“BAD BULLY STUPID!!!!”
How many times have I heard this shouted lately? It keeps getting longer. The other day I heard ‘bad bully stupid boo boo butt head!’ Yikes. I don’t even know where it came from! Sometimes it’s delivered with a slap or a scratch too. Yeah, things haven’t been that peaceful around here lately.
We moved house. And though we were pretty prepared for it, moving is always a stressful thing to do. There’s the actual time it takes, the rushing around, the change in routine, the emotions that come from such a big change, mum and dad being distracted, and much more. It’s tough! Now that we were all settled, the stress was catching up with us.
I decided what we needed after so much distraction and interference, was connection. Connection is my answer to everything! Connection is the key to parenting, I’m sure of it. Sometimes you honestly feel like doing the opposite: controlling the situation, controlling the kids. When things are feeling out of control, you try to regain order by making people do what you want.
This is a mistake.
What do people do when they feel controlled? Resist! Control is going to make things a whole lot worse, and it doesn’t have a place in respectful parenting. Kids don’t need or want control. They need connection. When we are connected, we work together, we value each other’s opinion, we are empathetic and understanding. Connection is everything.
“If you force control now, you risk your influence later.” – Lori Petro
Being a person who loves a good plan or experiment, I came up with a simple idea. A connection boosting plan to get us back to where we wanted to be. I decided on five things that I knew would build connection between us. Five things that I wanted to become part of our every day. Then I just focused on introducing one new thing a day!
We’re at the end of those five days now and things feel so much better! We’re all happier, the fighting has decreased, we’re communicating more calmly, and our connection just keeps growing. And so, it’s time to share my plan, in the hopes that other people might benefit too.
How to use this plan…
Any way you want! I really wanted to only focus on adding one new thing a day, instead of overwhelming myself with trying to change everything at once, so I suggest just reading one day at a time. You can also introduce one new thing every 1, 2, 3, or however many days you like. If you have more self-control than me though go ahead and read it all at once if you must. Or even do it all at once.
If any of the steps are not things that suit your family, then just substitute it for something else. Whatever you like! Hey, I’m not about to control you.
The idea is that at the end of the 5 days, you are doing all 5 things every day. So day one you’re doing one thing, day two you’re doing the thing from day one and day two, and so on. Did that make sense? Hopefully, because that’s the best explanation I’ve got!
Don’t stress if you forget some days, or don’t get to everything. There’s always tomorrow to try again.
5 Day Plan to Deepen Connection with Your Kids
Day 1: Hugs for all!
Let’s start simple. Just hug each of your kids today. I know we all do, but sometimes it’s not until the end of the day when we’re saying goodnight and I realise that actually, we’ve been so busy that day that we haven’t actually had much physical contact. Mostly the older kids. I often have the little ones in my arms, so they’re getting their fill, but I reckon my big kids could use a bit more cuddling!
I once read that kids need 17 hugs a day. I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not reaching that goal x 4. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but I don’t think you can have too many hugs right? So I’m aiming for many hugs, and not just that but longer hugs too! Did you know that you need to hold a hug for at least 6 seconds? Yep, you need 6 seconds minimum to get all the feel-good chemicals happening in your body. So, many hugs, and longer hugs is the goal! Also, consensual hugs only of course.
“When you are hugging a child, always be the last one to let go. You never know how long they need it.” -Unknown
Day 2: Light up for them
Today, whenever your child speaks to you, light up for them. Let them see your love by how you look at them. When they want your attention, as much as you possibly can, turn and look them in the eye like you are so pleased to see them and absolutely can’t wait to hear what they have to say.
So often our children are talking to the backs of our heads while we load the dishwasher, cook dinner, or check our phones, etc.
“When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” — Toni Morrison
Day 3: Be present
Today, find some time when you can be truly 100% present with your kids. Either some time for each of them individually or as a group. However much time you can manage. Maybe it’s 5 minutes, maybe it’s an hour. The important thing is that whatever you’re doing, you’re all there! Not multitasking, not thinking about other things you need to do, just concentrating on the present moment. Just sit down with your kids and join in with whatever they’re doing, or invite them to do something with you. Sometimes I find it easier to get out of the house and spend some time in nature, away from all the distractions and to-do lists at home.
Day 4: Rough play
Today, engage in some roughhousing with your kids! This kind of play is super important and has so many benefits including developing emotional regulation, resilience, risk-taking skills, confidence, and much more! It’s also good for helping them release all those pent up feelings from the day, and great for parent-child bonding and connection! Get in on some rough or active play! Wrestle, have a pillow fight, jump on the beds, chase each other, anything that gets the heart pumping and people giggling. I like jumping on the trampoline in the afternoon!
Day 5: Say yes!
Save the word ‘no’ for when you really mean it. Look for opportunities to say ‘yes’ instead! I don’t know about you, but I often get into the habit of saying ‘no’ for no particular reason. It’s just an automatic response. Why? I have no idea. The consequence though is that if kids hear no too often, they eventually tune it out. And life is just a lot less fun! When we do have to say no for a legitimate reason, we really want our kids to listen and know we’re serious. So let’s save it for that. Lighten up! Say yes! Choose joy, and freedom, and adventure, and sponteneity, and fun! Look for all the yes moments in your day!
You made it! Now keep going! I plan to try and make time for each of these 5 habits every day. Connection is something I want to constantly be working on.
“Replace a goal of obedience with one of connection and trust instead. Children are drawn to follow those to whom they are emotionally connected. By parenting not for obedience but for relationship, kids are naturally inclined to follow your lead.” ― Kelly Bartlett
Five more things…
It was so hard choosing just 5 things to focus on! In the end, I wanted them to be things that were achievable for me every day. There are many other ways to build connection though, and here are some that I’m also including that didn’t make the ‘every day’ list.
Notice something about them: Simply taking the time to notice something about your child. What makes them, them? The unique way they pronounce certain words, the little habits they have, how they smile, what they think is funny, how their little hand feels in yours, the way they eat, their messy hair, the way they look at you, how kind they are to their siblings. All those little things you want to remember forever. When frustrations are high, focus on the things that bring joy. Thank them for being themselves, tell them what you notice and appreciate about them.
Be a team: Find ways to work together, whether you’re helping them or they’re helping you. Working alongside one another builds connection. It may take longer to have a toddler load the washing machine, or a child help with dinner, but it’s so worth it. Make the time, as often as possible.
Find common interests: Share time doing things you all love together, often. Spend time in places everyone enjoys. I love this post about the importance of finding ‘sites of mutual fulfillment’. Definitely worth a read!
Listen, to every little thing: Ok, sometimes I’m not a good listener. My adult ears are dismissive of things they deem ‘not a big deal’. But if I don’t listen, I keep getting the same message, and then I find myself starting to get annoyed. Wrongly annoyed! Someone is just trying to be heard, and they deserve to be heard. The reason things keep reoccurring is because they haven’t been dealt with properly, or I haven’t understood the problem correctly. It may seem like a little thing, but it will soon turn into a big thing if we don’t actually listen. Listen the first time.
Dinnertime questions: This one we do actually do most nights! Over our evening meal we take time to connect and hear about each other’s days. The kids absolutely love this and will request ‘ask us feelings!’ before we’ve even sat down. We ask ‘what was your favourite part of the day?’, ‘what are you grateful for?’, and then lots of questions about feelings like ‘when did you feel happy/sad/excited/worried/scared/silly today?’ This is also a lovely post with some great ideas for mealtimes.
If you’d like to read more about connected parenting then you can find my ‘30 Days Towards Connected Parenting‘ series here.
I truly hope the ideas in this post will help you connect with your kids every single day. It’s so worth it! I’d love you to comment with how it goes if you try it.