As parents, our number-one goal should be to build and nurture a healthy heart-to-heart connection with our kids. However, life has a way of throwing endless curveballs at us that try to distract us from this goal. As in any relationship, it’s usually the little stressors and distractions that get us to neglect connection. The busyness of tackling all the parenting “jobs” is often the biggest distraction from our parenting goal, and if we’re not careful, can actually set us up for disconnection.
Disconnection makes parenting a whole lot harder. Have you ever tried to get someone you don’t have a great connection with to do something for you? If they do it, there’s usually bribery or coercion involved. Neglecting connection is one of the main reasons we end up caught in frustrating power plays with our kids. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t enjoy those. If we want to be able to influence our kids’ hearts in those moments, so that their choice to obey is a willing choice that flows from their connection with us, then we need to do all we can to maintain connection and prevent disconnection, rather than having to repair it.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help you stick to your goal of connection:
1. Write down your goals.
This is a common memory cue, but hey, it works. Start with one simple sentence that captures your goal of connection, and post it on your bathroom mirror or someplace you’ll see it regularly. I like to quote my mom: “I want to win my kids’ hearts.” Or you could write specific goals for each of your kids. Writing down their love languages is a great way to start your day with the thoughts of how to best love them.
2. Check in with their feelings.
If we only wait to respond to our kids’ emotions when they are melting down in anger or tears, we end up sending the message that we don’t know how to connect to them emotionally unless they’re in pain. We need to tune in to our kids emotional signals and triggers, and ask them what’s going on inside on a daily basis. Asking “How are you feeling today, honey?” or “How’s your heart?” is one of the most profound ways we show them that we care about their hearts and our connection with them.
3. Say sorry.
Cleaning up the little messes that hurt connection is essential to preventing full-blown disconnection. Every parent has rough days, gets irritable, and says things they shouldn’t. Apologize quickly, ask for forgiveness, and make a plan to do better.
4. Know your kids “normal.”
Maintaining a strong connection with our kids means we know them so well that it’s obvious when something feels a little bit off. This requires us to pay close attention to our constantly growing kids so we can learn what they like, what they don’t like, what helps them feel loved, how they enjoy their day, and what routines are normal for them. When you know what is normal, you can recognize when something is not normal, and address it quickly.
5. Don’t make assumptions.
When we see behavior or hear words that sound like “disrespect” or “defiance” to us, it’s easy to make assumptions about our kids’ motives that aren’t generous or helpful. We fill in the blanks instead of asking good questions to understand, and when we do, we almost always end up responding in a way that hurts, rather than protects, connection–which only adds a bigger mess to whatever mess our child has made. To maintain a healthy connection–and solve behavioral problems–we need to always assume the best, and ask the right questions to get to the root of the issue that caused the behavior.
Proactively pursuing connection with your kids instead of waiting till you have to repair a disconnect requires work, but is infinitely more rewarding–both for you and for these amazing people you are shaping into emotionally healthy adults.
Today, I challenge you to be intentional in pursuing connection with your kids!
PS) To learn more about the Priority of Connection as a parent, sign up for that track in the Life Academy. Only 48 more hours to get 33% off all of our Life Academy Courses in the month of June. Sign up now!
PPS) This is the last week you can sign up for the Culture and Conversations track. We are closing the track to provide a more intimate feel for those involved. If you’d like to be in on this group, now is the time to join. Learn more here.