Why connecting with your kids is vital
Connection with our kids is vitally important. Sheri Silk shows us how to parent with the ultimate goal in mind.
Do you find yourself getting stuck in ‘task’ mode as you parent your kids? It’s so easy for the daily grind of parenting to become totally focussed on getting your kids to do stuff – making their bed, getting dressed, remembering all their kindy gear, doing their homework … the list never ends!
There’s nothing wrong with helping our kids in practical ways. But it’s so important that we don’t allow focus on tasks to take over our parenting. If we’re not careful, a task focus can easily spill over into the way we parent our kids around other areas of behaviour – manners, character choices and managing emotions, for example. When this happens, it’s possible to start parenting from the outside in, communicating that what really matters is that they know how to go through the motions of certain behaviours – saying thank you, giving apologies or using words to communicate feelings – instead of helping them cultivate the heart that produces these behaviours.
The way we shape our kids’ hearts is through a heart-to-heart connection, so it’s essential that we keep pursuing this connection as our priority. I like to use the metaphor of a kite string to describe connection with our kids. When they’re little, the kite is closer to the ground. We’re very hands-on as we help them learn basic things, like how to put their shoes on. At that height, if the kite falls, it’s not very damaging. But as our children grow and get older, that kite gets further and further away. Before we know it, we’re teaching them how to drive and they’re walking in more freedom and independence. In high school and into adulthood, the kite is way up in the sky, and that string of connection is the only thing we’ve got to pull on to influence our kids and hold on to them as they weather the winds and storms of life. If we’ve neglected that connection, or damaged it, then when the winds and storms come, it’s going to be tough to reach their hearts and offer them our strength, support and guidance.
Prioritising connection helps us to keep the end goal in mind. Parenting isn’t easy, but if we can consistently show our kids that our connection with them is what we care about most, we will set ourselves up to grow through every challenge. Here are five practical steps for keeping connection as your priority and strengthening that kite string connected to your kids’ hearts. As you read this list, be encouraged that you can do this!
- Put your goals on paper
Have a vision statement for your relationship with your kids and revisit it regularly. When you’re climbing a mountain, you tend to look at your feet because you’re tired and just trudging along. But every once in a while, if you just look up at the mountain top, you’ll remember why you’re going through the pain. A vision or family mission statement is a way to paint the picture of the mountain top so you can look at it when you need to. Write down a short statement that expresses the goal of keeping heart-to-heart connection with your kids as your number-one priority. Here’s an example: “In our family we are grateful, generous, brave and forgiving. We value humour and creativity, and we cheer each other on”. You could even get your children involved in writing it – ask them what family means to them, and for words they’d use to describe your team. It doesn’t have to be long — if it can fit on a Post-it note, great! Then you can post it on your bathroom mirror or wherever you’ll see it every day. Or you could paint it on canvas, or chalk it up on a blackboard to make a feature of it, and inspire other families.
- Mend the little disconnects quickly
As you work on maintaining and strengthening your kite string of connection, you’ll start to recognise when it slips or frays a little bit. In those moments, it’s important to go and fix it as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you have a big gigantic disconnect to do something about it. When something feels off with your children, go connect with their heart. Make daily and weekly check-ins a priority so that you’re proactively pursuing them, instead of always responding to disconnect.
- Treat messes as opportunities
I remember a time when my son Levi was really young. I came out to the kitchen and found him sitting in front of the refrigerator where he had cracked all the eggs onto the floor. It would have been easy to get frustrated and inadvertently send him the message that him not making a mess was more important than protecting our connection. Instead, I did my best to be gentle, show him my heart and explain why we don’t crack eggs onto the floor. Some of the best opportunities to build connection with our kids are in the midst of their messes!
- Remember that kids are forgiving
My husband Danny and I worked with foster kids, and they were in the hardest situations. Yet, at the end of the day, even though their parents were messing up or making mistakes, the kids wanted to be with their parents. They loved their parents. I learned that kids are so forgiving. So, remember that your own little mistakes throughout the day – even if it’s choosing disconnect over connection – are repairable. What good news!
- Don’t expect your connection with each of your children to be the same
Every child is different, so connection will look different with each one. After the first kid we don’t say “Oh, I got this. I know what to do with the second one”. Nope! They’re all different. Make sure that you’re looking at each relationship as special and unique, and giving each one the specific attention it deserves.
If you’re reading this and thinking “Where do I even begin? How do I do this?”, I want you to know that by simply making an effort towards connection, you’re already on the right track. Just take it one step at a time! It’s never too late to start pursuing connection.
Sheri Silk and her husband Danny travel internationally helping people build, strengthen and heal their vital relationships as part of Loving on Purpose Life Academy. They’ve been married for 30 years, and have three adult children and three grandchildren. Follow them at lovingonpurpose.com.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 45 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW