Raising kids is tough work. Just when you think you have a handle on it, your children enter yet another leg in their journey toward growing up. Building a strong relationship with your children is essential for all parents. A strong relationship with your children enables you to be a respected authority figure as well as a trusted voice of reason.
Dr. Patricia Tanner Nelson, a human development specialist at the University of Delaware, reminds parents that “strong families have open lines of communication … Until we can hear each other, we cannot build strong relationships.”
To build a strong parent-child relationship, consider seven simple ways to talk to your kids:
1. Do be respectful. Never belittle your children or make them feel worthless. If your children feel respected, they will be more inclined to talk to you about the little things as well as the big, important things. Children learn by example. If you treat them and others with respect, they will learn to be respectful, too.
2. Don’t dumb it down. If your child is mature for his age, treat him with respect and speak to him on his level. When setting rules and boundaries, be specific and use facts and reason. Tell him, “You may not play in the front yard without an adult because our street is very busy and you are safer in the back yard. I love you and don’t want anything to happen to you.”
3. Do pick your battles. Kids can make parents crazy. From hairstyle choices to musical preferences to not putting dirty socks in the hamper, a parent could spend hours nitpicking. Instead of fighting about the bangs hanging in his eyes, consider your child’s overall behavior. Is he doing well in school? Does he help around the house? Is he well mannered in public?
4. Don’t try to be a buddy. You are a parent, not a pal. This can be hard because as parents, we want our kids to like us. However, a strong, healthy and lasting relationship with your children requires you to be the parent first. You have to be the one to make the tough decisions and sometimes say no.
5. Do limit your childhood reminiscences. Nothing makes a kid tune out faster than hearing a parent say for the 100th time, “When I was your age…” It’s great to share your own childhood experiences with your children; however, if you do it all the time, these shared memories eventually will lose meaning.
6. Don’t compare your kids. Every child is unique. Never compare your children with their siblings or other kids. Kids are hurt by words such as, “Why can’t you get better grades like your sister” or “You never hit the ball as far as Tommy.”
7. Do say “I’m sorry.” When building any relationship, it’s important to be able to say “I’m sorry.” Parents are not perfect. We make mistakes, and by acknowledging those mistakes, our children can learn how to make amends graciously.