Let’s be honest—sometimes parenting can feel like really hard work. What more would we expect from a venture that begins with a strenuous activity called “labor”? We fret over how to be the best parents we can be but the constancy of the effort wears us out.
Thankfully, we don’t have to exhaust ourselves being wonder-parents for our kids. While we may get caught up in trying to provide the best, what our kids need most hasn’t changed through the ages. Love, compassion, security, guidance, and support—these are the true needs of our children. If we meet these needs, even in the simplest of ways, we help our children reach their potential. Here are some easy (yes easy!) ways you can bring out the best in your children.
Have you said or done something to create a barrier between you and your child? Apologizing to our kids models humility and respect, clearing the pathway for connection.
Use terms of endearment and affectionate nicknames. Names say a lot about us. When we refer to our children (boys too!) with sweet and affectionate terms, we communicate their value and special place in our hearts, and we instill in them a sense of belonging and strong identity.
Occasionally I break out into song while I fold laundry or do a dance while I wait for the water to boil. My kids love it. It makes me accessible, unpredictable, and fun. It draws my kids in and strengthens our connection. Shake things up with a funny face or start a staring contest and invite your kids to let loose.
Play board games.
Score keeping teaches math skills, turn taking teaches patience and regard for others, and we all benefit from learning to be a gracious loser and a gracious winner. There are games on the market to teach practical skills of all sorts, from strategy to logic to communication and creativity. And doing all this learning together is a great bonding activity for the family.
Our kids need to know we endorse their growing independence. Give them a chance to shine. Let them falter, fail, get hurt, and make mistakes without swooping in to save them. Let them learn by experience how very capable they are.
Ask for help.
Nothing says “I believe in you” like asking your child to step in as the needed expert. Whether it’s wiping a counter, unloading the groceries, mowing the lawn, or assistance with a computer problem, our kids get a boost of confidence when they realize their contribution is vital to our success. And be sure to say thank you after they’ve helped–their work needs to be appreciated too.
Helping around the house teaches children they are part of a community. When we expect our kids to contribute we teach them to account for the needs of others. Show them they are needed so they can step up to high expectations and feel the pride that comes with contributing for the benefit of a whole.
Practice new skills together.
Researchers say our kids benefit from learning grit–that quality that makes us persevere, push forward, and try again in the face of defeat. So if your child needs practice, go ahead and join them.
Be vulnerable with your kids. Invite honest feedback on how you’re doing as a parent, how you make them feel, and how you can improve.
What’s a simple practice you’ve put in place that helps you connect with your child?