As I seek to live with intention and pursue those things that matter most, one of the things that matter most is my relationship with my kids. You see one of my main goals in life is to remain close to my kids well into their adulthood.
But parenting can be complicated. In fact, as much as we love our kids, no doubt parenting can be downright hard. Each of our kiddos has their own unique personalities. While it is so fun to watch them grow and develop their own personalities, sometimes we can struggle to relate to them.
The simple truth is that in some ways they are so much like us and in other ways we wonder how they can be so different. This of course then makes it tough to build the type of relationship with them that inspires and motivates.
For instance, I have this one child who is so incredibly stubborn and strong-willed I swear if you look up the word stubborn in the dictionary you will see his picture. Right next to that picture, well yep, you’ll see a picture of me 🙂 Because we share this common trait it’s kind of easy for me to relate.
On the other hand, this same child tells these stories that have zero bases in reality, yet he has this way of believing they are a reality. My natural instinct is to call this kid out on these stories. I in no way naturally relate to this part of his personality. I am a very matter of fact kind of person.
These things teach me that there are lots of areas I’m gonna relate to my kids and other areas that make me feel like I birthed little aliens.
Can you relate to me here?
Whether we naturally relate to our kids or not we still want to be intentional in building a strong relationship with them. We want to inspire and motivate them to be amazing little humans!
To improve your relationship with your child requires purposeful action. Here are six key principals that will help you to be intentional in building the type of relationship that will motivate and inspire your kids.
1. Listen – Be a Student of Your Child
One of our main jobs as parents is to teach. Sometimes it can be really hard to switch gears from teacher to student. Especially with our kids.
However, to improve upon or build a strong relationship we need to study our kids. Being a student of our children means it’s important to learn what makes them tick. We also need to figure out how they think and process what they respond to.
Because each of our kiddos is unique, what is true of one will not necessarily be true of the other. And what works for one will not necessarily work for the other.
The best way to be a student of your child is really very simple. Listen Intently and Ask Questions.
To go back to the example of my kid’s storytelling, I could say that’s not true make them defensive and shut down OR I could ask questions such as how did that make you feel and statements such as wow that must be hard. I’m not agreeing with the story I’m merely listening and asking questions.
When I do this my child feels supported and our relationship is being improved upon. The best thing is that I’ve noticed when I do this, this child tells fewer stories.
So, if you want to improve your relationship with your child, become a student of your child.
2. Assume the Best
Really and truly our kids need us to be their biggest cheerleader. The more they feel like you believe in them, the stronger your relationship will grow as they feel closer to you.
In the natural course of our duty to discipline, it can feel like too often as parents we spend way more of our time and focus on the mistakes our kids make. Or at least that’s how it feels to our kids.
They say for every criticism we have to give 7 complements to balance it out.
To start improving and strengthening your relationship with your child no matter where your kid is, start making certain assumptions. Assume your kids are working hard and doing the right thing.
This simple mindset shift can be so powerful in effecting the words you speak to your child. Which in turn will have a positive effect on your child and your relationship.
Even simple words like “yet” can be so powerful. Instead of why didn’t you clean your room, change your statement to: “I see you haven’t cleaned your room yet”. This shows your child you believe they WILL DO the right thing which not only improves your relationship with your child, but it allows you to influence and motivate that kiddo.
3. Acknowledge Their Efforts & Results
Our kids are learning and growing. They’re not always gonna get it right and at times they’re not even going to try. Obviously, hard conversations come at these times.
However, what about when they do try? How is your response if they try and fail?
Do you take the time to acknowledge the effort they make BEFORE correction? What about when they do what they’re supposed to do and do it right? How often do you take the time to acknowledge that they did a good job or let them know that you’re proud of them?
It may not always feel like it, but our kids really do the right thing because they want to please us. To help strengthen and improve your relationship with your child be intentional about taking the time to acknowledge the positive efforts and actions.
I promise, the more you do this the more effort your kids will make.
Expressing gratitude to your child takes acknowledging their efforts and results a step further.
As much as my kids drive me nuts at times, I want them to know what a blessing they are to me. Not only that, but that I am so thankful that they are my kids. It’s so valuable to express gratitude to your kids not just for the things they do, but for who they are.
When we express humility and gratitude we model those traits and influence our kids to pursue them. Plus, who doesn’t want to feel appreciated? Think about it, how do you feel when you know your efforts are appreciated?
I’m quite certain you are naturally fond of those that show your appreciation. I’m also quite certain that you feel closer to someone who shows gratitude towards you. When we feel appreciated, it makes us want to work harder for that person.
To build a strong bond and improve your relationship with your child make sure you regularly express gratitude for all they do as well as who they are.
5. Focus on the Big Picture
As parents, we are in constant teaching mode. When we are in the trenches it is so easy to get bogged down in all those little day to day moments and battles. But taking the time to talk to your kids about the big picture will make a difference now.
Talk to them about how they will develop a reputation based on the choices they make today. Remind them how the choices they make reveal their character. Ask them what was their motivation behind the choice they made. What were they trying to accomplish? Get them thinking about that now.
As you talk to them about the big picture, why their choices are so important to their future, they see your concern for their future instead of feeling lectured or controlled. The result will be to naturally improve your relationship with your child.
6. Be Flexible
Let’s face it, as parents, we mess up all the time. So obviously our kids are gonna mess up. This is where it’s important to show grace and be flexible.
Look, we have certain expectations that our kids are just not ready to meet. This really comes into play when you have one child who meets the expectation with no problem and then the other kid only adds to your grey hair everytime you ask the same thing from them. But this is the child that needs us to show them some extra grace.
When you’re able to do this, your kiddos will soon see that your goal isn’t to get them to follow a bunch of arbitrary rules but to help them. You improve your relationship with your child when they see that you’re willing to be flexible to help them become their best.
Having a strong relationship with our children is no different than any other relationship. It does take work and intention. But at the end of the day, building thriving close relationships doesn’t need to be hard or complicated. Take the time to listen, assume the best, acknowledge their efforts, show gratitude and grace. Follow these simple principles and you will improve your relationship with your child and grow closer together.