If you are like most busy parents, you might feel like you are just moving through the schedule every day. You get up, get everyone out the door, come home, dinner, bath, bed. Rinse and repeat. What happened to the fun? And the nagging! Yuck.
Do you want to make parenting easier and more fun?
The answer is to increase your connection. I have 5 strategies for you that are all quick and actionable and will give you HUGE returns.
Connection makes parenting more joyful: I know how busy you are and how sometimes family life can feel like a drudgerous slog through the schedule. We had children because we wanted to experience the more love they can bring to our lives. Use these strategies and increase the joy!
Connection makes parenting easier: A connected child is a child who wants to cooperate. When we feel connected to someone, we care what that person thinks. We want to show up as our best selves for them.
If you want to bring back the joy and make parenting easier, try these strategies. Choose one or two and put them in place for a few days or a week and see what happens.
Delight in Your Child
Delight in your child. What does this mean?
Years ago, the late Toni Morrison was on the Oprah show. (via Brene Brown) She perfectly explained the big idea I want you to embrace.
Ms. Morrison explained that it’s interesting to watch what happens when a child walks into the room. She asked, ‘Does your face light up?’
She explained, ‘When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed, or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?’ Instead, she said, ‘Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room, my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?’”
Take a moment to delight in your child several times a day as you are all moving through the schedule.
When you see your child first thing in the morning, when you pick them up after school, when they come in the room, when they come to dinner- WHENEVER- look them in the eye and give them a smile.
You can say, “I’m glad to see you.” Or, “I love you.” Or, “I’m so lucky you’re my kid.”
Or, say nothing and just smile!
Delight in your child!
Laughter is a wonderful connection tool! When we laugh with someone, we create connection and we increase cooperation.
Get laughing for 5 minutes a day. Put it on your calendar!
Benefits of laughter:
• helps ease anxiety by clearing the body of cortisol and adrenaline
• reduces symptoms of stress by clearing the body of cortisol and adrenaline
• provides emotional release (You could laugh or you could cry!)
• body makes oxytocin, which promotes bonding and connection
• body makes endorphins, natural pain-killers and feel good chemicals
• shifts a grumpy mood
• can boost your immune system
Get your child laughing to:
• prevent the after school meltdown
• increase cooperation through increased connection
• increase cooperation through engaging in play to get win/win solutions
• get out of a power struggle
• have fun!
Prescription: get laughing for 5 minutes a day. Double the dose as needed!
A note on tickling: I don’t recommend it. Tickling can make children feel powerless and out of control, even as they laugh. Tickling laughter doesn’t result in the same release as funny laughter. If your child asks for tickling, tickle them a few inches away from her body without touching. Even funnier!
12 Hugs a Day
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” – Virginia Satir, American psychologist
Get and give 12 hugs a day!
Hugs are good for us physiologically. They raise our oxytocin and serotonin levels. They are also good for us emotionally. They make us feel loved.
Get and give as many hugs as possible. 12 might be your ‘reach’ goal. If that seems like a lot you can just work on more than yesterday! We have to remember to make time for physical connection. With our busy schedules, it’s easy to forget to stop and connect.
Tell your kids that we all need 12 hugs a day! They love to keep count.
Pro tip: Don’t let go first.
Grow the Positive
To increase connection, increase the positive interactions between you and your child.
The experts at the Gottman Love Lab, a Seattle-based research institute focussed on relationships, say we need to have 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction to keep our relationships on an even keel.
A positive interaction could be as small as a smile, a negative interaction could be as small as an exasperated sigh.
There is a great article here that really goes into detail about this if you are interested.
Try to notice how many connection-boosting positive interactions you have each day compared to negative interactions each day. We are trying for 5:1!
What is Special Time?
It is 1×1 time with your child, no distractions, no siblings, immersed in their world of play. “It’s,” as my daughter says, “how you know they love you.”
You don’t have to leave the house and you don’t have to spend money.
Tell your child, “I’m all yours for the next X minutes. What would you like to do?”
Special Time is unstructured. It’s not baking, or reading books, or playing board games.
Special Time is child-led. Your child chooses what to play. Lego, dollies, imaginary super-heroes or Paw Patrol.
No screens during Special Time!
Call it by your child’s name– “Maya Time” or “Mama and Davey Time”
Be present. Put away your phone, file away the to-do list. Really try to focus on your child and pour all your love and attention into them.
Set a timer. It can be hard for us to play for for very long without getting distracted. Our play muscles are rusty. You can do anything for 15 (or however long) minutes.
In an ideal world, Special Time is a daily occurrence. Set this as your intention even if you can’t make it happen every day. You’ll make it happen more often than if you try for, say, 3x/week
If you really can’t make it work during the week because of your schedule, don’t worry! Do it on the weekend. If you can only do it on the weekend, maybe you can do it for longer.
I know that sometimes the other child won’t leave you alone and your partner isn’t around for back up. Or maybe you don’t have a partner. If that’s the case and your children are too young to leave you undisturbed, see if you can get a hand on the weekend. Just do the best you can!
The strategies in this post start dead simple and get a little more challenging. Do what you can!
Baby steps. Choose one and really focus on it for the day or the week. Screen shot one of the images and put it on your phone for an easy reminder!
You’ve got this! Let us know how it goes in the Facebook group.
Want some more support?
Book a free short consult with me.
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Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and parenting advice columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 12, 15, and 19). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Enjoy your kids again! Find her at sarahrosensweet.com