Building a Relationship With Your Child to Weather Any Storm

4 min read
Gustavo Fring/Pexels

Gustavo Fring/Pexels

Everything good in a child’s development builds on a strong, reliable, loving relationship with at least one adult. If the child is lucky, that will be a parent. Your child’s cognitive, emotional, and social abilities develop in the context of that relationship in response to your love and attention.

Why Is Your Relationship With Your Child So Important?

A child who grows up secure in that bond will develop the strengths they need to succeed in every dimension of life. They’ll have the resilience necessary to thrive through the challenges that life inevitably brings.

As psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner said, “Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last, and always.”

1. Be warm, patient, and attentive. Behave as if you’re the one who’s crazy about that kid. Raising healthy, successful, and resilient kids is simpler and more basic than many parents realize. It’s not about buying expensive toys, providing intensive intellectual stimulation, or sending your child to the best school. Quite the reverse: It’s all about taking good care of yourself and slowing your life down so you can be patient, loving, and fully present to the small human you’re in charge of getting safely through to adulthood.

Show up in your child’s life. Be dependable and consistently warm. Be kind and patient with them. Listen, really listen. Respond to your child’s questions, pay attention to their curiosities, and be present to their worries.

2. Be strong. Your child needs you to set and enforce the guidelines that will keep them safe. Strive for an authoritative parenting style that matches your personality and values. Authoritative parents are loving, kind, and respectful but establish and enforce reliable rules and expectations. They use positive reinforcement and reasoning rather than punishment, providing their child with high expectations as well as emotional support and comfort. Authoritative parents listen to their child’s concerns, and look at misbehavior as learning opportunities for themselves and their child.

3. Be flexible. Flexibility contributes to building a strong relationship with your child—and to your child’s happiness and success—in a few ways. One is the need to recognize your situation as unique. That means taking a flexibly responsive stance to the demands of your child, your spouse, your extended family, and your cultural and economic circumstances.

Your child might have a particularly spirited temperament. You may have other complex demands on your time and attention. And so, because you, your child, and your situation are unique, the rules and attitudes that work for others might not work for you.

Another way flexibility comes into parenting is by recognizing that different circumstances call for different responses. Yes, it’s good to have and enforce consistent guidelines, but there are times when it’s wise to bend them.

If you or your child is going through a particularly stressful time, maybe you can adapt to the usual bedtime or nutrition rules. If your child is worried about something going on at school—bullying, say, or academic troubles—maybe it’s wise to be flexible in your responses to their behavior. Always put your relationship with your child ahead of any household rules or school demands.

And finally, with any luck, life and your child will teach you that good parenting means constant change. Without flexibility, the best parents of infants—closely attentive and lovingly available—can become terrible parents of teenagers—intrusive and controlling, impeding the teen’s journey into an independent, responsible, resilient, and self-aware adult.

In order to continue over time to build the relationship that will enable your child to cope effectively with the challenges life inevitably brings, you will need to undergo many metamorphoses. It’s not easy, but ultimately, it’s enormously satisfying if you can learn to keep adapting consciously to the ways that you, your child, and your situation are always changing.

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