What if we parented similarly to how we managed our closest relationships? Because children are younger than us and we feel they have so much to learn, we often lose sight of our children’s desire to be treated like we want to be treated. Of course there are many differences between our relationships with our children and those with our spouses and close friends but it wouldn’t hurt if we brought in to our parenting the qualities that make a good marriage or friendship. Our relationships will grow when we reduce the four following behaviors:
1. Don’t ask too many questions. We interrogate children often. We may do it because we want them to learn or to find out how their school day was. Think about if you got to work and your co-worker said immediately, “Why did you wear your hair that way?” “When are you going to lunch?”or “When is your next vacation?” While your friend may be trying to connect with you, it could feel uncomfortable and intrusive and possibly make you avoid her in the future. This is a similar feeling for children. Questions could serve to make them feel as if they are being tested and cause them to withdraw.
2. Don’t always fix. Parents love their children and don’t want them to suffer negative feelings which are inevitable. Many women and some men complain that their significant other immediately tells them how to feel when they tell them strong feelings instead of just empathizing. A husband may say to a wife that has just told him she had a hard day at work, “Why don’t you just quit?” and a mom might say to her daughter who has cried about feeling left out at school, “Why don’t you find other friends?” What is called for in these situations is not an immediate solution but a reply that involves understanding of the other’s feelings. “That is so hard “ can be a great response.
3. Don’t overlook the good things they do. Just as children get a lot of attention when they misbehave so are spouses quick to point out the actions that they dislike in the other. All relationships are greatly enhanced when more time is spent paying attention to what our loved ones are doing well and much less focus is given to what they do wrong. Intimate partners who have lived with each other a significant amount of time often forget to thank the other for the expected daily duties which serves to make each of them feel unappreciated. When a wife says to her husband, “thanks for taking out the trash,” even though it is expected, positive feelings between them grow. Children need a lot of attention for new behaviors such as cleaning up toys or emptying the dishwasher so these behaviors become established and at the same time the child feels good about what he or she is accomplishing and wants to do it again.
4. Don’t insist on always doing it your way. When one person in a relationship is in charge of the activities or is too “bossy” toward the other, resentment can build. In children, not only do they feel less important, their creativity may not be given the chance to develop. Adults should try to engage in child-led play as much as possible to encourage self-esteem in children while adults should find a good balance of each choosing what to do so those they are close to feel their ideas matter and both have the chance to enjoy what interests them. In addition, a good motto for life is not giving advice unless asked which is often very difficult towards people we love. Not being too directive is a great social skill that should be cultivated in people of all ages.
Reducing these behaviors can serve to improve all of our meaningful relationships. Remembering that children want to be treated like we do can create healthy bonds with our children now and ensure long lasting relationships with them well into their adulthood.
For more information on ways to improve relationships with your children, parent coaching, workshops and classes, contact Julia Kozusko, LPC at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Elevated Parenting at www.facebook.com/ElevatedParenting.