Fast forward to the future to see a common parent child connection: A child is now a teenager and prefers to hang out with her friends… all the time. She scoffs at the idea of a family day trip and tunes everyone out the entire time. She doesn’t value time spent with family and would rather be with her peers.
While this may seem like the typical teenage life, it’s not the kind I want my kids to have. I want my kids to actually like their parents and have a strong parent child connection.
A strong parent child connection
It seems I’m not alone. In Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, authors Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté say that kids need to value parental input over their peers. What does a healthy parent child connection look like?
Your child doesn’t place so much emphasis on peer approval.
Peer approval is normal, but a child shouldn’t place so much emphasis on whether her friends like her or not. Her friends don’t have her best interest in mind the same way a parent does. Any influence they may have on kids isn’t as well-thought out as a parent’s.
You respect one another.
Imagine having a lifelong, close relationship with your kids, long into their adulthood. This can only come when both of you love and respect one another. Many adults still harbor resentment towards their parents, or don’t want to be with them.
But a close parent child connection shows plenty of respect. You may disagree, you may have to discipline, but beneath all that is a strong respect for each other.
You have more influence on your child than your peers.
Have you seen kids who roll their eyes at every comment their parents make? That’s not a healthy connection.
Instead, a strong parent child bond means your kids listen to you way more than they listen to their peers. Sure, they probably will listen to their peers about ‘hip’ topics. But they’ll still listen to your advice and turn to you when they need help.
Your child values the time you spend together.
It’s awesome when kids like spending time with their family. While they’ll hang out with friends, they’ll make time to be with their parents.
Create a strong parent child connection
Why is it better to raise a parent-oriented child vs a peer-oriented child? Children need us to guide them in their decisions, not their peers. Their friends aren’t as experienced as adults. They can’t influence our kids in the same positive way that we can.
Their peers also need guidance themselves. They’re not in a position to offer it to others (think Lord of the Flies madness). They don’t have our kids’ best interests in mind the same way we do.
So how can we encourage a strong parent child connection now while they’re young?
- Don’t focus on socializing so much. Social skills are important, but it can seem like parents want their kids to be the most popular or social. Don’t force your kids to have a best friend, or make them socialize when they don’t want to.
- Watch your reactions when your kids tell you things. Kids tell us the craziest, funniest, most amusing things. How we react can matter just as much as what they say. If your four-year-old tells you he has a girlfriend, do you tease and say, “ooohh…”? Instead, respond respectfully. Or do you freak out when your kids tell you their worries and problems? They might feel like they don’t want to worry you and keep things to themselves.
- Accept your kids for who they are. Kids turn to peers (among other things) because their parents can’t accept who they are. Embrace your daughter’s introversion, no matter how difficult it may be for your extroverted self. Don’t pressure your son to excel in sports when he would rather play music. Get to know your kids, and celebrate who they are.
- Respect one another. Your kids will enjoy spending time with you, now and into adulthood, when you respect your kids. And in turn, they will respect you and take your advice, comments and even your quirks with affection.
As the authors’ book says, hold onto your kids. Don’t succumb to the whole ‘kids rule, parents drool!’ mentality that we sometimes accept as the norm. There’s little need to push our kids to flee from us too quickly, especially to turn to their peers. Instead, form strong bonds with them now and build a strong connection that will last for many years.
Get more parenting tips:
- Positive Parenting Resolutions You Can Actually Keep
- Nobody’s Perfect, Including Our Kids
- How to Give Your Child a Sense of Belonging
- Parenting Mistakes: Judging Your Child’s Emotions
- How to Raise a Kind Child
Your turn: What do you do to build a strong parent child connection in your home? Let me know in the comments!
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