Just this last week I went to a public event at school and my daughter gave me a big hug. One of the school’s administrators saw this and commented that he would give money for his daughter to do this with him in high school and that this may not happen. Public display of affection is just not all that cool when you are in school – definitely not for high school folks.
I commend my daughter for not caring enough about her peer’s opinions. Yet great relationships with your kids do not come easy and they are not the norm (perhaps they have never been the norm?). Once the teenage years come around hormones set in, parents are no longer cool. It will not take much longer and they are out of the house and they want to spend less and less time with you.
Some of this is totally natural. You need to provide the solid roots for them to have a good footing in life. On the other hand, you also should want to let them grow wings such that they can fly away eventually. Finding yourself in today’s world is tough and I am glad that I do not have to do that again.
You hope that you have a solid relationship with them that they feel they can come back anytime – eventually. They should of course not feel like that they are being shamed into seeing you regularly. Wouldn’t it feel great if they felt compelled to ask you for advice later in life?
You put the odds in your favor by always maintaining a great relationship. There are some really quick and simple ways how to initiate for this to happen.
- Start early. Children are like batteries – you charge them up early in life and they will not run out of power for quite some time. Make sure to teach them great habits from the day they are born. Some say it starts as early as when babies are still in the womb. I have seen this so many times that parents imposing rules when children are 3 to 4 years old. Guess what: the train has left the station.
- See the world through their eyes. Literally and figuratively get down to their level. See the world through their eyes.
- Spend time not money: The best and most expensive baubles, trinkets, clothes, shows, etc never make for long term sustainable relationships. They get to know whom they can pump for the money and what they need to do or say in order to get it. All it takes is to ask them what they want to do. Be amazed how little it takes for them to be totally happy spending time with you.
- Instill intrinsic motivation. Punishment and rewards for tasks performed do not work well when they leave the house. I call it the sugar and whip routine. Intrinsic motivation comes from within your child; it cannot be forced from the external world. Your short ones look for your approval, and genuine appreciation. Share with them – often – why you are happy about what they do and who they are.
- Let them fail. Hover over them all you want, ultimately you will not be around forever. Let them fail, otherwise they will not know what to do when you are not around to save them. Easier said then done, I know. It is heartbreaking to watch too. It is the circle of life. Suck it up, or get used to the idea of the mental picture of you becoming the crutches that hold up your kids.
- Do not be too critical. Yell often and you will no longer be afforded the truth. Period. If you are berating them for every little bit, then what is the point for telling the truth anyway? They would get yelled at either way. Telling you a half-truth is their way to get yelled at less. Pick your battles wisely.
- Provide responsibility with With any responsibility there is always also authority. Be prepared to get inundated with the question “what do you want me to do now?, if you only provide rules, but no wiggle room for how your little critters will make it happen.
- Foster spirituality. Be a role model here. In the evening say a prayer with them appreciating the great things that happened. Reflect on the lessons learned. Pray for people in need. In the event you can coax them out of bed early enough, say a prayer with them in the morning. Appreciate what you have and be thankful for it. When they are ready, ask what God means to them (prepare for shedding tears of laughter and deep emotions).
Life is tricky a friend recently shared with me. She is definitely correct about the relationship part with your kids. Good news is that you have it in your hand as to what kind of a relationship you will have. Choose wisely.