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Connect First with Your Kids, Before Changing Behaviour

parent child connection
Image by Anastasia Gepp, Pixabay

Even once we know it’s best to connect first with our kids before focusing on behaviour, we still often focus on behaviour first. How can we change that?

It’s important to remember that we’re in the midst of a societal paradigm shift—and paradigm shifts take time. Many parents are trying to put their parent child connection first, but the old patterns of focusing on behaviour (from how they were parented) still pop up unexpectedly in stressful moments.

Let’s talk first about the most common reasons we still focus on behaviour:

  • Habit. For me, reaction is often my first response, especially if the behaviour is really inappropriate or totally unexpected. I’ve made progress, but I still react sometimes if I’m feeling time-pressured or stressed.
  • We fear being judged. We’re super sensitive ourselves, and we notice when others are watching our kids’ behaviour and possibly judging
  • We want our kids to have the social and behavioural skills to get along with others, both now and as adults, and we feel responsible to teach them
  • When their behaviour is out of control and/or overwhelming us, we automatically focus on their behaviour because it’s a matter of survival for us! Sometimes I have shut my son’s behaviour down because I felt overwhelmed by it, and couldn’t cope in that moment. It was an automatic, desperate response to my overwhelm.

For me, making change has been a process of using new practices, regularly—sometimes with success, and forgiving myself when I slip up.

The main practices that have helped me are:

  • Building my capacity for staying regulated instead of getting triggered by my kid’s behaviour (But be gentle with yourself–it’s a journey! And no one ever gets to the point where they *never* get triggered!)
  • Continuing to learn connection skills—language and strategies I can use to connect
  • Doing my own healing work to really face the parts of myself that feel unworthy at times (that’s what causes us to fear judgment instead of attuning to our kids).

Changing to focus more on connection than behaviour has been life changing for me and my relationship with my son, and that’s why I’m passionate about helping clients make this change.

I felt completely disconnected from my parents as a teen, and I *so much* wanted things to be different with my son.  And they are.

This paradigm shift takes time because it involves healing.

Instead of trying to be perfect or worrying when you slip up, remember that every time you make a small change toward more connection, you ARE making a huge difference for your children and all future generations.