Creative Child

Turning Toward Our Children: Answering Bids for Connection

by Rebecca Eanes

World-renowned relationship researcher and co-founder of The Gottman Institute, Dr. John Gottman, has conducted 40 years of research with thousands of people. From his research has emerged a practice that is important to the emotional connection between two people – the act of “turning toward” your loved one when a bid is made. What is a bid?

According to Gottman, a bid is an attempt to get attention, affection, or acceptance. It is a bid for emotional connection.  “Will you play with me?” is an obvious bid, but not all bids are so clear. Therefore, it is good to familiarize ourselves with what bids are and to be mindful, being on the lookout for what our children say or do that may be a bid for connection. How we respond to these bids has a great impact on the connectedness we share with our loved ones. There are 3 responses to bids: positive (turning toward), negative (turning away), and no response (turning away).

Take for example a simple bid for attention. “Will you play with me?” A positive response would either be “Yes, let’s play” or something like “Oh, I would LOVE to play with you. You are my favorite person in the whole world to play with. At 6:00, I’ll be finished with my work and ready to play. Let’s make it a date!” This helps the child feel acknowledged and important. Each time you turn toward your child in this way, Gottman says you are making a deposit in their Emotional Bank Account.

A negative response would be “Can’t you see I’m busy?” or a flat “Not now.” Too many negative responses significantly damage the relationship.

No response might be a scowl and a waving away of the hand or completely ignoring that the child even spoke, which may be the most painful response of all.

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