Written by Elizabeth Kane
Is it just me, or does bonding always seem too romanticized for real life?
We see it in the movies all the time. Kids and parents are smiling at each other in the perfect light. Everyone’s impeccably dressed, saying all the right things at the right time. And parental wisdom is exchanged in that perfect moment, right as the music chimes in. Cue the camera fade out!
But I don’t think that’s how real bonding happens – where you make the kind of memories your child will never forget and the ones you’ll look back on with a smile. True bonding happens in the small moments throughout the day, where the love, laughter, and messes live, nestled inside our hurried lives.
And the good news? It doesn’t require any perfect lighting, clean clothes, or homemade cookies. In fact, you can start right now. Here are 9 ways to begin – no scripted laughter required.
1. Do something they want to do
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But kids generally go for the simple things: playing with the box the toy comes in, jumping in a big pile of leaves, and listening to their favorite bed time story over and over again. So let them have a hand in the plans. That way, they’ll be guaranteed to enjoy their time with you. And if they don’t enjoy it, that’ll be a learning experience for them. Either way, they’ll have a vault of weekend memories they’ll treasure years from now.
2. Stop trying to control their feelingsI blame this one on peer pressure from other parents and relatives. Someone will eventually engage your child in conversation and they’ll be expected to answer like a little Miss Manners. But forcing them to say “please” or punishing them for rude behavior is mostly meant to placate other adults – a way of measuring yourself up to the bar of “good parenting.” Kids become resentful, like they’re merely a puppet on display for you.
Your children are not an extension of you. They’re just kids! It takes time for them to learn how to control their own behavior. Don’t force them into good manners. Instead, start modeling the behavior you'd like them to have and they’ll mirror what you do.
3. Look at the themThere’s a reason why every last book on body language makes a big hoopla over eye contact. When someone looks us in the eyes while we’re speaking, we feel listened to. And when we feel listened to, we feel like what we’re saying matters.
Think back to a conversation you had with someone who refused to make any eye contact with you. How did it make you feel? Chances are, your child feels the exact same way when they don’t get enough eye contact from you. So don’t forget to look at them when you’re talking. It can be hard to do on those hectic days, but it’ll make all the difference.
4. ApologizeHere’s a tough one. It’s not easy to apologize. Stubbornness has a way of getting the best of us. And when you’re angry, sad, or upset, it’ll be one of the last phrases you’ll want to mutter. But a genuine, “I’m sorry,” does wonders for your relationship with your kids.
Your child loves you more than life itself, but that doesn’t mean they expect you to be perfect. Every parent has moments they’d rather forget – but it’s what you do afterwards that counts. The ability your child has to forgive you is astounding, so don’t be afraid to apologize to them. They’ll think more of you for it.
5. Ask questionsKids are still learning the basics. They’re always the ones asking questions and getting advice (solicited and unsolicited) from all the grownups. But once in a while, ask them questions. It shows you care about what they think. How do they think we should do things? Don’t assume you know their opinion. Kids change in the blink of an eye and so do their viewpoints. The more you know about them, and how they think, the easier it’ll be to connect with them when they are going through tough phases in life.
6. Let them struggle
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But letting them struggle shows you trust them to find their way. And as long as you’ve given them the tools to succeed, and the skills to figure out their problem, facing hardship will be pivotal to their success in the future. Because it’s in our struggles where we the build confidence to find our own solutions.
7. Give choices not threatsStress has a way of unraveling even the most peaceful parent. When the anxiety starts flying through the roof, it’s easy to let out a threat or two. But no one likes to feel threatened, especially kids. In the heat of the moment, you may think your strong commands will get them to do what you want. But your child doesn’t hear your words – they hear your tone. And that tone just scares and upsets them.
Next time you feel the tension turning up, try giving a choice not a threat. Choices make them feel like you’re not dictating every decision for them, which will come in handy when their rebellious phases roll around. So if they refuse to go to bed, say something like, “What would you like to do first? Brush your teeth, or put on your pajamas?” One step in the right direction is better than a fight before bedtime.
8. ListenJust because kids are small in size doesn’t mean you should treat them that way. As if clamoring for attention between siblings wasn’t enough, children constantly have to fight for attention in a room of adults. And when they finally have it, they’re usually not taken as seriously as they’d like to be. Sure, it’s easy to tune them out when someone bursts into the room, but try not to. When you listen to what your child has to say even when someone else is present, they’ll take notice and realize they’re just as important as the adults.
9. Respect them as an individualKids are constantly compared with one another, and they know it. Parents brag to each other about their child’s milestones on the playground. Award banquets, done with the best intentions, remind them they’re being measured against their peers.
It’s hard to get away from the culture of competition. But the child you’re holding in your arms is not their sister, their teammate, or you. They are an individual human being with feelings, strengths, and weakness all their own. Let them know you truly see them and appreciate who they are – even when they don’t bring home the trophy.
Don’t stress that your bond’s not forming the way you imagined. Every strong parent and child relationship matures a little differently. It’ll happen with time. It’s not always an instant click for everyone.
But if you start showing your child that you care and respect your relationship with them in the little ways, I’m willing to bet you’ll survive just about anything the years throw at you.
After all, they won’t be this eager forever. So go on and start bonding.
You’ve got memories to make
About the author:
Elizabeth Kane is a music teacher who loves helping parents get the music education their child deserves. Right now, she’s offering a free guide for parents that’ll steer your kids to success worth achieving - no "tiger mom" tactics required. Click here to get it.
This post has been added to the Tuesday Baby Link Up