Five fun, easy tips for parents (and those who support parents) for growing positive relationships with their kidsPosted: 11/05/2021
One of the things that can really help build a parent’s confidence is when they proactively make changes that lead to a more harmonious and positive relationship with their child. As we all know, when we feel more confident, we feel more empowered and motivated to make more changes.
We asked our trainer, Alison Krusec, who has over thirty years’ experience working with children and families, for some tips for supporting parents to build their confidence, while also creating a more positive relationship with their children.
Here are her top five:
- Immerse yourself in their world
Imagine you are a 4 year old child looking up at the adult world. It is likely to feel quite tall and big and overwhelming. One very simple way to connect with children (as a worker, teacher or parent) is to plonk yourself down on the floor next to them. As much as possible, when you are talking to children, try and be at their eye level. This reduces the sense of ‘power over’ and of being ‘talked down to’.
And while you’re there, don’t forget to be playful! Follow the child’s lead. Ask lots of curious questions about what they are doing when they are playing, what is the scenario they are imagining, who are the ‘players’. By spending time trying to understand and being open to our child’s imaginative world, we are demonstrating that we value what they value. And by doing this, children are more likely to come to us with worries or concerns when they arise.
- Learn to reframe
It is really easy, when we are feeling tired or overwhelmed, to interpret the behaviour of children in a negative way. Learning to think about these things differently can not only help build parent/child connections, it can also reduce the stress parents may feel, as they are more likely to interpret situations through a more positive lens. It can be as simple as looking for the strengths in the behaviour being exhibited by the child.
For example, if a child is throwing a tantrum, we could reframe this as them exerting their will on the world and asking for what they need. In other words, they are strong, can stand up for themselves and are comfortable speaking their mind.
Or if a toddler is always pulling everything off shelves, perhaps instead of being angry and frustrated at the mess (which admittedly, can be challenging) perhaps we celebrate the fact that they are curious, resourceful, determined and have an explorative mind.
Does that mean we accept or ignore the behaviour? Not necessarily. But it may make it easier to acknowledge the child’s needs and help them find more constructive ways to meet those needs.
It can also help us become more responsive rather than reactive, which is good for the child, and for our own stress levels!
- Hold space for the big emotions
For children, big emotions are inevitable and they can feel scary, especially if the child doesn’t know how to manage them. For a parent watching a child in the throes of ‘big emotions’ (a wild tantrum in the supermarket or tears at the school gate) it can be difficult to know how to react.
Sometimes it is as simple as consciously acknowledging that big emotions are going to happen and encouraging parents to just hold the space. Staying calm and unreactive and just being there as a safe space for the child to work through the storm can help parents feel more in control and can also help calm the situation.
This can reduce stress, and sense of dread (if this is a common experience) and give them confidence they are doing no harm. It also sends the reassuring message to the child that they can trust the parent to be there for them through the good and the bad.
- Catch them being good
Think about a parent you know. How do they describe their child, when someone asks them how things are going? Do they list all the challenging stuff or do they talk about all the positive things the child is doing?
When people are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, chances are they will focus on what is not working rather than what is. The problem is that when we aren’t travelling so well, we tend to filter out the good stuff and only remember the hard things.
The good news is that we can retrain ourselves to focus on the good stuff! The even better news is that this is not only good for the child, but it can help the parent feel much more hopeful and positive too.
An easy way to encourage parents (or try this yourself) to focus on the good stuff is to keep a journal and note down every time they ‘catch’ their child doing something positive.
Once a parent gets in the swing of doing this, invite them to write down all the positive things they notice themselves doing as well. This can be a great way to help parents build confidence in their parenting abilities. It can also be a really positive document to reflect on later.
- Let them be brave.
Of course every parent wants to keep their children safe. But making mistakes is how we learn and grow. Failing is how we build resilience. Getting small injuries is how we learn the limits of our bodies (better to sprain your wrist falling off your bike as a child than crash your car taking a corner too fast as a young adult).
Allowing your children to take (calculated) risks and try new things is a powerful thing. It encourages them to get out of their comfort zone in other areas of their life too and teaches them that the anxiety they feel when they do something new is ok.
And let’s be honest, being brave is exhilarating. And empowering. And fun! As is watching your children thrive in the world because they are confident and engaged.
If you are supporting parents, one of the most powerful things you can do is to notice all the great things they are doing, and tell them. Even better, invite them to reflect on the positive things they are doing as parents, and encourage them to think about what they would like more of in their relationship with their child—fun and laughter, time outside, reading books together, cooking together, making things, whatever is meaningful to them—and support them to make those changes. The more they implement changes and the more they notice themselves doing this, the more their confidence will grow. And we know that a more confident, positive parent is likely to translate to a more confident, positive family.
What would your top tips be? What helps you feel more confident as a parent?
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