Tips for Building Strong Parent-Child Relationships

Women sitting with a baby, cat and boy looking at a book

From the moment they open their eyes, your child is looking up to you, creating a lifelong bond. As they grow, the parent-child relationship remains the most important one in their lives. Create a positive parent-child relationship  through bonding activities, communicating and leading by example, will provide your little one with a priceless blueprint for how to build future relationships.

1. Effective Communication

Effective communication is open, two-way communication that creates a safe space for your child’s feelings. For example:

  • Ask your child questions about themselves. If they painted a picture that they’re so proud to show you, don’t just say, “great job!” Ask them how they thought to paint the picture or why they chose the specific colors. This will help build confidence and communication skills. 
  • Check in with your child about their day. Ask them about their favorite part or something that was challenging. 
2. Spend Quality Time Together

Another key to a strong parent-child relationship is recognizing the importance of spending quality time with your child, which shows them that they are your priority.

  • Setting aside just 10 minutes a day with no screens or distractions to do a puzzle with your child or read them a book goes a long way toward establishing a strong bond.
  • Make your child feel special by spending one-on-one time with them like a trip to the zoo or a movie night where they get to pick the movie and snacks.
3. Practice Empathy and Understanding

Practice empathy by actively listening to your child, acknowledging their feelings and showing them you are there to help.

  • Your child doesn’t want to put on their coat to go out in the snow. Listen and sympathize with their feelings. Maybe the coat is too bulky and it makes them uncomfortable. Let them know that the non-negotiable is making sure they’re potected from the cold snow, and ask if they can think of other ways to make sure they’re warm. If they can’t think of anything, try offering other suggestions like layering clothes.
  • Your little one throws a marker. Instead of getting angry, ask why. Through conversation, you might learn that the coloring activity was too difficult. You can then offer them an easier option and talk about different ways to handle frustration instead of throwing.
4. Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations

Your child needs structure to feel secure, so you need to know how to set firm boundaries. Make expectations clear, ensure understanding and give age-appropriate, consistent consequences.

  • You say that hitting is not allowed, but your angry little one hits their brother anyway. Remind them of the rule and say, “I can’t let you hit your brother. If you’re angry, you may hit a pillow instead.” If your child is too young to understand, and continues to hit, remove them from the situation and sit with them to help them settle down.
  • Explain to your child that they have to hold your hand at the amusement park so they don’t get lost, and if they pull away or refuse, they have to ride in their stroller.
5. Show Unconditional Love and Support

There is nothing more important than a parent’s unconditional love. Make sure you tell and show your child that you love them often, even if they’ve done something you don’t like.

  • Make a point to say “I love you” every day.
  • Never miss an opportunity to show your love, be it with a smile or a wink, undivided attention  hugs and kisses.
6. Foster Trust and Mutual Respect

You loved your baby from the moment they were born, but you still need to work to foster trust and build mutual respect by listening, being available and staying true to your word.

  • Keep your promises. If you say you will take them to get ice cream that afternoon, do everything you can to make that happen.
  • Show a genuine interest in your child’s interests. If they love to kick around a ball outside, cheer them on and play ball with them. 
7. Lead by Example

You are your child’s role model, and leading by example encourages your child to mimic positive behavior.

  • If you want to teach your child not to take their frustration out on others, remember not to raise your voice when they are testing your patience by stalling at bedtime.
  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you” for everything from someone holding the door for you to placing your morning coffee order. Little ears are always listening!
8. Be Flexible and Adapt to Changes

Adapting to change is hard for young children, but when you model flexibility and adaptability in your relationships, it encourages them to do the same.

  • When your local cafe is out of your favorite chocolate croissant, ask for the cashier’s favorite pastry instead, so your child sees you turn a disappointing change into an exciting chance to find a new favorite.
  • Your best friend just got a new demanding job and has less time to socialize. Let your child see you adjust by making your time together count, and showing compassion and understanding for your friend’s life change.
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