“I watch their softly tousled heads slumbering on their pillows, and sadness wells up in me. Have I drunk in their smiles and laughter and hugged them, or have I just checked things off my to-do list today? They’re growing so quickly. One morning I may wake up and one of my girls will be getting married, and I’ll worry: Have I played with them enough? Have I enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of their lives?”
-Janet Fackrell

It’s part of our job description as parents to guide our kids and keep them moving through the daily routine. All too often, that means setting limits, denying requests, correcting behavior. Sometimes we’re able to be emotionally generous, so our child doesn’t perceive our guidance as “negative.” More often, kids give us the benefit of the doubt because all the other loving, affirming interactions create a positive balance in our relationship account. That’s why creating those positive interactions with your child matters so much.

Research shows that we need at least five positive interactions to each negative interaction to maintain a healthy, happy relationship that can weather the normal conflicts and upsets of daily life.

So when we’re short on positive interactions, our relationship balance dips into the red. As with any bank account, we’re overdrawn. That’s when kids resist our guidance and develop attitude, whether they’re two or twelve.

Life is busy, and you don’t need one more thing for your to-do list. Instead, why not create a few daily habits that replenish your relationship account with your child? After thirty days, any action becomes a habit, so you don’t have to think about it.

Here are 21 things you can start doing today to build a closer relationship with your child.

  1. Snuggle with each child for five minutes when they first wake up.
  2. Take an extra minute to sit down with your kids at breakfast, asking what each one is looking forward to today.
  3. Instead of yelling at him to keep him moving through the morning routine, empower him with a chart with photos of him doing each task, and let him be “in charge” of himself while you just smile and point to the chart, asking what he needs to do next.
  4. Write a love note to slip into her lunch box.
  5. Skip together as you walk to the school bus, or sing happy songs in the car.
  6. As you hug her goodbye, tell her you can’t wait to see her this afternoon and hear all about her day. Remember to say “Have fun!” instead of “Be good!”
  7. During the day, find five minutes here and there to simply close your eyes and get centered. Try to get organized before you leave the office, so you can really leave your work behind and turn off your phone. In the evening, you’ll be able to give your family the best of you, not what’s left of you.

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21 Ways To Get Closer To Your Child Today