The quality of our relationship with our children determines how we go about our many tasks of parenting – disciplining, instructing, making decisions… If you’ve been reading over the past few weeks, you’ll know that discipline is a hot topic for me right now and this post is about how nurturing our relationship with our children makes it easier for us to discipline them. I don’t mean that it allows us to control them and punish them but to teach them, get more co-operation and reduce the need for discipline in the first place.
HOW QUALITY OF RELATIONSHIP IMPACTS OUR CHILDREN’S BEHAVIOUR & DISCIPLINE
Our ego wants a relationship with our children in which we are in charge, things go smoothly and they go our way. But this kind of relationship becomes a power struggle, an all-too-familiar battle of wills.
On a soul level, though, both our children and ourselves know that we are equals and there is no question that our love and respect for one another is mutual and unconditional. We want to see that expressed in our relationship. We both long for connection.
Making that connection with our children has incredibly positive impacts on how they feel about themselves, how they feel about us and on how they behave –
- Giving our children our attention affirms them. It shows them that we like them and we think they’re worth spending time with. This affirmation is something all humans crave. Giving our attention to our children in positive ways means they don’t have to try to get it, perhaps through inappropriate behaviour.
- Being approachable and responsive to their needs gives our children a sense of security & support. It reduces the likelihood that their needs will be expressed as difficult behaviour.
- Seeking our children’s points-of-view and involving them in decision-making (as appropriate) shares the power in the relationship and builds our children’s trust that we are fair. They then know that, when we have to set boundaries, it’s not just on a whim, we have considered their perspective and they are, therefore, more likely to be co-operative.
- Showing that our love and caring for them doesn’t change no matter how they behave is essential to a child’s sense of self-worth. When it comes to their behaviour, they can’t feel bad about themselves and do the right thing. So, in loving them unconditionally, we also support their positive behaviour.
Every interaction with our child either is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with them or to chip away at it. That includes when we discipline. The focus of my respectful discipline resource is on using discipline to teach, connect, learn what’s really going on for our child and give them choice (whether to experience the natural consequences of their behaviour or to change it). There is no judgement of them, threatening, manipulation or over-powering – all of which can appear to “work” in the short-term but ultimately undermine our relationship with our child.
WAYS TO BUILD OR REPAIR OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR CHILD
Struggling again & again with our children deteriorates our relationship with them and we find the tone of our days spiralling downwards into resentment and shouting. As I wrote about recently in my post My 6-Year Old Put Me In Time Out, I found myself on that slippery slope. I now have a bit of repair work to do both by disciplining my son differently and putting some intention into deepening our connection.
“Children who disrespect us are showing that they don’t feel enough connection, warmth and respect from us” – Dr Laura Markham.
When our connection with our child is needing repair, we can look at the list above to see what’s been missing. For my son and I, I think the missing component has been my attention – both in terms of time and presence. It’s not that I ignore him but, particularly on school days, organising our family’s life keeps me occupied and I don’t make enough time to just be with them. So, I’m getting deliberate about being more generous with my attention.
I’m sharing my intentions with you here in case it’s helpful because I think finding the time for the mental & physical work of parenting as well as enjoying our children is a challenge many parents are familiar with. Here is what I will be doing –
- Getting down on the floor and playing their games with them is the ultimate quality time for both of my sons. In my post Mummy, Will You Play With Me? I shared ways to fit playtime into a busy day.
- My son loves “talking time” when I tuck him into bed so I will allow more time to chat together at the end of the day. Communication seems to be at it’s best at this time of day.
- Stopping what I’m doing, making eye contact and giving my son my full attention when he’s telling me something that’s important to him. (My eyes glaze over at the first mention of Star Wars so I am working on actually listening to the intricacies of the battles so I can then give a meaningful response.)
- Giving attention to the good stuff. We’ve all heard that where our attention goes, energy flows. When things are difficult between my son and I, it’s easy to only see everything that feels “wrong” and I find myself kind of picking at him. I want to make the effort to acknowledge all the great stuff about him (of which there is PLENTY).
- Giving him affection. “Just because” squeezes and putting my arm around him as we walk make him glow.
IN SUMMARY – RELATIONSHIP AS THE FOUNDATION
While our relationship with our children is one between equals, it is upto us as the adults to set the tone of the relationship. Ultimately, our children will follow our lead. So it is our choice whether we intentionally create respect, communication & connection or fear, defensiveness & conflict.
Of course, a good relationship with our child is not purely in order to make disciplining easier! It is primarily to enjoy the relationship itself and is the foundation of the life we share together with our children.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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