Developing a Fantastic Relationship with Your Child
Here's a scene: A parent "might suddenly grab a happliy playing child and shower him with excited hugs and kisses without warning." What's wrong with this picture?
I would say that, simply, the parent is not in synch with the child in the case described above. The parent is not on the same page. Yes, parents have to move over to their child's page to be "on the same page", not the other way around, starting in infancy. Parents who have no history of being treated with any sensitivity at all will have a hard time with this. But--here's the clincher--giving up is not an option! Here is how to practice getting more and more able to "read" what page someone is on
Step 1: Guess what they're thinking/experiencing at the moment and explain to yourself why you think so.
Step 2: Check it out with the person. In a very casual way, just say, "You know, I want to be a more aware person. I'm trying to understand you a little better, so I hope you'll help me. What I'm trying to do now is guess how you feel and why. Can I run by you what I came up with?"
Step 3: Be openminded about the answers you get. In other words, if you were way off, don't go crawl into a corner and say, "Oh, I'll never get this." Just write down in a special notebook reserved for this purpose (or talk into a tape recorder) their explanation and what you missed in your thinking the first time. Let the correct answer sink in so that you truly understand where the child came from.
Step 4: Try out your new learnings slowly. As you begin to "get it," don't assume you always will. Take slow steps in implementing anything. Think ten times before you react.
In the scene above, quoted from a famous researcher in child development, Ainsworth, if that parent had just slowed down before the hugs and kisses, the problem wouldn't have occurred. Ask yourself: What would that child like from me by way of response right now? Focus on the child's perspective. In the Ainsworth case above, that parent was actually selfish. He or she was in the mood to bestow hugs and kisses, but was the child in the mood to get them? Well, if the child is concentrating, then the answer is clearly, "No." Would you like to be interruped by your child when you're working on that important project for work? No. Well, the child, even a new infant, doesn't either. The best thing that parent could have done above, is just be there silently, taking in the world as the baby sees it. This, by the way, is a thrill for a parent, once you stop and make that switch to seeing the world from the child's perspective. You notice how the baby is fascinated by what we take for granted and it renews our sense of wonder at the Universe. Try it.
Here are four more strategies for developing a deep and strong connection with your child:
The first aspect of talking with your child is sharing the wisdom of your experience. This is for a little older children. Children absolutely hate this, yet it is so important for their development for some of the messages we have to get through.
How do you manage? You have to understand that the reason why they hate it is partly because they can't relate to it since they haven't been there, so it has no meaning to them, and partly because it has a faint ring to it of being superior--which makes them feel put down.
Handling this requires tact, slow moves, and subtle ones. Never, ever lecture. They will tune you out and you'll have accomplished nothing except drive a wedge between the two of you, something you don't want.
The child will, however, be very receptive if you have followed Gottman's 5-to-1 rule of giving five positives for every negative comment at a minimum. This is your second strategy. I would guess that the degree of receptiveness is directly proportional to the ratio of positive-to-negative comments. So, if you only give one negative comment in a week and it is stated very tactfully, it will probably be gracefully accepted by your child and he or she will be receptive to your "editorials" on his life.
Third, is to ask questions without making assumptions. (You know what happens to people who assume, right?) Just ask open-ended questions, such as, "What did you think of -- ?" or "How are you finding 10th grade?" Be pleasant and inviting. If you have cut out the criticisms and the negatives, this shouldn't be too hard and should get good results.
Finally, make your comments (if you must make comments) very low key. For example, there's a friend you don't care for too much. You could say, "You're going to the movie with Patricia?" Then kind of raise your eyebrows a little, as if to say, "Hmmmm." That should be enough. Don't actually say anything. Let the concern just hang there. Your communication will make your child just nervous enough to be paying closer attention to all the things about Patricia that your child doesn't notice in her.
Concluding this article, what do you notice that is missing? Come on. Take a moment to look at the whole thing.......What's missing is fun communication, just play, positive. Not necessarily compliments, just being happy together, sharing time together, joking around, playing, shopping, whatever, having fun. That, my friends, is the most important piece of all.
Dr. Debby Schwarz Hirschhorn, Ph.D.
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