We all crave those close moments with our children that make our hearts melt. Connection is as essential to us parents as it is to our children, because that's what makes parenting worth all the sacrifices. That connection is also the reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents want to cooperate, if they can.
Due to the demands of life, the only way to keep a strong bond with our children is to practice daily habits of connection. Here are five habits that don't add time to your day, but will build connection with your child. You may find that using them daily will change everything.
1. Aim for 12 hugs (or physical connections) every day
Family therapist Virginia Satir once said, "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." Snuggle your child first thing in the morning for a few minutes, and last thing at night. Hug when you say goodbye, when you're re-united, and often in between.
Laughter and rough-housing keep you connected with your child by stimulating endorphins and oxytocin in both of you. Making laughter a daily habit also gives your child a chance to laugh out the anxieties and upsets that otherwise make him feel disconnected—and more likely to act out. And play helps kids want to cooperate.
3. Turn off technology
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 takes the pressure off, so kids (and adults) are more likely to open up and share.
4. Connect before transitions
Kids have a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. They need us to “co-regulate” them through those moments when they really don't want to give up what they're doing to move onto something we want them to do. If you look him in the eye, use his name, connect with him, and then get him giggling, you'll give him a bridge to manage himself through a tough transition.
5. Listen, and empathize
Connection starts with listening. Bite your tongue if you need to, except to say, "Wow!....I see....Really?...How was that for you?...Tell me more..." The habit of seeing things from your child's perspective will ensure that you treat her with respect and look for win/win solutions.