Last week we got the ball rolling with tips on laying the foundation for a wholesome relationship with your child. In case you missed it, read it here. The second part of this article dives into the deeper things that fortify a closer relationship with your child.
Trust – The Building Blocks of a Wholesome Relationship
We may not realise this, but learning how to trust begins in infancy. Children learn how to walk, trusting that you’ll be there to catch them if they fall, or pick them up whenever they need you. As they grow older, we learn to gain their trust in many ways — following through on that promise to take them to Disneyland, picking them up from school on time, or even by rewarding them with their favourite snacks when they commit to good behaviour.
On the other hand, children need to grasp the fact that trust works both ways. It’s good to lay out boundaries early, so they know what is expected of them. This gives them a chance to work towards realistic goals set both by you and them. For example, you can tell your child that they are allowed to watch TV after they clean up the playroom. Don’t hang around or nag at them to make sure that they pick up their toys, but instead, let them know that you are trusting them to do what they need to do before TV time. After they’ve switched the TV on, you can check whether they did their part, and if they did, thank them and tell them to enjoy TV time. If they haven’t cleaned up after themselves, switch off the TV and then explain to them in a calm manner that you have done so because they did not keep their end of the bargain. It may take a few rounds of this before they start to learn their little lesson, so remember to be patient.
That said, no one is perfect, and every parent makes mistakes. While it is absolutely normal to be embarrassed about it, there is no need to conceal it from your children. Being open about our mistakes and struggles helps our child to understand that it is perfectly normal to slip up at times and that it is safe for them to share it with us so we can work on improving their flaws together. Confidently volunteering information to our children encourages them to do the same with us.
Do note, however, that trust doesn’t necessarily mean you should blindly believe everything that your child tells you, especially when they are in their teenage stages. Trust simply means not giving up on your child no matter how terrible the situation is. As challenging as it gets, trust means not walking away from your child in resentment —because they need you, and they trust that you will always find a way to work things out.
Respect – Make Sure it is Mutual
Every one of us has learned in some way or another while growing up that respect has to be mutual. But more often than not, we fail to implement this in our own relationships with our children because we feel an obligation to somewhat be more superior than them most of the times. It is natural for a parent to set limits, but it is also important to ensure that it is done with sufficient empathy and respect so that your children will learn both to treat others with respect and to expect to be treated respectfully themselves.
You’ll often find that socially competent children are the ones who possess a huge sense self-worth and dignity stemming from in a wholesome relationship with their parental figures. It’s easier for a child to treat others positively when they feel good about themselves. Don’t we all want that for our children?
Encouragement – Keep Them Determined
When we grow a plant and realise that the leaves are turning brown, our immediate instinct is to ask ourselves if it needs more water, light or fertilizer to stay healthy. Having a child is similar in that when they are not performing or behaving as well as you would like him to, you can’t just criticize and yell at him to straighten up and grow right, can you?
Children learn new things every single day and form their own view of the world and of themselves while at it. Without your constant encouragement, they will not be capable of believing in themselves, let alone believe in doing good things for people around them.
While it is necessary to correct them when they commit blunders, it shouldn’t be the only thing that you talk about. If most of your conversations with them involve criticisms and improvement, they are going to start feeling very dejected and lousy about themselves. This is not ideal when fostering a wholsesome relationship with them.
Not only will you start losing your leverage with them, but they will also stand to lose something every child needs — to know that they have supportive parents and parent figures who think the world of them.