On our Kudoso blog, we tend to talk a lot about “connecting” both to technology and with our kids. The polarity of the two concepts and how much one affects the other is amazing. Today I would like to examine the power of connecting with your child before you correct his or her behavior.
Every parent runs into a time when a correction is needed. While I understand that, as parents, we run the gamut on when exactly correction should happen, we are all bound to get there at one point or another. I ran into a bit of a challenging situation a couple years ago when I was working with a child who was both emotionally and mentally challenged. She was very defiant, aggressive, and (if I am honest about the behavior) out of control. After seeking out professional help for her, I realized that there was one very strong undercurrent to everything the mental health professionals were suggesting: connection.
Seems easy enough, right? Well, it can be one of the biggest challenges we face as parents. Busy is easy. Distracted is easy. Yelling is easy. Leaving is easy. But staying in the trenches, and working for that gold we call connection at the times when our children need us the most (and perhaps are the most trying) is darn difficult. But it is the most important time to make or break our relationships with our kids.
So, after going to all of these appointments; and hearing everything they were telling me to implement, I started practicing … a lot. And it took a lot of practice to get to where I would pull away from what was easy; and do what needed: Connect!
The first step (and this was HUGE) was controlling my reaction. It was as simple as taking a breath first. Remembering to take that pause was the hard part, but when I remembered to breathe before I spoke, I was able to use that second to gather my thoughts, think rationally, and respond in a calm and effective (read: non-damaging) manner. Connection is impossible when one party or the other is heated. And if I can’t control my emotions, how could I ever expect my child to control her’s? So pause, breathe, think, and (only then) reproach!
Second, I learned to get physically close. Have you ever heard that the key to not yelling is getting close? Well, it is. The need to yell dissolves as soon as you get close. You know what also disappears? Assumptions. You can’t assume your child has done something they haven’t (or that they are continuing to do it) if they are right there next to you. When you are physically close, you can see the evidence of the truth including their facial expressions and body language.
Third, I learned to get down to my child’s level so the interaction is much less intimidating. Connection comes when both parties are comfortable and relating to one another from a non-dominant physical position.
Fourth, eye contact! Hopefully, not a surprise … when you look someone in the eye,you have the chance to have an instant, impactful connection. So work for that. Eye contact every time.
“By making eye-contact, getting down to your child's level, offering a touch, or using a tone of your voice that conveys a desire to genuinely connect, you disarm yourself. You make it possible to reach your child more deeply and truly move forward together.”
― Hilary Flower, Adventures in Gentle Discipline: A Parent-to-Parent Guide
- And number five, I learned that once this connection is established, the conversation can go anywhere from here. You are the parent and know your rules, your exceptions, what lines you want to draw in the sand -and I for one support you in that. Just be sure to ask yourself what outcome you want from this interaction with your child. Is what you are about to say going to get you there?
One final thought, because it was a huge takeaway from all of my coaching sessions: You cannot withdraw from your child’s love bank if it is empty. So fill your child up A LOT! If you are noticing that you have nothing but negative interactions, you need to turn up the opportunity for positives. Increase those positive reactions every opportunity you get. Be sillier, less serious … and let the opportunities for memory making happen. If you don’t know how, ask your kids. They will have the best ideas for how you can connect and have moments that will last a lifetime.
By Sara Stone, Kudoso Kontributor