How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Child
Childhood lasts approximately 940 weeks, and it’s up to parents to make the most of that time. As parents, we tend to start out with excellent intentions and over time somehow fall into traps and bad habits without realizing it. As a mom, I see a lot of information about the mother-child dynamic, which isn’t unusual because—after all—we moms are seekers of information. I’ve often wondered how the father-child dynamic fits into the parenting picture, and thanks to Dr. Steven Richfield, child psychologist, who’s shed some light on this subject of how to improve your relationship with your child for me.
Dr. Richfield explains that a great deal of father-son conflict comes from pressures that arise out of a dad’s desire to relive his life through his child. A father might want his child to have a corrective experience for him, making better choices and enjoying more success in life than the father originally did. The initial impulse is hopeful and positive, but over time it becomes loaded, heavy with expectation and disappointment. The father becomes vigilant and anxious for things to work out right, while the son feels stressed and burdened by his father’s fervent wishes—don’t we all know this story? This dynamic results in a difficult, fraught relationship rather than a loving, fun, authentic one.
One way to improve your father-child relationship is to see your child as an individual, rather than as a reflection of yourself or as a walking, talking expression of your own lost hopes and dreams. Yes, this is most difficult to do. But, trust me—our kids will be better off in the end. Here are the ABCs of restoring a sense of individuality within the parent-child relationship:
Ask your child open-ended questions. Give your children time to think, and do not guide them toward a particular response. Allow time for answers and explore those answers together.
Be aware that your child has a life apart from you. You might think you know everything about your children simply because you’ve seen them grow since the moment you saw the first sonogram. But most children have secret selves and private lives. Know that there are things you don’t know.
Create space for your children to become whoever they are. Make room for discovery, understanding that your child may be very different from you or from other members of your family.
My Philosophy about the ABCs:
These tips also hold true for moms and apply to all parent-child relationships, regardless of gender.
The best way to summarize my philosophy of parenting is to refer back to a few lines from a poem by Kahlil Gibran:
“You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
I want to know my children, to see them for who they are, to understand their personhood and to respect their individuality. I believe maintaining this attitude can rewire parent-child relationships for the better.