Connection before correction is firmly grounded in kind and firm parenting. Children learn, grow, and thrive when they feel connected to others. This could also mean they feel like they belong and they are significant.
When a child feels connected they feel safe and free to communicate openly. When children are punished, lectured, shamed, or blamed for something they did they experience the fight, flight, or freeze phenomenon.
How do you create a connection with your children? The Positive Discipline curriculum gives the following examples of how to create a connection:
Spend special time with children. What could create a greater connection for your children than to know you enjoy spending time with them? Spending time with them may be 1:1 or as a group. Spending 1:1 time with a child is important to get to know them on an individual basis and providing the opportunity where they can have your individual attention.
Listen. Really listen. Stop doing whatever you are doing and give your child your full attention. Get on your child’s level and listen to them.
Validate your child’s feelings. Even if you don’t agree with your child, validate their feelings. You can repeat back to them what they are conveying about their feelings. Help them feel understood.
Share your feelings and thoughts when appropriate. Children feel a connection when you listen and then, if appropriate, share an experience with them after you listen to them do so, but first make sure you listen. When you are communicating with a child, get on their level. If they are comfortable with eye contact, make eye contact with them while you listen and make appropriate comments.
Focus on solutions WITH children. Lecturing your child on what to do does not work and does not teach them the important life skill of how to problem-solve. If your child needs to solve a problem help them by allowing them to take the lead in exploring different options and consequences to those options. You can give suggestions as necessary.
Ask clarifying questions to help understand what your child is thinking and help them understand the consequences of different options for behavior. Asking questions and listening to their answers helps create connections.
Hugs. Sometimes all someone needs is a hug.
What are other ways you can build a connection with your children?
Remember that the best form of correction when your child has behaved inappropriately is to problem solve with your child to come up with an alternative to their inappropriate behavior that has better outcomes than what they’re currently doing. Finding solutions with your child and not doing something to them (such as punishment) creates connection.
A great way to find solutions to family problems is to hold family meetings. Before the meeting family members can take time to organize their thoughts and think about what they want to say. During the meeting family members can talk together to build connections. They can come up with solutions to problems together. It is not appropriate to hold family meetings when one child is having a problem or there is a problem between 2-3 family members unless those family members would like to discuss it in a family meeting.