How To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child: 10 Fatherhood Tips
Fathers (and mothers, too) yearn for those precious moments with their children that make their hearts melt because connection is just as important to fathers as it is to their children. In fatherhood, we are willing to make any sacrifice, and our “why” we go to the lengths we go for our family is further strengthened as we build our emotional connection with our child. And this emotional connection with our child is what gives them confidence as they navigate life in their formative years, knowing that you have their back. Read on to learn how to strengthen your relationship with your child: 10 fatherhood tips.
Children are more likely to follow dad’s instructions if they feel connected to them. The prefrontal cortex, which controls reasoning, is still developing in children, so their emotions may occasionally overwhelm them. These emotions when expressed can be a challenge for a dad, or anyone for that matter, to respond to. However, when our child trusts us to be on their side and understand them, they are more likely to follow our lead.
It’s important to remember that healthy relationships require five positive exchanges for every negative one. Since we spend so much time admonishing, correcting, chiding, rebuking, or displaying aggravation, we should strive to achieve an equal amount of positive connection.
We are indeed only human. Some days it is truly heroic just to feed our children, wash them, keep a positive tone, and get them to sleep at a reasonable hour—so we can do it all again tomorrow!
There is no denying that being a parent is the most arduous occupation on the planet. We are typically separated all day and then spend our free time as fathers, so we must establish daily connections with our children. These ten habits don’t consume time, but rather enhance our bonds with our children. Building a connection with our children every day is crucial. The following habits are easy but very powerful, and they help restore the breaches in our relationships that daily life causes. You’ll find that using them every day makes a huge difference.
1. Aim to have 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day.
Virginia Satir, noted family therapist, famously declared that we require four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth.
Hold your child close in the early morning and last thing at night or whenever you can. Tousle hair, pat backs, and rub shoulders, for example. Make eye contact, smile and provide a gentle touch. If you notice your teen rebuffing your affection as she enters the house, don’t worry. Just give her a drink and rub her feet as you talk. It is a foolproof way to find out about her day and feel good about it as well.
2. Play and have fun.
Having a daily laugh helps your child laugh off his anxieties and setbacks by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin. Rough-housing and giggling maintain your connection with your child by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin in both of you. Which approach will prove to be more effective?
“Eat your dinner right now!”
“Hey, little monkey, it’s time for dinner. Look at those tasty bugs and yummy bananas on your plate!”
Just keep the mood light and fun, and be creative. Your child will respond in kind.
3. Disconnect from technology to connect with your child.
Your child will remember for the rest of her life that she was important enough to her parents that they turned off their phone to listen to her. Even turning off music in the car can be a powerful invitation to connect, because the lack of eye contact in a car removes the pressure, making people (and children) more likely to open up and share.
4. Prior to a transition, connect.
Children have difficulty switching from one thing to another. We must ‘co-regulate’ with them as they transition from a past activity to a future one. If you connect with him, use his name, look him in the eye, and make him laugh, you will provide him with a link to manage himself as he prepares to bridge one situation to another.
5. Prioritize quality one-on-one time.
Every day, spend 15 minutes alone with each child, alternating what you want with what your child wants. On her days, pour all your love into her as she leads the way; on your days, avoid structuring time with activities. Instead, attempt any physical activity or game that makes her laugh.
6. Emotions are welcomed.
Although children express tons of emotions, it can be unnerving to the parent as they do so. You must be receptive to your child’s emotions and acknowledge them, otherwise your reaction will negatively drive their behavior. Perhaps this is an opportunity to assist your child in overcoming these issues. You should not get provoked by his anger, and you should accept the tears and fears that are normally hidden behind it. (Read: Our Kids Need Love, Grace & Mercy When They Mess Up.) You are the individual your child is comfortable crying in front of. To assist your child, let him know he can cry with you and breathe through it. Additionally, he will feel more at ease, cooperative, and close to you when he’s permitted and comfortable expressing his emotions in this way. You must stay calm and patient when your child is angry (a naturally first emotional reaction) so that vulnerable emotions can appear after the shock of anger. It can be difficult to regulate our feelings in the face of our child’s outrage. It is one of the hardest parts of parenting. Although we are not excused from giving it our best shot, regulating our emotions while dealing with our children’s anger is one of the hardest parts of parenting. You as the dad must look past this anger and try to empathize with your child and where they are coming from. These raw emotions are new life-experiences at their early age.
7. Pay attention and show empathy.
To begin a connection, you must first listen. You must first listen, and bite your tongue if you need to. But listen you must. Don’t listen to respond. Listen to understand.
“What was so great about…?… How did that make you feel?… Would you mind telling me more?…”
Seeing things from your child’s perspective will help you respect each other and lead to parent and child seeking win/win solutions. It will also enable you to understand why your child behaves the way they do, even if it drives you crazy. By doing so, you will be able to regulate your own emotions, so that when your buttons are pushed and you feel like you are about to into ‘fight or flight’ mode, your child does not seem like such a foe.
8. Just slow down and enjoy the moment.
Rather than rushing through your child’s day so you can spend a little time with them before bed, use every interaction as an opportunity to bond. You can slow down and spend time with your child by letting him look at the hammer or screwdriver before you put them to use on the project you’re working on. When you’re washing your child’s hands, put your hands in the running water with him and share the rush of the water together. You can also smell his hair, listen to his laughter, and look into his eyes as you meet him heart to heart and share your big love. Now is the time to connect. This is the only way we can connect. This is also the secret to tolerating the same thing day after day, and will change the mundane routine into one of abundant opportunity to connect with your child.
9. End the day with a snuggle and a chat.
You can ensure a cozy, comforting moment by setting your child’s bedtime a little earlier so that you can sit and cuddle in the dark. If your child is struggling with something, it will come to the surface during your companionable, safe moments of connection, whether it’s something that happened at school, your harsh reaction to her this morning, or her concerns about tomorrow’s field trip. You don’t need to solve her problem immediately. Simply listen and acknowledge her feelings. Reassure your child that you understand her concern and that you will work together to solve it. Make sure to follow up the next day to deepen your bond. You’ll be astounded at the results. Don’t give up this habit as your child grows older. Late nights are often the only times teenagers feel comfortable discussing things.
10. Be there.
There are only about 900 weeks of childhood left before your child leaves your home. You’ll miss out on it before you know it. Make it a habit to be present 100% when you’re with your child. Make everything else go away, and stay right here and right now. You won’t be able to do this all the time, but if you do it several times a day, you will find yourself becoming more present more often.
If you apply these 10 coaching tips to your parenting repertoire, you will find many more moments that make your heart melt as you and your child connect on a deeper level.