Open the Door for Change
I had the opportunity to attend a conference focused on attachment relationships this weekend. One workshop reviewed how we encourage growth and change in other people. I realized how much this information applied to our parental role of promoting growth and maturity in our children. So, I wanted to share this process for opening the doors to change for our children. It is not a simple “3-step-plan” to reach 100% compliance from your children. In fact, maturing children do not always comply with their parents. However, this process will open the door for our children to grow and mature, sometimes in unexpected and surprising ways.
Opening the door for our children to change begins with looking at them. Yes, look at them…look at their appearance, their intellect, their humor, their world, their fears, their interests…. I know it sounds strange, but how often do we truly look at our children? I know I have had the experience of suddenly seeing my children and thinking, “Man, they are so grown up…when did that happen?” or hearing a comment come out of their mouth and thinking, “Wow, they are getting smart!” If we do not look at our children on a consistent basis, we will miss their growing maturity. We will think of them as that bright-eyed, adoring child we had so much fun with. So, take a look at your children. Notice how much they have grown. Recognize their interests and how those interests have changed and developed over time. Observe their changing friendships as well as their social interactions with peers in general, teachers, and other adults.
Make eye contact with your children as often as you can. Value them, and your relationship with them, enough to stop what you are doing and look into their eyes when they talk to you. Turn off the TV, put down the IPhone, forget about work, and focus on your interaction with your children. Watch for the sparkle of excitement in their eyes when they tell you about an exciting experience. Notice the tears of frustration that well up in their eyes when they talk about a fight with a friend. Recognize the fire in their eyes when they report an injustice done to a friend. Give them the gift of being valued enough to have your total attention…and eye to eye contact.
Finally, make sure your responses and interactions with your children remain contingent on their need. If they come to you looking for someone to listen, listen rather than teach. If they want to joke around, joke around rather than expounding on the virtues of taking life seriously. When they express sorrow, anger, or fear, accept their emotion. Respond to their emotion rather than trying to talk them out of it or minimize it. In other words, remain aware of their emotions, needs, and desires so you can respond sensitively to your children.
When parents practice these skills and make them their habits, they will develop a stronger alliance with their children. Their relationship with their children will becomes stronger and more intimate. Trust will grow. Children will feel more secure. And, experiencing a trusting, secure relationship will empowers your children to grow. Knowing they have a secure relationship with their parent will open the door for them to explore options, make wise choices, and learn from their experiences. But, it all begins with establishing that trusting, secure relationship built by looking at our children, making good eye contact when they interact with us, and intentionally responding to their needs, not our own.