by Jessica Dancingheart
Children are born to be loved. To love them, as parents, we must trust and respect our own and their innate wisdom and goodness. Doing so can be challenging when societal messages encourage us to judge and be “in control.” Yet, we have intrinsic empathic and attuned parent-child bonds to guide us. With awareness and the support of a loving community, we can foster our attunement to our children and assume the best about them while encouraging them to be the best version of them- selves. Here are some steps we can take to build bonds of trust and respect with our kids. We can:
1. Have realistic developmental and personality expectations. If we are not careful, we can easily fall into comparison despair. Somebody will always be “better” or “worse” than our children. It is easy to go on a rollercoaster ride of feeling heartened or disheartened about our children if we focus on external validation. To avoid emotional whiplash, we must focus on our and our children’s gifts, skills, talents, abilities, and interests when making assessments and setting up expectations.
2. Assume the best. Most people have good intentions and try their best given their available information, resources, and abilities. Rather than blaming or judging our children when something goes wrong, we can assess whether our expectations are realistic given their age, ability, and interest. If our expectations are not appropriate, we can adjust them and provide support and forward movement when there are gaps between reality and expectations.
3. Be honest and encourage honesty. Our children learn from our actions more than they do from our words. Therefore, we must model honesty and directness. As long as we are age-appropriate in our explanations and don’t burden them with our unprocessed emotions, our children can handle the truth and often benefit from being spoken to directly, as they intuit what we don’t say. We can promote their openness with us by not punishing them for mishaps and mistakes. Instead, we can normalize those times when things don’t work out as they or we hope by helping them turn those into learning and growing opportunities.
4. Be a cheerleader.
As parents, we may be in the habit of correcting our children. While such guidance is helpful when used sparingly, it is essential to regularly and genuinely tell our children that the particular ways we are proud of their deep-down goodness and accomplishments. When expressing appreciation for our children, it is critical not to add a critique, which for example, would be followed by “but...”
5. Deeply listen and be present.
While teaching, advising, and judging our children is tempting, we can know them better and have a stronger connection with them if we spend undistracted time with them and deeply and curiously listen to what they have to say.
6. Build a loving and respectful community.
We are all different. Our individuality must be recognized and valued so that we can thrive. Inevitably, there will be people who will judge our children and us. When those judgments come, our community can help remind us of our strengths, values, and worth and help us weed through the judgments in a way that supports us rather than eroding our sense of self.
In summary, we have all that we need to build loving bonds of trust and respect with our children so they can grow up to be the wonderful people they are. With a focus on building ourselves and them up, that is all possible.
Jessica Dancingheart is a personal and organizational consultant working to build healthier and stronger relationships at work, at home, and in your communities. Please check out www.openingtopossibilities.com or call (303) 589-8420 or email at jessica@openingtoposs ibilities.com for more information.