No matter how old their little ones are, practically all parents want to bond with their kids. After all, they won’t remain young forever and, before we know it, they’re already off into the world on their own. We all want the children to know that they’re loved and accepted, and that they’ll do their best to visit during the holidays!
But bonding with the kids is more than just building a relationship with the little ones. It’s also a crucial part of character-building. A good parent-child relationship can help give children a boost of confidence and acceptance early in life. Of course, it’s not that poorly bonded children don’t have a future. Everyone knows of the many success stories with rough childhoods and negligent parents. It’s just that those who did have a great bond with their parents had an advantage, and were more likely to have a healthy support system even later in life.
However, bonding with the children can be a bit like cooking the perfect steak. It requires precision and timing. Being too bonded can translate into overdependence and clinginess. Not enough bonding, on the other hand, can turn into a feeling of rejection and insecurity.
It can be a tough balance, indeed. Fortunately, however, a few parental mistakes don’t necessarily mean that the kid is scarred for life. It’s best to avoid them, sure, but there’s plenty of leeway. To help out the concerned parents out there, we’ve compiled this list of common bonding mistakes and what best to do instead.
15 Expecting Instant Results
Sure, there is often an instant connection between parent and the baby, at least at the beginning. Sometimes, however, parents find that with time, the kids can get a bit more distant as they slowly grow more independent. But this is only because a parent-child relationship is not an instantaneous thing, even though it seems so. It’s a relationship, after all, which means that it’s a process of being there for each other and getting to know one another. Many parents are often surprised at how much they still can learn about someone they’ve been with for ages!
What this basically means is that if dad has been “too busy” for years, one dream vacation isn’t going to instantly build a better bond between him and the kids. Instead of treating a relationship like instant ramen, put it in the slow cooker and give it plenty of time and effort. That’ll give any parent great results!
14 Not Touching Enough
Bond building isn’t just about favors and conversations, especially when it comes to babies and young children. Seeing and hearing each other on a regular basis is obviously a great way to build a good relationship. But if it’s possible, try using touch as well. This is pretty obvious for newborns. It’s very well known that premature newborns have better rates of survival and health overall if they’re given kangaroo care, which is basically when they’re allowed skin-to-skin contact with the parents. Many are surprised, however, at how well touch can help build bonds with older kids. This includes giving a hug, a pat in the back or even a high five at just the right time. And, yes, tickling also counts!
Little things such as these may not seem like “efficient” bond-building. They do, however, help build trust and comfort. So parents who have to be away for long periods of time, whether due to work or military duties, make sure to give the kids a big, warm hug when there’s a chance!
13 Forgetting To Acknowledge The Self
Sometimes parents are so preoccupied with the bond between them and the kids that they forget to acknowledge their own emotions. This is particularly true for moms experiencing postpartum depression, and may not feel an immediate bond with the baby. The baby does, of course, need closeness with her, which she might have to provide. But it’s also important for her to acknowledge her own health. In some cases, this may mean time off from the baby, as long as it’s done responsibly, with someone providing for the baby’s needs. After all, forcing a bond might make her resentful.
This goes back to the basics of relationships: it’s important to take care of the self first before a healthy relationship with other people can be built. And while parents are known for loving selflessly, don’t feel guilty if that doesn’t develop immediately. After all, sometimes parents have to deal with their own issues too.
12 Bonding Jealousy
Quite a few parents may get jealous of their child’s relationships with other family members. The baby, for instance, may have a favorite aunt, or may love to be around the mother-in-law. Older children, as well, may develop friends among their schoolmates, to whom they might confide to more than their parents, in some cases. And this uneasy feeling is fine when it’s about ensuring that the child is safe.
What’s not OK is being overly jealous of the child’s other relationships. Some parents just want the child’s attention all to themselves. This can be an irrational sentiment, but it is very real for some. It’s important to remember that children do need to learn how to build relationships with other people. Do allow the child to make new friends and expand their support systems. Of course, if the parent perceives that a relationship is harmful, even abusive, it’s perfectly alright to step in. But if jealousy is the only reason, perhaps it’s best to look at the parent’s own issues with other people before making restrictions.
11 Being Too Busy
Parents need to work, understandable enough. After all, it’s often what allows them to bring home the bacon and send the kids to school. However, it’s just as important to strike a balance and make time for the family. Work is, of course, a commitment. But parenting is just as big of a commitment. And although feeding, sheltering and clothing the kids may seem an already huge task, it’s also important to take a bit of time off to build a healthy parent-child bond.
Granted, this can be tough in some circumstances. Single parents, for instance, may have schedules that are already stretched out to the maximum. And parents who work in a different time zone may find it difficult to schedule time to call the kids. But it’s important to recognize that there’s an opportunity cost, if you will, between work and relationship building. It’s fine to put work first in some cases, but just make sure to prioritize the family sometimes as well.
10 Afraid of “Spoiling” the Child
There’s a myth among some parents that giving the little one too much attention will “spoil” them. However, the truth is that attention, in itself, won’t spoil the child. It depends on the kind of attention being given to them. If the child is constantly being fussed over and given anything he wants, there’s always a risk of spoiling him. However, if the attention is healthy, as with talking to him when he’s got something to say, comforting him with he’s down, or taking the time to teach him a concept he doesn’t understand in school, it’s perfectly fine.
Avoiding attention, just for the sake of avoiding a spoiled child, is a missed opportunity for giving him the kind of parent-child bonding that he deserves. In fact, this also applies to babies. It is not true, by the way, that picking up a baby every time he cries will make him spoiled.
9 Being Too Protective
Being too protective of a child can have a negative impact on the parent-child bond. While it is understandable that any parent would want to protect the child from any harm, it is also essential for the child’s growth that he explore and learn a little, and fail sometimes. There must be restrictions, of course. However, keeping the child constantly indoors and not allowing him to occasionally “play in the dirt” can be harmful.
The fact is that it’s important for kids to stumble and even fail sometimes so that they can learn to be resilient. That’s one of the reasons why some kids who were neglected by their parents end up being successes, because they learn how to navigate the world on their own. And while we obviously don’t recommend throwing the child under the bus for his sake, it’s important to give him some room for learning and exploration. Parents do want the best for the child, but sometimes he has to go through a few challenges before he can be his best.
8 Forgetting To Listen
Sometimes parents can get so engrossed with giving advice, telling the kids how things should be done because, back in the day, this is how we did it! While kids can often look back and find this information valuable, it’s still important for parents to listen to their kids sometimes and, if possible, try to understand the world from their lens.
Naturally, some of the things that kids say or feel may seem silly. After all, a fight with the best friend just because of a lost doll may seem trivial to the parent. But it’s a huge deal for an eight-year-old. And sometimes all the kid needs is someone to talk to. Be that someone. The more the kid is comfortable with the parent listening to his little troubles, the more likely he’s going to open up with the bigger ones in the future. That’s something that most parents sorely want during the troublesome teen years.
7 Forgetting Discipline
Parents who are intent on building bonds with their kids might forget to apply due discipline, just for the sake of keeping on the child’s good side. But discipline is something that can make or break the child’s character. He may not appreciate it now, but it’s going to do wonders for him in the future. Make sure to talk to him about boundaries, and that he knows who’s in charge around the house. This allows him to learn responsibility, whether it’s cleaning his own room or coming home before a certain time.
It may seem tempting because, being a “cool” parent who allows everything may seem like the best way to build a bond with the child. It may, on the short term. But it doesn’t take into account his well-being. In the end, kids who are given just the right balance of freedom and discipline have better bonds with their parents. What’s more, they’re likely to understand their parents’ restrictions clearly when they grow up.
6 Discouraging Negative Emotions
There’s currently a bit of a societal trend against negativity. In fact, some parents even get mad at their kids for expressing sadness or anger. Some may even ignore their kids completely when they feel these emotions. But it is, in fact, healthy for kids to deal with a wide range of emotions, even if they’re negative. The parent’s role in all of this is to help the kid to deal with these emotions in a healthy way, rather than just telling them to chin up and be positive all the time. Suppressed emotions can, after all, well up and cause more damage in the long run.
When the kid is angry, let him talk about it. Understand what he’s trying to say and, perhaps, make him understand a different perspective. If necessary, allow him an outlet to his anger. And when he is sad, acknowledge his sadness and be there to comfort him. These are normal emotions, after all, and they’re perfectly fine. A child should never be made to feel that his emotions are ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but they do need to be taught to express them in acceptable ways.
5 Making The Child Too Dependent
Many parents dread the day when their little baby has to leave them to go out in the world on his own. Some manage this by making the child so dependent on them that they’d be reluctant to leave. In fact, there are those who continue to exert control over their child’s life even when they’re well over their twenties. Sometimes this is done by guilt tripping them. A bad idea. Generally speaking, any relationship that involves long-term dependence isn’t healthy.
This kind of parenting can damage the child’s ability to function properly without the parent. And while this may seem like an ideal relationship to the clingy parent, it can take a toll on the child’s education, career and even relationships with other people. In the long run, this can be damage the child’s mental health as well. It’s important to keep in mind that the best kinds of bonds are the ones that allow the child to be independent but, at the same time, remember to call every once in awhile.
4 Quality Time vs. Quantity Time
Earlier, we talked about how one dream vacation can’t automatically make the kids form a bond with the parents. Indeed, we do talk constantly about spending quality time with the family. But, the truth is, sometimes quantity time is more effective. Outings need not be lavish, impressive getaways that the kids will want to brag to their friends about. While these can be great, don’t wait until the family has saved up enough money for a weekend ad Disneyland to spend time with them.
Instead, it’s important to be present regularly. A weekly hiking trip at the beach or the mountains or perhaps just watching a well-loved movie together will do. Even taking time off to drive the kids to soccer practice, or helping them with their homework can do wonders. In the long run, these little moments can add up to memories that last a lifetime, far more than that one epic vacation on a cruise ship ever can.
3 Forgetting The Other Parent
While each parent may have his or her own personal schedule and may have to deal with working out time with the kids individually, it’s also important to think about the other parent as well. It is, after all, important that the child bonds with both parents. And, if the parenthood is a good enough partnership, this means looking after the other parent’s relationship with the child as well, and giving gentle reminders to spend time with them.
Although it may feel good to be the child’s favorite, in the long run it doesn’t do any good to hog the child’s attention. When planning bonding sessions, therefore, make it about the family. As much as possible, consider the other parent’s schedule as well. And, if invited by the other parent, try to be available. Parents who are both present have the opportunity not only to bond with the kids, but also with each other as well.
2 Not Seeking Help
Bonding with the kids may feel like exclusively the parent’s responsibility. But, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child. This could mean that, sometimes, the parent may have to ask for a few favors to clear her schedule out enough to spend time with the kids. Getting help with errands or a bit of minor help with work can do wonders in carving out that little piece of quantity time.
But also, sometimes bonding with the kids may need professional help. In cases where the child is overly distant, or if the parent feels inadequate in building a relationship with a child, it helps to consult a therapist who can view the situation in an objective light. Many try to avoid therapy because they perceive it as something they only need when something is wrong. But, truly, it can be valuable in maintaining relationships, as well as mental health, so that things stay alright in the long-term.
1 Not Having Fun
Parent-child bonding may be a responsibility, but it’s also important to have fun while doing so. Kids are remarkably accurate at reading what their parents are feeling. They’re going to sense when the parent feels tense or overly pressured by family time, and may not perceive it as an altogether positive experience. It’s therefore best to keep it light. Make family time an activity that everyone, even the parents, enjoys.
Keep in mind that this is not only great for building a great relationship with the kids, it’s also wonderful for the parent’s own mental health. After all, it’s probably not everyday that parents can goof around and feel like a child again. It’s a time to loosen up from the pressures of work and other grown-up problems. When both parents and the kids have fun, after all, it can make for a shared experience that everybody is going to remember fondly.