We imagined what parenthood would be like before we became parents and how our little mini-me would look up to us.
We thought about how excited they would be when they learned their first word, went to school for the first time, and received an A on their report card.
We thought about all the amazing things they would learn from us and the experiences we would share.
But then… reality hit.
After we became parents, we’re buried under the daily hassles of life: paying bills, cleaning the kitchen, disciplining our children, checking their homework, and so on.
Many of us have lost touch with what matters: our bond with our children and the satisfaction from seeing them succeed.
But we rarely find time to nurture this connection.
Why Connecting with Kids is Important
Despite intuitively knowing the importance of connecting with our kids, we often neglect it as life gets busy.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is our kids’ relationship with us.
Taking the time to bond with our children has many benefits.
Strong connections with our children are the most powerful tool in disciplining them.
It is the best way to get them to listen without power struggles.
When children feel connected to us, they care about what we care about.
They readily follow our guidance.
Connecting with your child instead of correcting them will have a massive impact on their behavior and your relationship.
7 Tips On Connecting With Kids
Parents are busy.
The good news is building a deeper connection with your child doesn’t require tons of time.
Quality time is not measured by its length.
Here are some simple ways to help you nurture meaningful connections with your child.
Show attention and affection
It doesn’t take much time to connect with your child. Little things you do to show them you care will go a long way.
For instance, when your kid talks to you, stop the work momentarily, make eye contact, and listen attentively for five minutes.
Every now and then, tell your child and remind them that you love them.
Tell them you’re proud of them and why.
Little positive interactions like these show that you care about them and they are your priority.
Teach, not punish
Turn your child’s mistake into a teaching opportunity instead of lecturing or punishing.
A negative interaction can’t teach children positive behavior, and it damages the parent-child relationship.
Harsh discipline, such as corporal punishment, is a risk factor for child development.2
Punishment is not the only way to discipline a child.
Teaching with kindness is much more effective and creates a strong connection.
Connecting with kids while you teach makes this the most efficient form of discipline.
It’s proven that shared laughter improves relationships.1
Embrace humor in your life and laugh with them.
Tell a joke, make a funny noise, do a silly dance, sing a made-up song, play rough-housing, etc.
Embrace negative emotions
When we were kids, we were often told, “It’s ok,” “It’s no big deal,” or “It’ll go away” when we were upset.
Did they make us feel better?
I bet not.
It just made us feel like our feelings were wrong or not important.
It’s natural for parents to want to get rid of that yucky feeling for their children.
But dismissing their feelings won’t help.
If your child is angry, dismissing their emotions will make them angrier.
When your child is sad, upset, or angry, being attuned to their feelings3 and empathizing with them4 is one of the fastest ways to calm them and create a connection.
To show that you understand how they feel, name their strong emotions and validate their feelings.5
“That is upsetting. I’d be angry too if I were treated like that.”
“It feels so unfair. I can see why you are unhappy about this.”
Avoid saying things that directly or indirectly invalidate them.
Show them that you care about how they feel.
Kids grow strong by understanding their emotions, resolving negative feelings, and not suppressing them.
Create a Ritual or Tradition
Creating a family tradition is a good thing to bond as a family.
Pick a particular time or one of your favorite games.
It could be playing board games every weekend, asking a fun question during family meals, having ice cream to celebrate success, etc.
These are some of the fun ways to create a family ritual.
Engaging your child in physical activity is also an excellent way to cut down on their screen time.
Put the phone away
Media use can undermine communication and disrupt interpersonal relationships.
Children report being disappointed when their parents don’t look up from their phones at dinner or bring their phones to school events.6
Putting the phone away and giving your child undivided attention, even only for five minutes while you talk, makes a difference.
Hugs, hugs, and more hugs
Parenting is hard.
Sometimes, you don’t even have the time or energy to shower (I’m not the only one, right?)
Hugging someone doesn’t take much effort.
A hug or simple touch helps us reconnect, build a closer connection, and elevate our mood.7
It can make you a happier parent.
Both parents and children benefit from hugging mentally and physically.
A hug can also help calm an upset child when they are distressed.
Need Help Motivating Kids?
Online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.
- 1.Bazzini DG, Stack ER, Martincin PD, Davis CP. The Effect of Reminiscing about Laughter on Relationship Satisfaction. Motiv Emot. Published online October 19, 2006:25-34. doi:10.1007/s11031-006-9045-6
- 2.Sege RD, Siegel BS, Flaherty EG, et al. Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children. Pediatrics. Published online December 1, 2018. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3112
- 3.Dombrowski SC, Timmer SG, Blacker DM, Urquiza AJ. A positive behavioural intervention for toddlers: parent-child attunement therapy. Child Abuse Review. Published online 2005:132-151. doi:10.1002/car.888
- 4.Stern JA, Borelli JL, Smiley PA. Assessing parental empathy: a role for empathy in child attachment. Attachment & Human Development. Published online November 6, 2014:1-22. doi:10.1080/14616734.2014.969749
- 5.Laible D. Does It Matter if Preschool Children and Mothers Discuss Positive vs. Negative Events During Reminiscing? Links with Mother-reported Attachment, Family Emotional Climate, and Socioemotional Development. Social Development. Published online October 27, 2010:394-411. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2010.00584.x
- 6.Turkle S. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Hachette ; 2017.
- 7.Kutner JS, Smith MC, Corbin L, et al. Massage Therapy versus Simple Touch to Improve Pain and Mood in Patients with Advanced Cancer. Ann Intern Med. Published online September 16, 2008:369. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-149-6-200809160-00003