Have Fun with Your Child ASAP
Good parenting has an order of operations. Insides come first. A child should feel connected to his or her mom or dad in a profound way, first and foremost. Then, and only then, the child will think about what the parent is communicating.
A strong emotional bond between parent and child is the single most important aspect of raising children; the rest is details.
Kids bond with people who make them smile and laugh. As a parent, you don’t have to be all that funny or crazy, as long as you will share what makes you laugh. If you think something is funny or cool, then in all likelihood, a kid will think so, too. Sharing a laugh is a force multiplier in the war for a child’s heart, especially when there is tension between parent and child.
My sister once grounded her son for several days, but instead of neglecting him or shaming him, she took advantage of his presence around the house. They played games, went bowling, and played practical jokes on each other. This may seem like a strange way to punish a child, but punishment is not the goal. Connection and correction are the goals. It worked nicely for the whole family; the fun and laughter cut through the tension and created a stronger bond, which means her son is less likely to make that kind of trouble again.
There are no guarantees that our children will grow up well, but the inside-out approach is always the better way. Children are far less likely to engage in problem behaviors when they feel deeply loved, known, and respected by their parents. Remember, children do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. And once they are connected to you, they will listen and consider your thoughts carefully. They may not obey every piece of advice, but they will not ignore you, because they will innately want to follow your lead.
Having fun is not an option, if you are serious about connecting (or staying connected) with your child. Unfortunately, the older they get, the harder it gets to keep a strong bond, since they are so interested in other things: friends, sports, music, movies, the opposite sex, food, social media, and an ever-expanding array of entertainment and hobbies. It gets tough to compete. But don’t give up.
Here are some ways that I connect with my 15 year-old son:
- Food – Go to his favorite fast food restaurant. ChickFilA or Cain’s
- Food – Go to the grocery store and give him $10 to buy his favorite meal and dessert. He loves their chinese takeout counter.
- Throw food – catch marshmallows in mouth from long distances
- TV – Watch a funny show or movie together – Duck Dynasty works for us.
- Sport / Hobby – Help him with his favorite activity – My boy loves soccer, so I can play goalie and set balls for him to shoot a lot
- Shop – Take him to his favorite hobby shop – Guitar Center, SoccerMaster, Academy Sports
- Game – Teach him a new card or table game – Spades, Dominoes, Chess
- Concert – Buy tickets to a concert that you will both enjoy.
- Ping Pong – Make him earn every point.
Here is a link for some other ideas. 10 minute connections with kids: middle school edition