Bringing up a child is no laughing matter, especially in these times. Be it your own child or someone in your classroom, building a relationship with them is an incomparable achievement. It speaks of such deep trust and acceptance that it is humbling. The stress of the modern lifestyle and pressures is bringing changes in the family dynamics which has altered our relationships with not just the children but with all who are a part of our world.
Where Do We Fail (if we’re failing)?
All relationships, irrespective of with whom, result from patience, trust, honesty and commitment. It’s not like junk food but a meal prepared with love and thought. I feel this comparison hits the spot bang on, don’t you? And when it comes to children, add some creativity and spontaneity and voila! we have something special and unique. But this is exactly where we fail. Brought up with a pre-determined set of practices and experiences, most of us are not open to being experimental.
A relationship is not something which can be built over a weekend. Or when it’s convenient for us. As parents or teachers, our objective must be to learn from our mistakes. So instead of repeating the same, we must be willing to try some new ideas or methods. It’s a continuous process. But fret not, it’s never too late to start unlearning.
What Can We Do
Building anything is a gradual process. It needs time, love, attention and nurturing. Let’s learn from each other. There’s no doubt we love these little minxes who run our lives. But love should not be confused with a lack of discipline or values or giving them a free run to do what they want. Dealing with children needs us to walk a tightrope. A parent is both a teacher and a friend. We have to teach them right from wrong, yet be there when they are testing their limits. From my experience as both a parent and a teacher, speaking to the parents of other kids, I feel these are the best 10 tips for building a strong and lasting relationship with your child.
Tip 1: Engage in activities with them; play with them
If there’s something all kids want, it is the undivided attention of the parent. Make sure to make some time during the day to spend with them. Make a paper boat together, bake a cake or prepare a salad, play board games, read a book together. The possibilities are innumerable. Pick whatever you are comfortable with and do it at least once a week. Let them know how important they are to you. Ask them to read out a story. Believe me, it can go on for hours with so many interesting interventions!
Tip 2: Talk to them about non-school-related subjects; don’t speak, just listen to them
Having an open conversation is very important for building a relationship with your child. We usually tend to concentrate only on academics or after-school activities when talking to the kids, outlining our expectations, or setting new benchmarks. That’s not talking to them; it’s you talking and they listening. Instead, let them speak about anything – maybe something as random as what they did at school, or in the park or what they are watching on the TV or why they like it. They love the chance to be able to talk to you without restrictions. Talking to kids makes them feel important. It’s a way of showing them that what they have to say matters to you.
Tip 3: Tell hilarious (and even embarrassing) stories
I know we are parents, and we have to appear in control. But try letting down your guard occasionally. Tell them stories about your childhood, say about your playtime or your vacations or maybe even about your school (I’m sure that’ll raise a few eyebrows!). If this doesn’t make you relatable then nothing can. Kids enjoy the feeling of knowing that their parents too were kids once and they too had their experiences. It may even turn out to be a positive motivation for them and teach them (albeit indirectly) about what you’ve been trying to teach them with not-so-encouraging results. So go on, open up, borrow stories from your friends and narrate them to make a fun conversation starter.
Tip 4: Share inspirational stories from your life
I’m sure we all had role models as kids. Maybe our parents or teachers or someone else. Why were they your role models? Think about it. See if you can find someone like that for your kids to look up to. Or better still ask them who their role model is and why. They would love to tell you about it. This gives you a chance to understand what your child is looking at and how it inspires him or her. It helps build a better understanding of the thoughts of your child that he or she hasn’t been able to express or articulate. Also, you can be the guide then in case you feel you need to. Best way to teach, and learn, about real life.
Tip 5: Remember things about their lives
I personally love doing this. Kids want to know stories from their early years. They will never say no to a story about how they behaved as little babies, their first day at school, their play dates, their experiences at learning to ride a bike or swim or skate, or anything else that you can whip up. It’s fun, and believe me, we as parents enjoy it more now than when we were going through it! This is perfect for them to understand the process of growing up. If they had thrown a tantrum then, they will be able to see the mistake in their ways now and maybe even be able to work on it. Behavioural issues could be dealt with by showing them the error in their ways but in a more amiable and less condescending manner.
Tip 6: Do crazy things
Just let go and join them in some ‘childish’ activity. Going down the slide or sitting on the seesaw or dancing with abandon at some latest songs, playing in the rain, splashing over the puddles, or climbing trees. I mean there are so many things for you to try out along with your child, depending on what both of you are comfortable with. Yes, as parents our mind shifts gears, and we get into the organising or controlling mode but try not to do that. Go with the flow. One of the spur of the moment things we did was having popcorn sitting in the balcony with the rains lashing while holding on to the umbrella with the other hand. Believe me, it was crazy. There was more popcorn on the floor than what made it into our mouths, but it was fun with all of us laughing and balancing our umbrellas and bowls. The kids still remember it and laugh about the stupidity of it but it’s a wonderful memory none of us is going to forget ever.
Tip 7: Use their interest in your lessons and activities
Studies can be made fun when one can mix the interests of the children into academics. I used to use a lot of colours when teaching my elder one as she liked colours. So, everything was colour-coded – from additions to punctuations to diagrams, and it worked just fine. Sometimes I would use examples of superheroes to explain things in the classroom. Captain America and Iron man were the hot favourites with Spiderman coming in a close second. Kids always remember better with such visual aids. Throw in some stories in between. My personal favourites are stories from mythologies as most of the kids were not familiar with them. And if minor digressions like story telling makes the job easier then why not?
Tip 8: Let them teach you about their interests
Sometimes it’s better to be a student than a teacher. Ask your child to explain the game they are playing or the board game you want to play with them. Now sit back and enjoy the fun. They love being in charge and the explanations never end, the rules keep changing with every turn, and the game keeps evolving. Not only does their creativity come out in full force, so do their management skills! Or ask your child why they like to do something. This enables them to articulate their thoughts and learn how to express themselves. The only thing needed from our end is not to jump in and judge them or we close the door for any relationship to build with the child.
Tip 9: No gadgets rule
Oh my god! Am I suggesting the impossible both for the parents and the children? It’s not uncommon to hear parents complaining that their kids are forever hooked to gadgets. The stay-at-home scenario because of the pandemic has aggravated this problem to unimaginable proportions. Everyone seems to be living from one update to another. We’re dealing with a pandemic of another sort here. Now is the best time to set some ground rules at home to improve social interactions and communications.
Have fixed no gadgets time. Like during dinner time. You need crockery and cutlery to eat, not your phone. So, keep it away. And the rules apply to all including the parents. Even when you’re out at a restaurant together or at a social event, restrict the use of the phone. What’s the point of knowing about the rest of the world if you don’t know what’s happening at home? Speak to the kids at the dinner table, ask them about their day, and tell them about yours. Believe me, once the conversations begin, it makes dinner time more enjoyable. (Psst, added benefit is you get to know about their lives and friends even without trying to!!)
Tip 10: Apologise when you mess up.
We are always telling them what to do, how to do something, and when. If it doesn’t match our standards or if they mess it up, they are expected to say sorry. Right? Well, in a family the rules apply to all. YES. So, the next time you do something wrong or mess up something, it would set the correct example if you apologised. Believe me, the child would love to see the parents owning up because they become as human as them and not some unreachable heroes. Also, the children learn better when they see it happening. You are not setting unreasonable or unattainable benchmarks for them to achieve but things you practice yourself. They’ll respect you for that. It’s all doable.
Nothing comes easy in life. If we want to have a healthy, well-rounded relationship with our children, then we need to start off at the earliest. It’s not something that will happen overnight or when they are in their teens. It has to begin when they are young, when they need you the most. A child from a solid home is an asset to society. A confident, secure and happy child today creates a positive environment tomorrow as they grow up.
Disclaimer: Have listed some things for you to start the bonding process with the kids. If you buy using these affiliate links, I get a small commission at no extra expense to you.