When I think about parenting our children, I like to use the example of building a house.
It is absolutely essential that your house have a strong foundation. One that can withstand the weight of all the rooms above it, the weather fluctuations and changes in the structure.
The foundation of our parenting house is the relationship you develop of love and trust. When the foundation is strong you and the children will thrive.
All your parenting is based on that relationship and it is something that needs to be renewed as your child grows and changes. Building that relationship takes time but dividends are great.
It starts right from birth when you pick him up, cuddle him, talk to him, feed him and look at him with joy and love.
When our kids need us to feed, change or dress them we can use this time to also relate to them.
Talk to her and let her know you’re happy to be with her, describe what you’re doing for her, make silly faces, sing.
When we respond to our babies, they know from the beginning that we are there for them, listening to them and paying attention to their needs and feelings.
We build a strong parent-child foundation with loving touch. Physical affection is always important to our kids.
When they get older, they don’t want big hugs in front of their friends but a pat on the back, a touch on the arm to let them know you’re connected and also let them know that you are sensitive enough not to embarrass them.
Spend some one-on-one time alone with your child giving her your undivided attention. It doesn’t have to be hours and hours, it can simply be sitting with them at bedtime. Paying attention (with cellphones off!) to them.
One-on-one outings are fun and very special. Taking a child to the hardware store or picking them up from school for a fast-food lunch is a real treat.
It’s important to respect your child’s feelings. You know there are no monsters under the bed but it’s real for him. Help him develop a plan to scare away the monsters so he feels safe.
When eight-year-old Emily is devastated that she had a fight with her best friend and believes they will never, ever speak again don’t remind her of the other fights which generally lasted at most half a day.
Respond to her in this time and place, listen to her description of what happened and help her develop a plan for reconciliation.
No matter how minor a child’s upset may seem to us, it matters to her. And if you want her to trust you, you will let her know you care about her concerns.
Make her environment child-friendly. Set up your home so he can explore and play safely.
When two-year-old Alex gets up in the morning, he can hardly wait to check out his living room. He loves to explore.
Because his parents have child-proofed the space he gets the message that he is welcome to grow and learn at his own pace. And his play is easier on his parents because they’re not running around after him protecting him from injury.
When you create a space that allows him to explore and learn he knows you trust him to move forward.
Finally, have fun. Kids are fun. Play with your kids. Play is good for all of us. When you play with your kids you are enjoying them and also learning about what makes them tick.
What games do they like? Do they like to pretend? Let them take the lead and just have a good time.
A solid foundation, a good parent-child relationship will make all your parenting easier and more effective.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert and author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her newsletter at parentingtoday.ca.