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How to Build a Great Relationship with your Child

February 2012

Many parents ask me what they can do to build a great relationship with their child. Strong positive relationships go a long way toward helping children learn to cooperate and be responsible, so I am always glad when they ask. Four building blocks are needed to form the basis of a great relationship: showing respect, having fun, giving encouragement, and showing love.

You show respect when you treat your child like an equal. Parents often complain that their children do not respect them. They do not see how, at the same time, they are probably showing a lack of respect to their children.

How might parents show a lack of respect? Parents do this when they nag, yell, hit, or talk down to their child. Or, more insidiously, they might do things for the child that the child can do for himself or herself. Thus the child is disempowered, as well as disrespected. Another form of disrespect is applying a double standard of “do as I say, not as I do.” This also costs the parent the child’s respect.

A good rule of thumb to remember is to treat your child with the same respect you would show a friend. If your child is currently being disrespectful, don’t give up if they don’t change right away in response to your new habits. Keep showing respect, and with time your children will do the same.
The second building block of a great relationship is having fun. Who wants to have fun? You don’t even have to think about it for a second to know that everyone likes to have fun, and having fun together is even better!

Research shows that families who have an active orientation towards recreational activities are the closest. Don’t think that all fun has to be complicated. You can start with something simple like a good morning smile, which can set a warm tone for your child for the whole day. Learn to laugh and find the humor in things. For all of us, a few minutes of humor are worth several hours of conflict.

Remember also that time for fun has to be planned. If possible, spend a short time each day with your child doing something that is fun. Let your child take the lead with how the time is spent. They might want to play a game, read a book, or work on a project. When you and your children have more fun together, you will be surprised by the results. Your household will contain less fighting, and you will find being a parent is much more enjoyable.

To feel capable and loved, children need lots of encouragement, which is the third building block of a good relationship. We must believe in our children if they are to believe in themselves. You will be pleased to know that when children believe in and feel good about themselves, they are ready and able to truly cooperate, not only with you, but also with others!

You can offer encouragement by noticing what is special about your child and pointing out those qualities to them. Give less importance to your child’s mistakes and more importance to their strengths. Focus on the efforts they are making. Show them you have confidence in their ability to succeed.

Love is the fourth building block of a good relationship with your child. To feel secure, each child must have at least one adult to be loved by and to love. You show love by your words and by your actions. Easy ways to show love are by saying, “I love you,” by giving hugs and pats on the back, by speaking and acting with respect, and by allowing your child to grow in independence and responsibility.

When you do these four things, you take important steps in building the great relationship you want to have with your child.


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