What is the biggest impact you will have on your children 5, 10, 15, and 60 years from now? The answer is simple: your relationship with them. Your relationship with your kids will impact them not only today, but as they age. And it sets an expectation for how relationships should look. Children can’t distinguish between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. The relationship you have with your partner and your relationship with your children will become the standard for what they will expect from relationships.
Connection is what gives you influence in your child’s life… not coercion, manipulation, control, or behaviour modification strategies (aka punishment). Children learn to listen to their parents either because they are afraid of them or because they have connection with them. Both fear and connection are effective ways to influence a little one, but both are not equally effective at raising a child to be a healthy, whole, loving adult. Children learn to mirror adults’ behaviours. So the age old sayings “what you reap, you will sow” or “what you put in, is what you will get out” pretty well describes the relationship you will have with your child in their future. If you sow anger, your child will likely mirror this anger as they grow up. If you sow stonewalling, you will likely have teenagers that stonewall you in return. On the other hand, if you sow empathy, trust, and connection…well you get it.
Perspective is a huge influencer on how we treat our children. What you believe to be your role as a parent will influence how you parent and the methods you use with your children. What you believe about your children will also influence how you react to them. When your kids disappoint you, are you able to keep your love on or do you feel that your child is suddenly the enemy? What you believe about them will impact how you respond to them.
Emotions – may not always be accurate, but they are always valid. How do you create space for your little one to practice talking about their feelings? Learning to label their feelings will help them understand their feelings and process them in a healthy manner vs. taking their feelings out on someone else, or reverting back to cave-man-like behavior, becoming volatile and barbaric in their expression of their feelings. How can you as a parent communicate support and encouragement, without rescuing your child from these negative feelings? How can you help them language their pain, frustration, sadness, hurt, or anger?
Boredom – Boredom isn’t always a bad thing. Boredom creates space for your child to reflect and be introspective, which is a becoming a lost skill. We often fill our time with screens and other distractions. We have become a generation that is afraid to be alone with our thoughts. Boredom helps your child develop their creative side and it helps them learn to problem solve.
When you think about “parenting”, think about the atmosphere you are sowing in your home. Is it love, kindness, understanding, and generosity? This will become their normal…..so if it’s not the atmosphere you want them to grow up with, how can you begin to sow something different into the atmosphere of your home?
Every challenge you face as a parent is an opportunity to shape your children. How do you want to shape them? What are the things that you want your child to learn? When your done parenting, what are the things that will signal to you that you did well as a parent? These are the things you want to teach them in the middle of the most challenging situations. It’s not just about getting them to do what you want them to do, or winning the power struggle. It’s all about shaping them.
My challenge to you today, if you are a parent: In every interaction with your child, whether you are greeting them, saying goodbye to them, or “parenting” them, do it in a way that communicates “I love you.” This will change your relationship with your child, it will change the way your child views relationships, and it will change the relationships your child has in their future. Even when they disappoint you, can you still communicate “I love you” in the way you handle the disappointment?