Despite the pressure from advertising, social circles, and even our own children, it is not the latest play station or gadget that your child really wants from you. Here are a few other ideas to try before you reach into your wallet:
- Children want more than anything to be seen by their parents. To be truly seen, acknowledged and validated. This means that you listen carefully to what they are saying, you take part in their day-to-day activities with interest and you acknowledge their feelings about the issues they are dealing with. When children are heard and validated they feel loved and accepted.
- Don’t feel afraid to show your child how much you love them by being affectionate. Every child needs cuddles and closeness from their parents.
- Be present with your children. When you are spending time with them, try to give them your undivided attention. Your children don’t want only half of you around. Put down your phone and turn off the T.V. – children don’t want to have to compete with technology for your attention. Be present in your engagement with them. Make sure you give each of your children equal undivided time as this will also help reduce sibling rivalry and competition.
- Set clear and concise boundaries. Help your children to know exactly what is expected of their behaviour in various situations. Boundaries help children feel secure. Even if your child may not want to behave in a certain way, revealing such expectations in advance allows your child some sense of predictability.
- Ensure that those boundaries are consistently enforced. Parents who chop and change their minds about the rules and the consequences for breaking them leave children feeling unsure and insecure. Be consistent in the way in which you handle transgressions. Reveal potential consequences in advance so both you and your child have a sense of control (they can choose whether to behave as expected or encounter the consequence).
Kids need a relationship with their parents more so than material rewards. Here are some more ideas about how to establish and build a strong bond with your kids:
- Children want their parents to remain their heros. Model good manners and values for your child. They look up to you and will more than likely mimic your behaviour. Be a good example to them
- Children want healthy parents. It is important for you to look after yourself and treat your body with respect. Children need their parents to be strong and healthy so make sure you are eating well, exercising and getting rest. This is modeling good self care habits for your child.
- Make sure that you are realistic in your expectations of your children. It is important that you set children up to succeed. Sharing tasks and chores is essential in managing a healthy family, but make sure that you have given your children tasks they can handle and that the behaviour you expect from them is age appropriate.
- Give lots of praise and positive reinforcement of your child’s efforts as well as their achievements. Children want their parents to feel proud of them. Show your child you are proud of their efforts and try not to focus only on their achievements.
- Delight in your child. Have fun together, and let your child know how much you enjoy being with them, and love them for who they are (not what they can do).
There are lots of ways we can meet the needs of our children without relying on material rewards. You are one of the most important people in your child’s life and they will seek you out as a primary source of support, comfort and companionship for many years to come. Whilst it is fine to give our children material treats that we can afford every now and then, the connection these things provide between you and your child is short-lived. Make sure you are putting most of your energy into establishing, reinforcing and enjoying your relationship with your child instead.
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