.
Now, your child realises that h/she has been heard. They know you did your best to understand, and out of a list of acceptable options, they have been given THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE.
The last one will make the most difference. The little person is being given an opportunity to take charge. He gets to choose! This will resolve the situation without further dissent.
4. Be mindful of your words and actions
“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.
Your child sees and hears more than you know. Anytime you are around your child, you should be extremely mindful of your words.
When you issue a reprimand, use language that gets the message across without damaging their self-esteem or self-perception.
Keep in mind that children are observant little beings. How you interact with your peers is also under scrutiny. If you are volatile, abusive, or hostile with others, you’re setting a standard of behaviour.
All of that negative behaviour is acceptable to the kid. An alcoholic father is not in a position to advise his son against drinking. Be a good role model.
Be careful of your words and actions!
5. Don’t compare
A child is dependent on his parents for love and support. When parents compare their child to someone else, the child takes it to mean that they have to be a certain way to earn their parents’ affection.
Basically, it makes your love conditional on your child meeting a certain standards.
Children too have an innate sense of self-esteem, they may decide to completely reject the conditionally offered love and deliberately make choices that are against the parent’s wishes.
“Whenever love is given on a conditional basis, when someone has to earn love, what’s being communicated to them is that they are not intrinsically valuable or loveable. Value does not lie inside them, it lies outside. It’s in comparison with somebody else or some expectation.”
~ Stephen R. Covey
6. Build Trust
Hugs, shared Adventure, and conversations!
You need all three elements for a solid relationship.
Promote open communication. Create a judgement-free zone. If your kid shares something with you and tells you not to tell the other parents, maintain the child’s confidence.
Sometimes children say or do funny things. Parents share them with their friends, family members as funny little anecdotes, but what if the child finds it embarrassing. Such little incidents chip away at their faith in you.
The only way to avoid such pitfalls is to have open communication. Discuss all kinds of subjects and don’t let judgement seep into the conversation.
Take your kid on adventures to get them to open up. Book a lot of one on one time.
The Blue whale video game is an example of what happens when children don’t have a safe emotional space at home.
Insecure children seek validations outside their home environment. This leaves them vulnerable to the deviant elements in the society.
7. Take feedback from the child’s behaviour
Seek to constantly learn.
Observe your child and if their behaviour isn’t right, explore available resources for appropriate solutions.
Every day, a number of studies are published on child psychology. Read as much as you can, it might add to your intuitive understanding of you own child.
Seek counsel from fellow parents. Ask for help. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child!
Today’s society has rendered children more vulnerable than ever. Psychology is doing its best to help, but the need is for parent’s to really keep their head in the game.
It isn’t just the obvious signs of discontent that deserve attention, but the subtle shifts in body language, alteration in attitude, interpersonal interactions – everything needs to be monitored.
More importantly, parents have to keep their authority aside and reach their kids on a different level, not as a parent but as a friend.
Please, work on establishing a relationship conducive to the mutual exchange of confidences. The only way to do that is to build unshakeable trust and allow your child to see you as flawed.
When children stop seeing their parents as some perfect being, they find it easier to share their own mistakes and emotional upheaval.
Don’t attach a child’s value to her achievements. Constantly show them that they matter. Any and all quirks should be welcomed.
At the same time, promote more independent behaviour. Make them take responsibility for their own actions. Show them love and concern but mete out appropriate punishment as well.
There is no formula for perfect parenting, you just have to do your best.
I am not a parent, but I am a daughter. My relationship with my parents has been through a lot of ups and downs. Even when I was at my worst, my parents never gave up on me.
So, ALWAYS SHOW UP! Always be there to catch your kid when they fall – that’s all a kid really needs.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.
~ Sue Atkins
If you’re a parent, please do share your own tips in the comments section. It might help someone struggling to be a better parent.