When you build strong, secure relationships with your children, you promote world peace. Does that sound like an overstatement? Well, consider Mikulincer’s research. Mikulincer asked 120 undergraduate Israeli Jews to give both an Israeli Jew and an Israeli Arab a sample of hot sauce. He used these two groups because “research has shown that [these two groups] tend to react to each other with prejudice, hostility, and overt aggression” (you know this by watching the news). Before the undergraduates set apart a sample amount of hot sauce to give an Israeli and an Arab, half were subliminally primed with the name of a person with whom they have a secure attachment (a strong, loving, life-enhancing relationship). The other half of the group was not. The results: the Israeli Jews who were not primed with the name of a person they have a secure relationship with were more likely to give larger amounts of hot sauce to the Israeli Arab than to the fellow Israeli Jew. Those primed with the name of person they have a secure relationship with gave equal amounts to each and kept the amounts relatively small. The participants showed more tolerance and even compassion after being primed with a secure relationship. They held to more harmonious values, even when engaging a group of people with whom they have long-standing conflict.
Obviously, relationships are powerful. Family relationships (our primary attachment relationships) are even more powerful. They impact more than our immediate family. When children leave the nest, their family relationship goes with them. It impacts how they view and respond to other people. Do you want to raise children who exhibit tolerance toward other people? Do you want your children to act compassionately toward others? It begins you’re your relationship to them. The more secure your relationship with your children, the more likely they will exhibit tolerance and compassion toward others. To build a secure relationship with your children:
- Prioritize spending time with your children.
- Verbally express how much you love your children. Tell them you love them. Acknowledge their work. Recognize their efforts. Encourage them. Validate them. Each of these verbally expresses love.
- Practice healthy, loving touch with your children. Give them a kiss good-bye or good-night. Put an arm around their shoulder. Slap a high five. Even the NBA (link) has found that appropriate touch increases trust and security.
- Offer age appropriate limits, boundaries, and consequences. Yes, discipline is an essential part of a secure relationship. No need to become harsh. Simply make the limits known and understood. Then, as calmly as possible, enforce the consequences of breaking those limits and boundaries.
These four tips will go a long way in helping you develop a secure relationship with your children. By developing that secure relationship, you will raise more tolerant and compassionate children. You will be doing your part to promote world peace in your own corner of the world!