The best advice I can give parents today is to enjoy your children. So often parents lose sight of the gift they have in their children, frequently getting caught up in the everydayness of school, chores, sports, that they forget to stop and look their children in their eyes and really “see” them for the unique and valuable individuals they truly are. Parenting is not meant to be one gigantic burden. As parents, it is in ours and our children’s best interest to stop and relish the moments of interaction we have each day with each other.
Many people have been raised by parent s that were harried and busy and stressed out, to the point that when they became parents themselves, they repeated what they were modeled. If that is you, stop. Think about each one of your children. Stop and ask yourself what each child as an individual brings to the world that is their own. Take time each day to look at each one of your children, hug them, praise them, and encourage them. Stop and notice; be mindful of your attitude. Ask yourself each day, “Have I looked my child in the eyes today?” “Have I noticed her?” “Have I enjoyed him today?”
The second most important word in my parenting vocabulary is reflect. What does it mean to reflect? It means exactly what it sounds like it means. When you look in a mirror you see a reflection. When you reflect in a relationship you show the other person what they are saying or doing or feeling. Reflection is an important tool to use in any means of communication with anyone, but as a parent it is particularly useful for connecting with your children. As Dan Siegel states in his book, “The Whole-Brain Child Workbook,” connect then redirect. This means, before you try to teach your child something, connect with him first. One way you do this is to reflect what they are saying to you. Even if what they are “saying” isn’t in words try to interpret what message they are conveying and reflect back to your child what you see and hear.
For instance, if your teenager had a bad day at school because something happened, rather than trying to brainstorm with your child about how to fix the problem, merely reflect back to her what she is saying by her words and actions. If she complains that some girls were making fun of her, don’t tell her what to do about it (at least at first), rather, restate the message back to her, “Ouch, that hurt!” or, “That stinks!” Let your child know that you are listening and that you are validating her experience. Nothing connects people like validation.
I would contend that refection is the single most effective communication strategy you can use in any of your important relationships. When in doubt, reflect. This is easy. Just think about what the person is saying and relay back to them what you heard. You don’t have to analyze it, evaluate it, or solve their problem; you simply have to state what you see. If you adhere to the rules of “I will enjoy my child” and “I will reflect back to my child what I see and hear,” then you will inevitably connect with your child.