“Stop it.” “Quit.” “Don’t.” “Put that down.” These emotional outbursts of instruction are often futile fuel for the ways we go about parenting our children, but such tactics are short-sighted and isolated from the necessary issues of connectivity, trust and safety.
Parents often want their children to change behavior. Anyone who’s been a parent for more than 20 minutes undoubtedly feels this way. But focusing on desired behavior changes will never lead to change unless a child feels connected to his parent. In order for a child to feel connected to his parent, he must trust the parent. Trust will not exist apart from a child’s feeling of safety. For a child, safety leads to trust, which leads to connectivity, and connectivity between parent and child eventually shows itself in the child’s behavioral change. A child’s behavior comes from a place of connectivity with parents, trust of parents and the feeling of safety with parents.
Poor academic performance may be evidence of a lack of parental connectivity. Acting up at school may be evidence of a lack of parental connectivity. Other concerns about a child may be a matter of connectivity with parents.
Our kids don’t need us every single moment of every day, but when they do need us, they really need us. They need us to be all there. It’s very possible to be in the room with my children and not be there. I may be physically present in the den with my kids, but if I’m checking my phone the whole time, I might as well be in another country. It’s impossible to be connected to our phone and to our kids. We might try to act as though we’re all there, but kids know when we’re there or not.
I recently attended an Empowered to Connect (www.empoweredtoconnect.org) conference and heard Ryan North, who serves as the executive director of tapestry at the Adoption and Foster Care Ministry of Irving Bible Church in Dallas. He said, “In the parent-child relationship, all the responsibility to act like an adult is yours.”
There is a mom and a dad, five children, a dog and a cat in our home but the responsibility to act like an adult rests on only two of us — on mom and me. Although we are outnumbered, she and I are the adults.
Our children will not always be children. It’s hard to imagine now, but there is coming a day when they themselves will be adults. Until then, they are children growing toward adulthood, and while they are living in our house we have the responsibility of modeling to them what adulthood looks like.
Like anybody else, I fail often. As a dad, I frequently miss the mark with my children and have to explain the error of my ways and apologize to them. When that happens, I find myself hoping they don’t make the same mistakes with their children that I sometimes make with mine.
Change in children can happen when there is parent-child connectivity….