Investing in Relationships With Your Children

Last week I gave a talk to a group of elementary school parents about ways to decrease nagging their children.  The talk packed in the information from three or four parent coaching sessions.  It was full of specific suggestions for behaviors for parents to try.  I know that this approach works because I have used it on many occasions with all sorts of parents.

When you sum up the steps it really comes down to cultivating a better relationship.  In fact, it works with anyone in your life.  You try to communicate clearly with others in ways that they can understand.  And you appreciate whatever people do that pleases you or helps you out.

People are most likely to be cooperative in a family or a business when they feel appreciated.  In a family we all need to feel cared for.  This really comes before looking for cooperation, and it is an aspect that can be lost in very busy lives.

I like to give people specific recommendations, so one suggestion I often give parents is to spend some time each day (maybe only fifteen minutes) with your recalcitrant child.  In those minutes you do with your child whatever she would like (within the bounds of behavior in your home).  So, if your child wants to watch a TV show with you, that’s what you do.  If your child wants help with a new lego set, that’s what you do.  Parents are often surprised to see the results of this simple change.  The hard parts of it are being regular, and resisting the temptation to use the time to pursue your goals.  This is a way you cultivate the relationship so that you can be more successful in eliciting cooperation later.

There is a second way to cultivate a relationship in which your children will be more cooperative.  That is to offer empathy when your child is frustrated or upset. Here’s a lovely blog post on that topic. Let’s face it—we all like to feel understood.  It is a gift we can give our children and family members.  When we feel understood, we are more likely to want to work together.

I am not saying this is easy.  It isn’t.  But these steps are investments in relationship that pay back very well.  Furthermore, these investments cost no money.  They have nothing to do with material gifts.  They have to do with the gift of your presence and your understanding—the most valuable gift.


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Photo credit:  dgcohen23 on Flickr


11 Responses to “Investing in Relationships With Your Children”
  1. So true, Carolyn. This is one of those skills that we learn as therapists when we’re learning about play therapy – to follow the lead of the child, and it really comes in handy as a parent, too. I try to schedule time daily to do this with each of my boys, and even though I sometimes want to direct the action (Really? We have to read “Captain Underpants” again?), it’s not about me, it’s about honoring them and letting them see that I care about what’s important to them.

  2. Ann Becker-Schutte says:

    It is amazing how much these small gestures of respect and connection can do to further healthy relationships. Thanks for sharing your practical, do-able strategies.

  3. I love this post (and not only because you linked to my blog– thank you for that). But I love it because it is such elegant and lovely advice that gets right to the heart of the matter. I am always amazed at the difference it makes in our family life when each kid gets a little “just them” time and I am also always amazed at how hard it is make this a priority– even knowing it helps. It is so east to get caught up in the busy-ness of life. Thank you for this reminder.

  4. dr.cstone says:

    Hi Colleen,
    I can relate. My son was a geography nut, and it was, Quiz my on capitals!” I couldn’t stump him. It can be hard to interrupt our routines to just be with.

  5. dr.cstone says:

    Hi Ann,
    You sum it up very well–respect and connection. They’re basic to any relationship, aren’t they?

  6. dr.cstone says:

    Hi Allison,
    You’re welcome. Your post actually got me going on mine! Synergy! I find that it’s hard to fit something into my routine just because it’s good for us, as opposed to “getting something done.” We need to think about what we are accomplishing–relationship maintenance.

  7. Hi Carolyn – Yes sage advice….build a relationship for life, don;t keep tearing them down with unrealistic consequences!.

  8. dr.cstone says:

    Hi Kathy,
    I like that–relationship for life! I might use that. 🙂

  9. JoAnn Jordan says:

    Time and validation can do wonders to many relationships. Taking the time to develop a relationship with our child pays dividends throughout our lives.

  10. dr.cstone says:

    Hi JoAnn,
    Thanks for your comment. It’s so true. These are behaviors that enhance any relationship. Kids are no different.

  11. Thanks for this reminder, Carolyn! I can understand how following the child’s lead will help to form that relationship.