The most important thing between a parent/caregiver and child is their relationship with each other. A relationship based in connection and mutual respect increases the likelihood that, even though there will no doubt be difficult interactions, the relationship will win out most of the time. Kids cannot be “controlled,” but the adult in a child’s life can have influence over him. And that influence is directly related to the connection that adult has built with the child.
Kids listen to the important adults in their lives because of this connection. But there’s a catch.
Well, 2 catches.
- It’s not automatic. Like any relationship, it has to be cultivated and nurtured. This doesn’t just count for a parent-child relationship. Coaches, teachers, group leaders etc. also need to create a relationship of trust and respect before a child will feel invested in listening to, and learning from, them.
- It’s a 2 way street. The relationship of the adult to the child does not automatically necessitate respect. Meaning, for example, just because you are a child’s teacher does not mean they will automatically respect you. Same goes for a parent and child. In order to get respect one must give it and vice versa. This may seem like a weird concept. We have been taught, kids are required to listen to adults simply because they are adults. In reality, just as an adult employee needs to feel respected by their employer in order to feel connected and loyal to them, a child needs to feel respected by an adult in order to listen to and follow their direction.
5 ways to show a child you respect them:
- Listen to what they are telling you. No matter how trivial it may seem.
That worm crawling out of their makeshift terrarium IS a big deal. They created a loving home for that worm and it left. They were caring for another being, they became connected to it, and now it’s gone. Show the child you get their loss. You know what it’s like to lose something important to you. Connect at that level.
Your teens despair over who shared what or liked who on what social media site IS huge for them. You might not get it, but that doesn’t matter. You do know what it feels like to be slighted, or to feel left out, or to be embarrassed. Connect at that level. Listen. Be there.
- Put your device down.
Kids noticed when you are not paying attention. Show them you care by giving your undivided attention. By keeping your phone out of reach, you are showing them they are your first priority. You are also role modeling for them what it means to pay attention, and how to show someone what they have to say is important. A crucial relationship building skill.
- Remember they hear every word you say.
Even though you think you are saying something in sarcasm or jest – “James is miserable today” (cue eye roll to your friend) – your child hears that and takes it to heart. Don’t laugh at them, make fun of things that are important to them, or point out their mistakes to shame them as opposed to help guide them. A good way to remember this is to check yourself before speaking. Think, “Is this going to nurture, or get in the way of, my relationship with my child?”
- Keep your word.
We have all heard “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.” Show your child you mean what you say. This builds their faith and trust in you.
- Repair transgressions.
Fighting and disrespect will happen. There will be times you say things you don’t mean. How do you handle these situations? Do you pretend that it didn’t happen and hope that your child will forget in a couple hours or days? Teach your child how to fix mistakes by admitting yours. Role model how to apologize. It’s not the rupture that matters but how you repair it afterwards that has the most impact.
Was this helpful? Email me your thoughts and experiences trying this technique at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extended beyond what you are currently able to offer them? Do you live in Central New York? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or email@example.com
Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jenniemazzajones.com