A parent-child bond is one of the special ones in the world. While some might think strictness and discipline will help them raise their kids better, there are many who think being their kid’s friend should be given utmost importance.
No matter which category of parents you belong to, you can do both things at the same time- being your child’s best friend and raising them well.
One of the strangest things that can ever happen in a home is for a parent to say they never knew their child could do certain things, whether those things were good or bad.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the parent is bad but, according to psychologists, such a statement sometimes suggests the parent doesn’t know their child well enough.
As a parent, it is more crucial in these times to give one’s child enough reasons to consider one their best friend – someone they can open up to and tell their deepest secrets, knowing that their parent will always seek the best for them.
Emphatically, psychologists note that many parents who don’t know their children well enough may not be bad people as the search for livelihood can sometimes take a grip of one’s life and make one unwillingly neglect some areas of life.
Be that as it may, the experts state that one’s children are an important part of one’s life and that their welfare–both emotionally and physically–should always be taken care of.
To raise children who can confide in you and tell you the deepest things in their hearts, experts say the following tips will help.
Make a lifetime commitment
Developing closer friendships with your children begins with making an unconditional commitment to them for life. Such a commitment says, ‘No matter what happens, I will never stop loving or supporting you.’
For instance, psychologist Greg Smalley, based in the United States, says in a piece on imom.com,
“As I was growing up, my dad gave us a daily reminder of his love and commitment. At the entryway of our home hung a wall plaque which read: ‘To Norma, Kari, Gregory and Michael, in assurance of my lifetime commitment to you.’
“This plaque gave me the security to be close to my father because I knew that no matter what trouble I got into or what positive things I accomplished, he was committed to me for life.”
Become your children’s student
Instead of trying to “pigeon-hole” one’s children into something one think they ought to become, Smalley says parents need to carefully observe them and assess their strengths and weaknesses.
“Carefully study your child’s natural personality. Is your child strong-willed, fun-loving, sensitive or very detailed? What are her likes and dislikes? What is the best way to motivate your child? What are his specific goals and dreams?
“As you begin to answer these kinds of questions, you will be able to ‘tailor-make’ your friendship with each child according to his natural personality,”
Be available to your children
Besides having scheduled time with your children, if you are to develop a meaningful friendship, psychologists say you need to be available to them during unscheduled times as well. Mrs Funmilayo Onifade, a Lagos-based child psychologist tells PUNCH.
“It’s important for us to make time when our children need it. At times, we can drop what we’re doing because our children are simply more important.
“Remember that friendships don’t develop by chance or accident. Instead, meaningful friendships are a result of spending time together on a regular–preferably daily– basis. We need to get into the habit of setting special times for our children each day.”
Listen in an understanding way
Smalley says another important aspect of developing a friendship with your children is by listening in an understanding way. He says:
“In other words, we encourage you to become an active listener when communicating with your child. Active listening involves eye contact with the speaker.
A good listener never assumes he knows what his child is saying. Instead, ask questions to clarify what the child has said. Then repeat, using different words, what you think he meant.”
Touch your children meaningfully
One of the helpful ways to build meaningful friendships with children is by touching. Smalley says,
“When you touch your child in a gentle way –soft, tender, full of warmth – millions of nerve endings send messages to the brain where chemicals are released to bring health to your child.
“Researchers say that parents who hold their children at least six times daily can add months or maybe even years onto their lifespan. Conversely, a child’s growth is stunted when not touched on a regular basis. Children have actually died just from lack of touch, love and affection. Your child benefits not only physiologically, but emotionally as well.”
Don’t be overprotective
Though it is essential to ensure your kids are going in the right direction and are safe. However, child psychologists say being overprotective is what ruins the relationship.
“Teach them about what is wrong and what is right, but let them decide for themselves. Give them enough space to choose what they want. In this way, they will not only trust you but will also be confident of their decisions,”
experts note in Times of India. Additionally, the experts advise respecting one’s children’s choices.
“Be it choosing clothes to choosing profession, some parents just never let their kids make the choice for themselves.
This habit can turn toxic with time and can lower your child’s confidence too. Make sure you let your child make his life choices. You can surely advise them along the way, but dictating their life is something you should avoid.”
Play with them
Playing with your children is a helpful way to bond with them, according to psychologist and author Tom Bronson, who writes on Nurturey.com. He says,
“There’s no child who does not love to play. If your child loves a game that requires another partner, never think twice before becoming that partner. It will not only help them see you in a new light but also bridge any gap in your mutual relationship.
“(Also), watch their favourite movies together. Children love their movies. From animation to adventure, depending upon their taste, they have a long list of their favourite movies. Watch as many as you can with them. It will make them think that you share their taste in movies and bring you a step closer to each other.”
Hang out with them
Bronson also advises taking children to their favourite places. He says:
“Children love to hang around too! Ask them where they want to go on the weekends. Let them plan a holiday. You can put forward some options, but always let them make a choice. It tells them that you value their opinion and preferences.See Also
“Also, cook the food they love. If you want to be your child’s best friend, go through their stomach. Often cook the food they love the most. Share the recipe with them and involve them in the cooking process. Eat it together and tell them how good their choice of food is.”
The expert also advises involving children in day-to-day activities at home.
“Involve them in day-to-day work. A lot of things happen in the home every day. Let your child be a part of it. Ask them how they want to help you. Take them out for grocery shopping or have them help you clean the house. This way, you will be able to do something and spend some time together.”
Boost their self-esteem
Experts at the Nemours Centre for Children’s Health Media (also called KidsHealth) in the US, note that kids start developing their sense of self as babies when they see themselves through their parents’ eyes.
“Your tone of voice, your body language, and your every expression are absorbed by your kids. Your words and actions as a parent affect their developing self-esteem more than anything else.
Praising accomplishments, however small, will make them feel proud; letting kids do things independently will make them feel capable and strong. By contrast, belittling comments or comparing a child unfavourably with another will make kids feel worthless.
Avoid making loaded statements or using words as weapons. Comments like ‘What a stupid thing to do!’ or ‘You act more like a baby than your little brother!’ cause damage just as physical blows do.
Choose your words carefully and be compassionate. Let your kids know that everyone makes mistakes and that you still love them, even when you don’t love their behaviour,”
Set limits and be consistent with your discipline
Discipline is necessary in every household and its goal is to help kids choose acceptable behaviours and learn self-control, KidsHealth experts say.
The experts note that the children may test the limits parents establish for them, but they need to know those limits to grow into responsible adults. The experts state,
“Establishing house rules helps kids understand your expectations and develop self-control. Some rules might include: no TV until homework is done, and no hitting, name-calling, or hurtful teasing allowed.
“You might want to have a system in place: one warning, followed by consequences such as a ‘time out’ or loss of privileges. A common mistake parents make is failure to follow through with the consequences. You can’t discipline kids for talking back one day and ignore it the next. Being consistent teaches what you expect.”
Meanwhile, while setting limits and discipline are important, the KidsHealth experts advise flexibility and willingness to adjust one’s parenting style when necessary. They say,
“If you often feel let down by your child’s behaviour, perhaps you have unrealistic expectations. Parents who think in ‘shoulds’ (for example, ‘My kid should be potty-trained by now’) might find it helpful to read up on the matter or to talk to other parents or child development specialists.
“Kids’ environments have an effect on their behaviour, so you might be able to change that behaviour by changing the environment. As your child changes, you will gradually have to change your parenting style. Chances are, what works with your child now won’t work as well in a year or two.”
The experts add,
“Teens tend to look less to their parents and more to their peers for role models. But continue to provide guidance, encouragement, and appropriate discipline while allowing your teen to earn more independence. And seize every available moment to make a connection!”