A father in one of my parenting classes observed, “One of my challenges as a parent is, I focus on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right.” A mom added, “I want to spend more time enjoying my children instead of only being focused on what we need to do next or what’s on the schedule.” A number of us nodded our heads, acknowledging our similar desires for who we want to be as parents. In “Connection Before Correction” last month, I focused on our children’s need to connect with us so that they will accept correction when it becomes necessary. But parents also need that connection, as a reminder that our kids are the most important people in our lives and time is fleeting. After all, we volunteered for this job—it’s good to remember that we like it!
We can focus on what’s right with our children by noticing and acknowledging their contribution:
Thanks for bringing in the groceries.
I appreciate that you are honest with me.
It’s nice that you chose to go out for dinner with your dad and me. We enjoy having you with us.
You really put in the time to get your homework done. I can see that paying off when I check the grade portal!
Even if it’s expected that they do what they do, verbalizing our appreciation cements their feeling of connection and contribution, and motivates them to continue those positive behaviors. And it cements our own awareness of just how many positives they add to our lives!
Enjoying time with our kids should be just as important as cleaning the house, going to work, and running errands. If you need to, schedule quality time on your calendar, so you don’t brush it aside as other demands come up. What to do? It doesn’t matter. Just have fun together. Try setting up a board or card game and playing for 20 minutes each night, so the whole game takes an entire week to play out. My husband has taken to sitting nearby while our son plays video games before bedtime, making comments or asking questions about the game. The kid and I are reading “Hamlet” together. Sure, it’s homework, but we always find something to laugh about, whether it’s a Shakespearean turn of phrase or our growing awareness of our sorely lacking vocabulary!
For parents who are struggling to connect, have your child choose the activity. Even if it’s not your thing, do it anyway and find something to appreciate (out loud) about the activity or your child’s skill in doing it. Next time, you get to choose (but purposely choose something that the kid will like, too). Grow the connection with baby steps.
When I asked for my son’s thoughts on this topic, he said to reiterate that the activity isn’t the important thing. That’s just the means to an end, and the “end” is that you’re together, remembering that you like each other, and that creating your family is the best thing you’ve ever done.