Creative Child

The Children are Crying Out. Who is Listening?

by Rebecca Eanes

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This begs the question – are we attached enough? Is our parenting style drawing us closer to their hearts, making them feel loved, safe, and secure, or is it pushing them away toward a risky fate?

I believe if ever there was a time for attached, connected parenting to become the norm, it is now. Our children are begging for connection. Indeed, they may be dying for it.

We have to stop judging and punishing and start listening. We can't bristle against the tween or teen attitude and send them off to their rooms. It’s time to get close. We need to lean in. We must look with eyes of compassion and listen to understand the experiences our children are having. It's a tough time to be a kid. School is an alarming place for so many. Academic demands are grueling and societal pressures are suffocating. Let’s face it, the world is an alarming place. Bullying is an epidemic that doesn't end when the school bell rings because they can be tracked anywhere in real time. There is no escaping it.

Home must become a safe haven – a place to be loved and accepted, a place to belong. It’s time to put away our devices, slow our schedules, and open our eyes and arms. We have to improve the quality of our parent-child relationships to protect our kids. Common discipline tactics such as spanking and time-outs have been shone time and time again to be detrimental and only further add to the anxiety and isolation children are feeling. Every single day, children are getting grounded instead of getting help because we are missing the cues of pain. When we see unwanted behavior as an act to be punished rather than a cry for help, we are missing a crucial opportunity to connect with our children and help them heal. 

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A Plan for Improving the Parent-Child Bond

  1. Practice positive parenting. Replace time-out with time-in and punishments with problem-solving. Positive parenting isn’t permissive and there is not a lack of boundaries. It’s not about being your child’s buddy or turning a blind eye to misbehavior. Positive parenting uses the most natural and effective authority to guide children – relationship. Dr. Gordon Neufeld, founder of the Neufeld Institute, says “We were never meant to parent children whose hearts we do not have.” Reaching their hearts is, and has always been, the key to influence. When we lose that relationship, they turn to peer relationships to seek closeness, and then it becomes peers who have more influence.
  2. Set reasonable limits on devices for everyone in the home. Keep elementary and middle schoolers off of social media. Their brains are too immature to use it appropriately. Allow no more than 3 hours per day on the phone and internet as depression risks rise with more than three hours per day. We use Circle by Disney in our home to limit time and sites. Also make sure everything is powered down in time to get a good night’s sleep.
  3. I know life is busy, and you can’t spend hours per day connecting with your children. All it takes is a few minutes a day of undivided, loving attention. Here are 30 joyful ways to connect by One Time Through. Set connection points throughout the day. These are scheduled times that your kids can count on to have your full attention. Breakfast, dinner, and bedtime are good places to start.
  4. Practice positive communication skills with your kids. Feeling like they can come and talk to you about anything is going to be incredibly important as children hit the tween and teen years. Practice active listening and thoughtful responses.
  5. Perhaps most importantly, see behavior as communication. What is the withdrawal, the attitude, the missed schoolwork, or the slammed door telling you? What emotions are driving them? See the human behind the behavior and reach for their heart.

Only when we have their hearts do we stand a chance of saving our children.

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of positive-parents.org and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.

 

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