Executive Summary: Why is Creating a Connection Your Most Important Role as a parent?
There is nothing more vital for you to do as a parent than establish your family as a safe place for your kids.
- Children who experience a lack of emotional support, no connection, no supervision, and no discipline are at the highest risk of experiencing at least one encounter with a police officer because of a crime.
- Children who have parents who are genuinely interested in their daily activities show higher grade proficiency.
What are some things you can do today to create better connections for your family?
The most important thing you can do today to change the way your kids feel about your family is spending 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with each child individually.
The key to this process is spending time doing what THEY WANT to do. Driving home from school and talking doesn’t count. Spending time walking the trash down to the street doesn’t count. Spending time playing Legos (if they request that) counts. Spend this time working on making that ever so important connection.
Nothing we will cover in this series will be more critical than religiously adopting this process with your kids.
The second most important thing you can do with your kid(s) is planning a “parent-child date” with each one of your kids this week (and every other week going forward.) This time doesn’t have to be something they request, but it has to be something where you do not bring your phone along, you don’t go and watch a game, or do something that allows you to check out. Remember, you are working on making the right connection with your kid: nothing more.
This activity does NOT have to cost any money. It could be something as simple as going for a walk at the local park, taking a frisbee and tossing it around, or grabbing an ice cream at the local shop.
Finally, invest in your relationship with your spouse. No surprise, relationships are complicated. We don’t pretend to have advice on making it work in the tough times; however, the value of maintaining a great relationship with your spouse is unmeasurable. Statistically, children from single-parent households are 11 times more likely to commit violent behaviors. If you have specific questions regarding your relationship that you would like to ask us, please send us a note. We have a ton of resources in this area we can bring to bear to find you some guidance. Our simple advice is to love your spouse like you want them to love you. Heck, use the same strategy, spend 30 minutes focused on doing something specifically your spouse wants to do! See how that works.
Why are families important?
The family is where people get their most common sense of belonging.
One of the most important things kids get from us is a sense of belonging. A prominent psychological theory is Adlerian therapy. It is a psychoanalytic approach that “emphasizes the individual’s strivings for success, connectedness with others, and contributions to society as being hallmarks of mental health.”1 A foundational part of the theory is that kids behavior correlates to their need for belonging and attention. Both good and bad attention qualify as attention. I have struggled with adopting this belief; however, Laurie is all over it. If you think about it, kids who ‘act out’ are getting attention. This attention gives them a sense of belonging, even if it isn’t a positive sense.
Families create habits.
The family is a critical part of the equation for successful, well-balanced children. If you think about it, even though our kids go to school, the teachers are only responsible for introducing our kids to subjects of interest. It is in the home where our kids learn good and bad habits. For instance, my wife and I have separate bedrooms. I snore like it is going out of style and sleep is a very limited and precious commodity around our home. Because of this arrangement, our “Master Bedroom” is primarily my room. You can tell it is my room by the number of clothes sitting on my bed, my chest of drawers, and sadly, the floor. I pick them up regularly (not regularly enough); however, if you look at my room, it is very seldom ‘well kept.’ I am not surprised my boys struggle with keeping their clothes picked up off of the floor. It is 100% my fault.
So, the family is where the real forming of habits and traits begin. According to research, between zero and three years old, the brain triples its weight while creating trillions of new nerve connections. Is there any surprise my boys have trouble putting away their clothes like responsible young men? It reinforces the importance of questioning your “say/do” ratio. How much do you say vs. how much do you do?
Families usually stick together in tough times.
I would love to say families ALWAYS stick together; however, sadly some don’t. It should be our goal to create families where this is true. Wouldn’t it be nice if your “best friends” were there during the toughest of times? People always want to be there, but usually, we find the family being the faces we see when it is tough. For me, when I was going through my divorce twenty years ago, I looked around, and everyone whom I depended upon was family.
The reality is no one else knows you from the very beginning. The family understands context unlike anyone else. When your kids struggle in the future, you will notice this most likely before they do. You have every single experience shaping your ability to be ‘just the right’ person they need at that exact moment.
Families are pretty good coaches.
My dad used to say, “Would you rather I tell you bad news or someone else?” What a tough thing to hear when I was young, but in retrospect, what a great lesson. The lessons we learn from our family guide us for the rest of our lives. We feel the family and specifically how parents engage with their kids is the very first and most effective test of our ability to cope in the ‘real world.’
Conversation Starters for your family to address connection!
(in the car to school, the store, to home, etc.)
All Age Groups (0 – 15+ Years-Old)
- What does family mean to you?
- Why is family important?
- How can we help each other out as a family?
- Can you tell me a story about where our family was important?
- How do you be a better sibling?
- If you could change anything about our family what would it be?
- What do you tell your friends about our family?
- If you could buy anything for our family, what would it be?
- What is your favorite thing to do with our family?
- What are you most proud of your family for?
- What can we do as a family to have fun?
- What is the toughest thing about being a brother/sister?
- If you could get a gift for each member of the family, what would they be?
- If you want a good source of daily, creative questions to ask your kids, you MUST try this free service. http://www.q4kidz.org/q/ I found this service in my research this year. Every day, they send you an original question to ask your kids via text message! What an excellent idea!
Activities you can do with your family this week for each age range above. The single-most, important activity you can do for your kids is straightforward but intensely powerful.
- Spend 15 Minutes SOLELY focused on any activity your kid wants to do with you. This activity ONLY works if your child chooses what you do.
- The activity should be a minimum of 15 minutes per child, free from distractions like cell phones, the television, video games. FREE FROM DISTRACTIONS means solely focus on your kid.
- Repeat this activity every single day.
- The value of creating a moment for your kids to be the center of your universe will pay significant dividends in the next year.
- Trust the process.
- Make it a big deal for your kids. Say things like, “I would love to spend some time together doing whatever you want! What can we do?” Remember, you don’t have to spend an hour.
- Fifteen minutes is the perfect amount of time.
- Set a timer and when the timer goes off say something like, “Well, our one on one time is over for today, but thanks! I can’t wait for tomorrow! What do you think you want to do?”
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