Becky and I want the kids to be able to tell us anything, and yes, I mean anything.
The other day, a friend of ours, with older kids, was telling us about the relationship that she has with her kids. She said that her kids will come to her and tell her “anything, and everything!” She said that they have a really open relationship. Nothing is off limits and there is no judgement. They come to her when they are having a tough day at school, or when a problem is too tough for them to handle on their own. They even ask her about relationship advice. This is all coming from a mother raising two teens, a girl and a boy.
Becky and I always talk about this. We say that we want that type of relationship with our kids when they are older. A relationship without fear or judgement. So how do you build that type of relationship?
5 ways parents can connect to their kids:
- Start open-ended conversations early
This is so important, especially when it comes to young kids. Some kids are just really shy and it takes them a while to warm up to adults. This may be something that you are struggling with now. Don’t worry, it will get easier. The easiest way to fix it is to talk “with” your kids and not just “at” them. Have a real conversation with them at a young age and use “open-ended” questions to help engage a conversation. Instead of telling your daughter “Good job.” Try asking her about things… “Did you do that all by yourself? I love how you kept trying until you got it! Tell me how you figured it out.”
- Take advantage of the bed time conversations
This is the best time of the day when the kids want to “spill the beans” about what happened in their day. Every night when we put the kids to bed, Becky and I spend time with each of the kids, sitting with them and listening to them. It is amazing how much they talk right before they go to sleep. They will tell you just about anything to just stay up a few more minutes past bed time. The other advantage is you get a little more snuggle time.
- Dinner time is more about time than dinner
I really love to cook (Becky doesn’t particularly like to cook, but she does it anyway). It’s nice when the kids LIKE what we cook, but even if they don’t, they still like dinnertime… because it isn’t about the meal, it’s about the company. With 4 active and young kids, we really try to keep to this, but it does take some planning. If Jack has football practice at 6:30, then we have to plan on eating earlier. We may also make a crockpot meal that day.
At dinner, we make sure that the TV is off and no toys, games, books, or electronics are at the table. The kids know this rule, so it’s never an issue.
Becky and I always go around the table and make them tell us one thing that happened to them that day (good or bad). They aren’t allowed to just say, “I played outside.” That doesn’t count because they do that everyday. Beside tucking the kids to bed at night, it is my 2nd favorite time of the day.
- Be 100% honest with them
This is one thing that our friend said has worked wonders in her relationships with her kids. She stated that from day one, she gives her kids her honest opinion. This is one I am still working on. There are times that I will “stretch” the truth a bit to try and protect my kids. To this day, Becky and I still ask our parents for advice. They may not give us the answer we “want” to hear, but it may be the answer we “need” to hear.
- Try not to Judge them
Now this is going to be a tough one, especially when get in trouble or have a problem. Your 1st reaction to the situation may be to ask them “Why on earth did you do that? What were you thinking?” or “Why would you? We have to remember that if our kids come to us with a problem, they usually know that they are in some kind of trouble. Rather than judging them or making them feel worse, try talking about the problem and looking for a reasonable solution together. Be empathetic.
These are all things that take a little effort, but will have a long lasting effect on your kids. Although it may be easier to start when they are younger, it is never to late to keep building on the relationships you have with your kids.
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