Interpersonal connection is fundamental to the human condition—and this is especially true for children. In her latest post, parenting educator and Piper+ Enza contributor Giselle Baumet shares straightforward ways you can connect with your child to strengthen your relationship with them, as well as support the development of their emotional intelligence—and how you can utilize Piper+Enza’s Big Book for Kids to help facilitate connection.
I’ve no doubt that by now, you’ve heard the phrase “Connection before correction” within the gentle parenting and positive parenting community.
But what does it mean, and how does one connect with a child in a way that improves the child’s relationship and emotional intelligence?
While it’s essential to parent with connection, it’s even more important to understand why it matters, so in this article, you will learn what it means to connect with your child, plus practical ways to do so.
What does it mean to connect with a child?
Connecting with your child refers to the emotional attachment and understanding that forms between you and your little one (read more on attachment theory in parenting in my recent post).
Connection is about developing a relationship based on empathy, trust, and respect to lay the emotional groundwork for your child’s development and encourage a solid parent-child relationship.
A relationship built on connection, as with all healthy relationships, has specific components, and these include:
Emotional alignment is the basis of connection. It means being aware of and responding to your child’s needs, feelings, and signals. It is about paying attention to your child’s clues, tuning into their emotional world, and responding gently.
For example, when you show your child that their feelings are real and deserve recognition by being attentive to them, they feel more secure, which then helps them become more emotionally intelligent and self-aware.
Being able to emotionally connect with your child allows them to also be able to connect emotionally to others.
Trust plays a significant role in building a connection with your child. When you consider your relationships in your lifetime, you will find that any meaningful relationship is built on trust.
Providing a safe and secure atmosphere, being dependable, and consistently addressing your child’s needs is essential to building trust.
When your child trusts you, they feel free to explore the world, express themselves honestly, and ask for advice and assistance.
Mutual respect is cultivated by respecting your child’s autonomy, individuality, and right to their views, feelings, and choices.
Recognizing and appreciating their autonomy adds to developing strong feelings of identity and healthy independence.
By respecting their individuality, you show them that their opinion matters and that you cherish their viewpoint, strengthening your relationship.
Remember that respecting your child’s autonomy does not mean that you first need to agree with them to give respect. As a parent, you can provide mutual respect and offer autonomy, even if your perspective or position differs.
Creating a solid bond with your child is a lifelong process that calls for tolerance, compassion, and commitment, all of which you can provide.
Why connect with your child?
You, as a parent, have a significant impact on how emotionally healthy your child will become.
You give your child a solid basis for their mental and emotional growth when you build a secure emotional connection with them.
Increases Emotional Intelligence
According to research, kids who feel a strong connection to their parents tend to have stronger emotional regulation abilities, fewer behavioral issues, and are more resilient when faced with challenges.
You can give your child a safe place to freely express their emotions through your engagement with them.
Children who experience acceptance, validation, and support grow emotionally intelligent, which includes recognizing and navigating their own emotions and understanding and relating to those of others.
The foundation for happy relationships, clearer communication, and general well-being throughout the life of the child is emotional intelligence.
Encourages Positive Behavior
Your relationship with your child has a significant influence on how they behave.
Studies show that positive behaviors like cooperation, empathy, and self-control are more likely to be the norm for a child when they sense a connection to their parents.
Through the connection, you can provide your child with constant direction and encouragement, which will help them learn self-restraint and discipline.
A good connection with your child means they can control their emotions, restrain their impulses, and make deliberate decisions.
A solid parent-child bond also helps kids develop empathy, which helps them comprehend and take into account the thoughts and feelings of others.
Better Social Interactions
Positive parent-child interactions have a long-term impact on a child’s self-esteem, relationships, and general well-being.
Solid parent-child relationships have advantages beyond the early years because they are the foundation for your child’s self-esteem.
Children raised by parents who prioritize connection gain a positive sense of self, confidence, and self-belief when they have a strong connection to their parents.
As the connected child becomes an adult, they develop healthy and meaningful relationships with friends, partners, and eventually, their own children, because they grew up experiencing their parents’ unconditional love, acceptance, and support.
A child that has a solid connection to their parents grow in their capacity for clear communication, empathy, and trust, all of which support healthy relationships throughout their life.
The emotional bond you develop with your child ultimately paves the route for their long-term contentment and happiness.
By emphasizing connection, you support their mental health, encourage positive behavior, and give them the tools they need to successfully negotiate life’s challenges.
Connecting with your child is essential for helping them develop the resilience they need to deal with life’s inevitable challenges.
Life will have ups and downs, but the downs will likely be much harder for children who didn’t grow up with a good connection with their parents.
Your relationship with your child can reduce their stress by giving them emotional support to build on.
By being present, you give your child a space where they can freely express their concerns, anxieties, and frustrations. And you help your child learn that it’s OK to experience difficulties, but more importantly, that they will get through them.
Their resilience is built on this affirmation and support, which enables them to develop coping mechanisms, analytical skills, and a sense of inner strength.
Building a healthy connection with your child is a gift to them that makes their life a lot more satisfying than it would be otherwise.
How do you build a connection with your child?
You can build a connection with your child in various ways, including play, quality time, empathy, positive parenting, and consistency.
1. Playful interaction: Using play to promote connection is a parenting tool you have at your disposal every single day.One of the best books I read when my children were small is Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. I highly recommend it to learn how play can build connections and make parenting much easier.Play is a potent tool for strengthening your relationship with your child. Play with your kid, go along with what they say, and let them use their imagination.When you’re invited into their play, you can enter their imaginary world. Say yes to building forts, playing pretend, or climbing that tree with them.You will nurture a sense of joy and connection by participating in their play and demonstrating that you genuinely enjoy them. And you’ll make your child insanely happy in the process.
2. Set aside specific quality time: Creating opportunities regularly for one-on-one time shows your child that you value their presence and time.Set aside time for your child and you, free from interruptions and distractions.Take part in things your child finds enjoyable, such as walking, cooking together, or participating in a shared interest.These shared experiences, with your complete presence, strengthen the emotional connection between you and your child.
3. Give empathy to your child: To emotionally connect with your child, validation is a powerful tool. Even if you don’t entirely understand your child, you can acknowledge their emotions without passing judgment. Let your child know that it’s ok to feel any specific way and that their emotions are real.Giving your child empathy means putting yourself in their position and trying to feel their viewpoint and experiences.It’s hard for a child, and truly for anyone, to connect with someone who will not empathize with them and instead aims to make their point.Instead, pause enough in your interactions with your child to try feeling what they may be feeling and comprehend them emotionally while remaining secure and grounded. Piper+Enza’s Big Book for Kids is an incredible tool to help you better understand your child’s viewpoint and the way they are experiencing something as a starting point for supporting them through it.
4. Be consistent: Consistency and predictability are the basis of a healthy attachment between child and parent. Consistent and predictable environments are ideal for children.Create rituals and habits that provide your child security and consistency.Keep your word and establish an environment where they know what to expect.Remember, you aren’t aiming for perfection but for consistency.
5. Use positive, gentle parenting: Using discipline techniques that emphasize communication and understanding will keep your connection with your child intact.Authoritative parenting, which includes gentle and positive discipline, helps your child learn and grow while building a close relationship. However, authoritarian (i.e., “do it because I said so!”) parenting will prevent connection.Positive parenting means you have firm boundaries that you implement kindly and respectfully.Whenever possible, include your child in problem-solving when roadblocks emerge. Together, you solve problems in a way that gives your child confidence and keeps the lines of communication open.Encourage their opinions and pay attention to what they have to say.When correcting a child, ensure your child feels heard and valued throughout the process.
You can foster a close and caring relationship with your child through emotional connection, presence, play, quality time, trust, and positive discipline.
Remember that developing and maintaining a connection takes time, consistency, and commitment.
Accept that strengthening your relationship with your child is a process, and you’ll enjoy the positive outcomes that will develop from a prioritizing connection.
Giselle Baumet is a Certified Life Coach, positive parenting educator, herbalist, aromatherapist, hypnotherapist, mental health educator, and more. She is also a Piper + Enza expert contributor. Learn more about her work at gisellebaumet.com.