‘Children are our second chance to have a grea parent-child relationship’, Dr. Laura once famously said. We all have issues with our parents, but how can we do things different with our own children? The relationship between a parent and a child is based on unconditional love, but that is not enough. You have to build trust and understanding if you want that love to endure. Most of all, you have to be there for your child.
Talk more to your child
Talk more and talk different would be the correct way to put it. What did you talk with your child about today? Was it about school and homework? Did you tell them about cleaning their room? Was it a long argument about bedtime? While this might seem as plenty of interaction it is not real talk. Yes, parents do need to set rules and see to their children welfare, but that’s not real talk. Real talk is also about listening. It’s about asking your children how they feel, not what they’ve been doing.
How about going for a walk and talking about what’s on their mind? How much do you know about their friends and the social life they’re building around them? When you never ask about such things your child will be reluctant to come and bother with their problems, because apparently they’re not important to you. Or at least that’s the impression you’re giving.
Share your own experiences
Talking to your child should not sound like an interrogation. The child might interpret it as prying and resent the intrusion into their lives. Think about the relationship you have with your best friend. You share secrets, you tell each other everything. The relationship you want to build with your child should not be a one-way street either.
Obviously, you don’t want to share the bad stuff with your child, that’s for your best friend, but you must talk about yourself and your past experiences if you want to have your child open up to you.
When your child wouldn’t stop talking about their new bestie talk about your own childhood and the silly games you used to play with your own BFF. Some parents tend to think sharing such things would undermine their authority, but it doesn’t. On the contrary, it makes look like a real person not just a superior all-knowledgeable being the kid must obey at all times.
Part of building a good relationship with your child is looking back and remembering how you felt at their age. If there were things you hated as a child why would you think your child should be happy about them?
Don’t be judgmental
If you want to build a great relationship with your child don’t jump to criticize everything they do. Take for instance the new friend they made in school. You might not be very happy about it, although you’ve only seen that kid a couple of times. Don’t start criticizing their new friend just as you wouldn’t dare to comment on your best friend’s new boyfriend although you have some doubts about him. If you’re being constantly negative the child won’t talk to you anymore and will resent you for not trusting them.
The same goes for always criticizing other things they like – a TV show, a book series or the latest fashion among kids of that age. Remember that your child is a different person and has its own preferences. Try to understand what they see in a friend or a music idol and refrain from criticizing.
The greatest gift of all
No, it is not the biggest Lego set or the latest iPhone. Time is our most valuable commodity and, unfortunately, many people would rather spend money on their kids rather than taking the time to be there for them. When your child is playing on the floor and you’re on the couch staring at your phone does it count as spending time with your child? You are in the same room, true, but you’re not paying attention to your child. Granted, every parent needs some alone time, but try to think of the last time you sat on the floor with your kid and played with them. You probably paid quite a lot on that new doll your kid wanted so much, but how about helping your child take that silly toy on an adventure? Your child will appreciate you engaging in their game because it’s a way to relate to you. Child play is after all a means of communicating for them.
There are some who say a child needs a parent, not a friend, but that’s not thinking about the time your kid won’t be 10 anymore, but 18. As the child grows up, the relationship between you should slowly move from the ‘Mommy knows best’ attitude to one of true friendship and this cannot be done overnight. Every time you talk to your child, for real, and every time you’re there to listen to their worries and offer the best advice you can you’re working on the relationship you’ll have with your child for the rest of their lives. They will still be your child even when they’re 20 and they will still need you, so make sure they’ve learned to trust you.