1. Look In Their Eyes
First thing in the morning, look into your child’s eyes. See the world and the twinkling of innocence. Hold his gaze and whisper affirmations, or even just a simple ‘I love you babe’. Follow his lead and cuddle, play, or whatever he wants, to start the day off with a solid connection between you.
2. One on One Time
Spend fifteen minutes a day with each child one on one. Make sure you leave room for chatting and sharing feelings and thoughts. Creative play is often the easiest way for this to happen. You don’t even have to leave the house. Whatever you do, be sure to spend the time focused solely on the child, and nothing else. No electronic distractions, no chores, no other people. It can be tough with more than one kid, but it can be done most days. While little ones nap, spend time with the older ones. While older ones amuse themselves, spend time with the little ones.
3. Get Down On the Floor
Connect on their level and physically get down to the floor to play legos, dollies, puzzles, or whatever they want. Even the simple act of my husband lying down on the floor brings giggles of delight as the 2 and 4 year olds proceed to crawl all over him and wrestle and play.
4. Fall Asleep Together
You may have a different sleep routine than us (we’re pretty attachment parent-ish), but there is just something so sacred about watching your little one’s eyes get heavy and flutter closed, breathing peacefully in the inimitable security that being in your arms or lying next to you provides. Even if you aren’t normally with your child while they fall asleep, let it happen every once in a while for the sheer magic of the moment. Plus – sleeping children are ridiculously adorable and heart-warming.
5. Let Them Do Grown-Up Things
Instead of always assuming they can’t do something, try letting them. Normally I keep my four-year-old away from sharp knives, but once in a while I’ll let him try cutting his own food (under close supervision, of course). He loves having tea because it’s a grown-up thing to do, he loves pressing the buttons on the debit machine when paying for things. When he wanted to move from the booster seat to a regular chair at the table we said yes, even though it was more messy. Letting your child know that you feel he is maturing and continually ready to try new things instills confidence and a healthy sense of pride, and will deepen his trust in you.
6. Pray Together
Pray together throughout the day about the things that concern your child. Be sure to also let him hear you pray for him. Don’t dumb it down – pray earnestly from the heart, modeling the way you want him to learn how to pray himself.
7. Ask For Your Child’s Help
My kids absolutely light up when I ask for their help with a task they enjoy, such as vacuuming, laundry, or anything in the kitchen. They will proudly dump ingredients, stir, or even just hold something for me in order to help me out. Helping doesn’t have to just be at home, either. It can anywhere, and is a great way to make a child feel needed and appreciated.
8. Accept Tough Emotions
Staying calm and loving through the ‘meltdown moments’ not only helps you be a better parent, it also teaches your child how to regulate and manage her own emotions. Empathize with the ‘negative’ emotions (I’m sorry you are so frustrated right now…etc), and be sure to allow your child to express anger, frustration, and sadness freely. Teach positive ways to express these emotions instead of rejecting them altogether (Don’t just bark at them to ‘stop crying’).
9. Talk Up, Not Down
Speak to your child as if he is intelligent. Answer questions simply, but don’t dumb down the information you give. Be aware of sparks of interest in things that your child may want to learn more about, and encourage it!
10. Assign Positive Intent
Whenever any undesirable behavior occurs, before you react, first stop and ask yourself if the child may have been acting from an unknown motivation and/or influence. Is the behavior fueled by an age-appropriate developmental stage? Is the behavior influenced by major life changes happening in the family, major milestones occurring, or simply fatigue or hunger? Maybe his emotional security levels are low or he’s having a bad day, and he just needs a hug. Try to give as much empathy and understanding as you desire when you don’t do the right thing.
11. Have Inside Jokes
We all have little special things that we do or say with our child to make them smile. Laughter is has an amazing ability to heal and bond a relationship. Share laughter together as often as possible.
12. Reconnect After Rough Moments
After I’ve spoken more harshly or unkindly than I should have or after we’ve had an intense time of discipling and teaching over some issue, I try to ensure that our connection is still strong and neither of us is holding on to any negativity. Apologies are made if necessary, and hugs, play, laughter, or even a simple squeeze does the trick.
13. Help Them Obey
If my child is having trouble obeying a command I’ve given (for whatever reason), I get up and help them. This is for things like me picking up the two-year-old, moving her hand to the blocks, gripping it with my hand on hers, and moving it to the bucket, or me physically moving the four-year-old toward the table if he won’t come on his own. It usually doesn’t take long before they are happily obeying on their own, and a nasty power struggle is avoided.
14. Say Yes
To painting even though it makes a mess, to eating watermelon in your underwear, to getting muddy after a downpour, and of course to splashing in puddles. Say yes to going to the park, to accepting help with chores even if you have to go back and re-do them. To reading the story ‘one more time’ even though you already said it was the last time. Say yes and smile and kiss that darling head again and again because you can.
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