As parents we want what's best for our children, but we're still human. Our own weaknesses and challenges often surface while interacting with our kids, giving us the chance to either improve or hurt the relationship we have with our children. Are you aware of what you might be doing subconsciously to hurt the relationship you have with your child?
Take some time to step back and see if any of these apply to you:
Criticism includes labeling your child and continually pointing out what they are doing wrong. Receiving constant criticism not only leads children to believe they are disappointing their parents, but the criticizing voice can become internalized. Your constant criticism can allow your children to think negatively of themselves even when you're not around. Although it is important to give your child feedback on behaviors they should change, don't let criticism replace teaching. If specific behavioral correction is needed, teach them what they should do instead after giving the feedback. Children learn better through praise than through criticism.
Instead of using criticism, focus on maintaining a 4:1 ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback to encourage your child to participate in more positive behaviors. In turn they will learn a healthy level of positive self-talk and how to overcome negative behaviors.
Consistently prioritizing other activities before your child
Consistently prioritizing other activities before your child teaches them that they are less important than your other obligations. Of course there will be times when housework, a project or an errand needs to be done immediately and playtime needs to be put on hold, but if you find you are continually telling your child "Hold on minute while I (insert)", "Let me do (insert) first", this will negatively affect the relationship.
With the many distractions we have in our world and the constant demands on our time, it's easy for time with your child to be replaced by your phone, a TV show or a social media feed. A good way to prioritize quality time with your child is to establish daily one-on-one routines, such as eating dinner together without electronics or spending time each day doing an activity your child chooses.
When you have a lot on your mind and your child is talking about a subject you don't know much about or don't have an interest in, pretend listening is an easy, but wrong, choice. Show interest in what your child is saying, no matter how insignificant the topic may seem. If you can't give your full attention at that time, explain this to your child and ask if they can wait until you can pay better attention. It's better to have them talk to you another time than to pretend to listen. As you spend more time fully listening to your child, you'll be able to bring up these topics to discuss in future conversations.
Showing interest and discussing topics your child is interested in is a great way to build a relationship with them. Everyone loves talking with someone who genuinely cares about their interests. This habit will help your child feel comfortable establishing a pattern of communication with you.
Inappropriately dealing with anger
Yelling, throwing objects, name-calling and threats not only teach your child bad responses to dealing with anger (which they often mimic) but it also damages your relationship. It leads to a fear-based foundation rather than a relationship build on love. There will be times when we act inappropriately while angry with our child. When this happens, apologize to your child and be open about what you did wrong and how you should have acted. Although you cannot fully undo how you have acted, hurt feeling can be repaired and you can give a positive example of how to deal with conflict. To prevent these situations from recurring, practice techniques (such as deep breathing or taking a time out) to help calm yourself down.
Most importantly, don't become discouraged and give up on trying to improve your own behavior. We all make mistakes as individuals....especially as parents. Luckily, we have hundreds of opportunities to practice positive interactions with our children. With sincere effort you will be able to build a strong relationship with your child.
This article was originally published on Smarter Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.