We all crave those close moments with our children that make our hearts melt. Connection is as essential to us parents as it is to our children. When our relationship is strong, it’s also sweet — so we receive as much as we give. That’s what makes parenting worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
That connection is also the only reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents WANT to cooperate. They trust us to know what’s best for them, to be on their side. I hear regularly from parents that everything changes once they focus on connecting, not just correcting.
But we’re only human. There are days when all we can do is meet our children’s most basic needs: Feed them, bathe them, keep an encouraging tone, hug them, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour so we can do it all over again tomorrow. Given that parenting is the toughest job on earth — and we often do it in our spare time, after being separated all day — the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to build in daily habits of connection. What kinds of habits?
1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day.
Hug your child first thing in the morning, when you say goodbye, when you’re re-united, at bedtime, and often in between. If your tween or teen rebuffs your advances when she first walks in the door, realize that with older kids you have to ease into the connection. Get her settled with a cool drink, and chat as you give a foot rub. (Seem like going above and beyond? It’s a foolproof way to hear what happened in her life today. You’ll find yourself glad, many times, if you have that high on your priority list.)
2. Connect before transitions.
Kids have a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. If you look her in the eye, use her name, and play a bit to get her giggling, you’ll fill her cup and make sure she has the inner resources to manage herself through a transition. For instance, mornings go much easier when you start with a five minute snuggle upon awakening to help your child transition from sleep into the executive functions of dressing and teeth brushing.