Be the Dad 18. Be the Strongly Connected Dad
Strong connections, formed through doing life together with your family make parenting easier and more enjoyable.
You can have an amazing relationship with your kids by prioritising and forming great connections. When you can understand, relate and express love for each other through your daily interactions your parenting will be much easier and more enjoyable.
Why you want to have a great connection
When there is connection there is harmony. When people feel understood and cared for, there will be greater peace in your house. Your day to day life will be much more enjoyable and you will look forward to seeing your family. As you maintain connection, even if your child is going through a tough season, you will still be close and able to help. When you have a great connection, your kids are more likely to do what you ask because they trust that you have the best for them, feel loved and want to show this love back to you.
Great connection is like creating a Bungee jumping rope, every time you connect with your kids through experiences and interactions, you add another small strand of elastic to your rope.
With every new connection moment the rope grows thicker and has more strands and eventually you have a thick rope of great connection. As your kids grow up and start becoming their own people, the strong bungee rope of connection will mean that your relationship will stand up to the tests and pressures of life and you’ll both keep returning springing back to each other.
Having a great connection is easier parenting
Forming strong connections with your kids makes parenting much more effective, the words that you speak will have more weight, your requests more likely to be answered and your life much more enjoyable. You won’t need to guess what’s going on in their lives, you are more likely to see and perceive through the relationship that you have.
The kid who was hard to connect with Part 1 -
One of our children was a real challenge to maintain good connections with. We just were not on the same page as them and when they had done something wrong, they would make it worse by reacting poorly to us trying to parent through the situation.
This kid, when it was time to be tucked in would often grunt and resist the cuddle and kiss. The natural response for us parents was to be disappointed and frustrated and withdraw, which would weaken our connection and makes matters worse. It was like they were testing us, do you still love me even when I act like this?
Parenting them was not fun, they were not having fun and there was no connection.
So what did we do?
What is connection in a relationship?
It's relating and interacting with your kids where your heart is open to them and their heart is open to you. Its having shared trust and understanding each other. Its like two people with arms open to one another moving toward one another.
The kid who was hard to connect with Part 2 -
Fighting the disappointment and urge to disconnect when hurt, we steeled ourselves and decided, we will build strong connections, even if we don’t see any benefit in the short or medium term. We reasoned that loving this child and rebuilding trust and friendship had to work better than living in this cycle of disappointment and frustration.
So we started a determined love connection campaign with belief statements about the child; ‘you are kind, smart, what a great helper.’ We would give them a cuddle and kiss and if they resisted we would say ‘that's ok’ and not force them. At other non tense times, we would say “in our family we say ‘Hi’ to each other” and give a hug, establishing our behavioural standards.
We looked at what they did well and encouraged them with incentives to keep going. We tapped into what made this kid laugh and joked in this way, looked and worked at their love languages and we spent more time on activities that they loved.
Slowly the connection was being rebuilt and even though there were times of disappointment, we just kept focusing on connection. We are still on this journey but our relationship, connection and life is much better and we are enjoying parenting them.
How do you know if you have a good connection?
Ask yourself these questions and yes and no’s will help you define the quality of connection in your relationship:
Do you look forward to spending time with this child?
Do your kids come to you when there is a problem?
Can your kids express themselves to you?
Do your kids listen to what you say?
Do you know what is going on in your kids lives?
Are you sharing the good times and the bad?
Are you enjoying your interactions with them?
How to build strong connections:
Asking questions and having discussion about what is going on in their world. Listening and understanding is the primary goal before problem solving. Recognizing and acknowledging their feelings - ‘wow that must have been hard when…’
Hugging, smiling at each other, high fives. Click here for other great ways to connect Physically. (hlaf way down)
What do they love doing? Find the activities that they love that you can do together. Art, play, sport, hobbies, the outdoors, reading…Click here for great ideas of what to do together (half way down)
Working to their love languages:
Find out what their two primary love languages are and input into their life in this way
Trust and confidence:
When you speak powerful statements, like ‘you are a smart kid, i think that you make great decisions’, this communicates trust and confidence in their character.
Ask where you can help?
It may be cleaning their room (together), giving them a ride to their friends (with a smart phone free drive), helping with homework.
When you focus on connection as the goal, life suddenly is full of opportunities to do this.
Compliment and encourage specifically:
Hey you did a really great job on that piece of art, I love the shading and colours that you have used there.
Answer their life questions well
At the right time, ie tea time, when someone asks, ‘Dad, how was your day?’. Stop what you are doing, make eye contact and give them at least a couple of sentences on what happened and be prepared for more questions. Answering questions well, helps the asker feel valued and that their question was important.
Make time for connection
Turn off the distractions, TV, smartphone and computers that we can easily spend time connected with over our families.
Forgive and ask for forgiveness
When something has gone wrong, move past being offended and disappointed, forgive and ask for forgiveness, debrief the situation, with them or your partner, so that you learn from it and move on.
How good connection is broken:
Not spending enough time together. Connection relies on time although if you have to be away you can be really smart at maintaining connection over distance.
Being offended or disappointed at a family member will cause you to withdraw, forgiveness is essential to moving past this
Stopping giving into their love languages
Changing your priorities of what is important in life away from connection. This usually goes from being family focused to ‘me’ focused.
Not balancing your discipline with connection, you want to make as many good times as possible. Discipline should be a much smaller % of time than connection
Jumping to wrong conclusions, it's always worth asking ‘what happened?’, nobody likes being accused
Thinking the worst of the child. This is up to you to spot their potential, all of the good that is in them and remind yourself of this daily
Practical: Connection questionnaire to create a connection plan:
What do my kids love doing:
What are their love languages:
What can I ask them about their day to day lives:
What can we do together that we both enjoy:
What is the number one thing that is preventing connection between us?
What is the last great thing that I did that caused a good connection to happen:
What do I believe about this child? Am I telling them that?
So Dad’s, go for it, build strong connections, building this strong rope of relationship will create a happy family that is built to last.