Where there is connection there is influence. That statement is true in so many ways.
I remember standing in the kitchen with one of my boys in a battle of wills. He refused to do what I asked him. Then it hit me–what am I going to do if he outright refuses to do what I ask him. We both took a break and then when I readdressed the issue at hand. I reminded him that we are on his side. We are not against him. What we are asking him to do is because we love him not because we get great satisfaction in making his life difficult. I could see his face softening.
That’s why I can’t emphasize enough that connecting with your kids now matters. Those small deposits of trust, warmth, and love that build up over their lifetime make it easier for those times when you have to make withdrawals whether it’s setting a boundary your child doesn’t like or because you’ve messed up.
That connection knocks down barriers and builds bridges.
Well, cultivating connection can be simple but it does come up against various challenges that we have to be willing to trudge through whether it be a developmental stage, rebellious stage or simply just personality differences.
The connection and love you instill when they are young and continue into their adult years will be the glue that will keep your relationship united. Now I’m not saying it will be problem-free because nothing you do will create a problem-free home or a perfect home at least not this side of heaven but we can create a home that’s united and life-giving in the midst of the mess.
When there is connection, there is influence.
5 Tips to Cultivating Connection in Your Home
- Heart Moments. Create heart moments throughout your day. In research done by the Fuller Youth Institute, they shared that warmth is crucial when it comes to young people. As you read through these points you can evaluate your home and realize if you need to turn up the “warmth” thermostat in your home.
In a comprehensive study of relational dynamics in more than 300 families spanning 35 years, family warmth was more correlated with faith transmission than any other relational factor (including the amount of contact between the generations, the type of contact, and the number of children in the family).Fuller Youth Institute
Our heart moments are truly important with our kids. Heart moments can happen in just a few seconds or 20 minutes throughout the day. You can also create routine heart moments by setting them up at specific times each day. Some routine heart moments can be in the morning before they start school, at dinner, after school, at bedtime… In my house, I love our morning “heart moment” that evolved naturally. When my kids were little they would come to our bed to snuggle in the morning. Now that they are older they don’t necessarily all snuggle but they still come to our room to get a hug, an “I love you” and maybe a back rub. I pray a blessing over my kids every day before they head off to school so that’s another heart moment routine. It’s the same blessing each day “You are loved. You are known. You are precious in God’s sight. I love you!”. I pray that when they leave our home or when I’m gone they will hear those words echo in their heart.
Ask your child to tell you when they feel most connected to you.
2. Your Words. Find ways to encourage your children by highlighting the small wins of that moment. Remind them that you are proud of them for just being themselves not because they got a high score on a test or b/c they made the top rank in their sport but simply because of who they are. You can also build routines for encouraging words. When you see them after your go run an errand, come home from work or they come home from school you can say with a smile something as simple as– It’s so good to see you. At bedtime is another great time to insert words of affirmation.
It’s important to be cognizant of what comes out of our mouths as parents. Sometimes we are the most comfortable at home and we don’t filter what we say or how we say it. You can ask yourself –Would I say this or act this way if my son’s teacher was standing right here?
Remember that our children are created in the image of Christ so the way we treat them is important because it’s your voice they will replay in their hearts and minds throughout their life. You want them to hear over and over again– You’re loved. You’re loved no matter what. You’re seen and important. You don’t want the voice they hear from you to be things like –You’re a screw-up. You can’t ever get that right.
It breaks my heart when I’m out and about and I overhear parents verbally “bullying” their child with things like–Oh my gosh, you’re so stupid. I can’t believe you did that. Will you ever stop being such an ###?.
How often do we say things to our kids or treat them in a way that we would never allow anyone else to do so? Take a moment and think how often in your day are your words critical or encouraging.
Obviously, no parent is perfect so there will be times that we will lose it and say or behave in a way that doesn’t honor God so that’s when this next point in #3 comes in–apologizing.
To be honest, for me it’s usually not my words but how I say things. I can say things in a shaming or snappy way. So maybe you would never say those kinds of things to your children but shaming or criticizing is your weakness. All of these things kill the warmth and love in our home.
3. Apologize to your kids. We are the adults so we have to be the ones who build the bridge back into each other’s hearts. It helps when we think through the situation first and then take the initiative to apologize first. When we apologize to our children we are modeling to them a beautiful thing this world will never teach them.
4. Sibling Bullying – I put this in another category than #2 “words” because “sibling bullying” is an actual thing. Sometimes we get so used to hearing our children argue and fight that we begin to blow off and rationalize their hurtful words they spew on each other. We say things like, “Oh that’s just them being brothers.” or “They are only joking.” regardless they are still hurtful words, and they sting. As parents, we need to be the ones who have little or no tolerance for hurtful words in our homes. Remind your kids that your home is a safe place. I often tell my kids, “Our home is a place where we love and care for one another. I can’t control what others say or do to you out in the world but I can make sure that we treat each other kindly in our home. In our family, we do not treat each other in this way. I will not tolerate you speaking to your brother in that way.”
Take inventory and ask yourself –Do you have zero tolerance for bullying in your home? (That includes both the adults and children.)
5. Play with your kids. Have fun together. In your family life, there is always something that has to be done, errand to run, thing to fix so make sure you’re creating moments in your week to have fun together as a family. It doesn’t have to be an “event” but simple moments where you’re laughing or playing around your family table, at bedtime, or in the day-to-day.
6. Family meals. There is so much research that talks about the importance and benefits of family meals so I won’t go into it here. But trust me that having this time together to hear about each other’s day is so transformative. It doesn’t matter if it’s a meal or a nighttime snack, if it’s fast-food or if a homemade cooked meal what matters is that you’re looking at each other eye to eye not texting or yelling from one room to the other but sitting together listening to each other’s thoughts, heart, and even quirks and silliness.
We use our mealtime as a place where we share our values and faith with our children. Sometimes I simply share something that is happening in this world and we pray about it. Other times we discuss it and it’s an open door to hear their thought and to share our values. Sometimes we go through a bible study together during our family meal and we discuss what God is teaching us. When they were younger we would have a quick devotional with them.
7. Conversation- Talk to your kids don’t just talk at them. Ask them questions and get their opinion on things. But in order to have a conversation, you have to be willing to listen. So that may mean putting the phone down or looking up from your work. As a mom of little ones, most of our day can be filled with commands and directives so it’s important to find ways to have conversations with them. My child will sit and talk to us forever about his Minecraft game that I have absolutely no interest in but I listen attentively and try to understand his little world because I know this is the gateway to more important conversations.
I know I said I’d only share 5 but the more I thought about it the more points would come up so I’ll end with this big one that I won’t make an actual point. In all my years of being a parenting coach and mothering my own children, I can’t begin to tell you how important prayer has been. It’s been the bedrock of my sanity. Spend time getting to know God through prayer and go to Him who knows the ins and outs of your littles.
My family is far from perfect but there are things I have gathered from my research, God’s word, and my own experience that has helped me to cultivate connection in my home. If you find yourself not knowing where to begin or maybe you feel alone on this mission because your spouse is physically or emotionally absent from your home I’d love to help you. I want to help you thrive right there where God has you and help you find freedom in God’s truth. Simply fill out this FORM and I’ll be in touch to set up a Cultivating Connection through Family Rhythms & Routines Coaching session.
I’ll end with this story that made me cry.
We were at the dinner table and each person shared their “happy and hard” highlight for the day. It was my 12-year-old son’s turn to share. We expected his happy highlight to be something that has to do with his lunch meal. But that day he said, “When I got off the bus and I saw our house I thought –I can’t wait to be at home!
I literally burst into tears. Maybe I was having a bad parenting day and I needed to know that by God’s grace we were doing something right. Or maybe I was shocked because it’s not every day your tween shares the highlight of their day is to be home with his family.
I don’t know if he will feel that way tomorrow or in 5 years but for now, I will keep this memory in my heart as a reminder to continue to cultivate connection in our home.
5 Amazing Mom bloggers have united to share encouragement and tips on Juggling the Joys of Motherhood! Hop around and read each of these posts shock full of great encouragment for moms.
- Cultivating Connection in Your Home from Inspired by Family
- 14 Refreshing Bible Verses For The Struggling Moms from Mindy Jones
- Self-Care Tips for Moms from Clothed with Dignity
- 10 Ways to Have a Family Life Filled with Grace, Love, and Faith from Families with Grace
- What I’ve learned from Motherhood and Marriage from Life Notes Encouragement