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Nourish your relationship!
It is important to nourish your relationships with your children. What does this mean? Praise them, engage with them in activities, and recognize their strengths and accomplishments.
Of course, there will be times when you have to set limits or express disapproval. If these negative messages outweigh the positive messages, however, your relationship can be poisoned. The more your relationship is filled with positive interactions, the happier your child will be, the happier you will be, and the stronger your relationship will be.
Related to this issue is the topic of choosing your battles. If parents are constantly in combat-mode with their children, the whole family will suffer. Decide what are the fundamental issues and avoid getting into power struggles over anything else.
Be a role-model for what you would like to see in them: kindness, patience, empathy, sharing, respect, and dignity.
Some parents try to be authorities who demand strict obedience. Though there are areas such as safety where parents must require obedience, many other situations are open to discussion. Thus, it is important to nurture the skills children need to succeed in life, such as how to compromise, negotiate, problem-solve, and resolve conflict. Be a role model in these areas. As children mature, however, they will interact with peers and develop a wide variety of relationships. A key aspect of successful relationships is the ability to problem-solve and compromise. Learning these skills early will help prepare children for the relationships they will have throughout their lifetimes.
What might this look like? If a child asks about doing a project or activity, instead of simply saying “yes” or “no,” this is an opportunity for discussion and negotiation. If you have concerns about safety, you can explain your concern and ask how the child can address this. If you are worried about a potential mess, ask the child how this can be avoided. These discussions help children to understand the issues at stake and to think through different situations.
Even if you give an automatic “no” to a request by your child, it’s fine to say, “You know, I answered that without thinking it through. I just don’t want there to be a big mess. If you can do it without leaving a mess, it would be okay. What can you do to keep it from being messy?” This includes the child in problem-solving, and you have the opportunity to role-model being flexible and willing to negotiate.