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  • Writer's pictureDr Laura Hutchison

Simple Ways to Improve Your Relationship with your Child: Keeping the P.E.A.C.E.

As I do myself, most parents I meet in my private psychology practice want to have a close, warm, loving relationship with their children. The trouble is life sometimes gets in our way. Busy schedules of needing to be teachers, housekeepers, chefs, chauffeurs, and disciplinarians to our kids infringe on our ideal relationship with them. We end up saying or doing things that we SWORE we would never do (like that screaming power struggle in the checkout line).

Here are some surefire simple ways to improve your relationship with your child. I used the acronym, P.E.A.C.E., to help others remember the 5 steps of more peaceful parenting. I’m sure that some of them you are already doing – because, hey, you’re already a concerned parent reading an article about parenting!

P is for PLAY! – Try to spend at least 5 minutes a day with your child where he or she decides and directs what you do; of course, safety and established family rules still apply. Start off by setting the time parameters, so that he or she can know what to expect (for example, “ Let’s have our special play time. We can play for 15 minutes together today.”). During the time let the child chose the activity and you follow his or her lead. For those precious minutes let yourself play that board or video game you can’t stand … or dress up silly … or take on a certain role that your child assigns you. It may not be as easy as it sounds at first, because it’s easy to slip into our other parenting roles. But give it a try. Your child will be so excited to share the play with you. And you will learn things about your child that you would never expect.

E is for EMOTION! – Next time you find yourself arguing with your child, try your best to understand what the child is feeling in that moment and reflect it back to him or her. If the child is angry because he or she can’t do what they want, state, “Wow, you are really mad that we can’t do that now. I understand how you feel.” Don’t change your parental decision on the moment, but do give the child the knowledge you understand him or her. It’s amazing how this can quickly de-escalate a could-be meltdown! Think about it, you always feel better when others try to understand what you are feeling. They may not be able to change the situation, and you may not even want them to, but you feel better knowing that someone understands your point of view.

A is for ADULT TIME! Take care of your own needs. If you can’t get the sleep, food, exercise, and social time you need (not necessarily want), you won’t be able to be the person, and parent, that you need to be for your child. Too often I find that parents put their own basic needs aside, believing it’s what is best for the children. What happens as a result is crabby parents that start to resent their children. It’s all about balance. And it’s a great example to show the next generation.

C is for CONSISTENCY! – Be consistent and respectful to your children. You would get pretty grouchy if you were told one thing and then the person did the opposite (“We’ll get ice cream after we finish this errand.”) … or if you were in the middle of doing something and someone told you that you HAD to stop immediately and dragged you away (swooping in a grabbing your child by the hand to take them somewhere, without giving them any warning). Put yourself in their little shoes every once in awhile. Remember to treat your children as you would like to be treated, and they will follow your example. This goes for discipline as well. If you tell a child that “If you do that one more time, I’ll …” – FOLLOW THROUGH. Children are quick learners. If you don’t follow through on the consequence they will learn that if they persist in their undesired behavior they will be able to get away with it.

E is for ENDINGS! – End each day (no matter how many time-outs you had to give) with telling the child how much you love him or her and stating at least one thing that the child did that day that made you proud to be his or her parent. Who wouldn’t want to go to sleep knowing the things they did right?

I hope these simple strategies help you keep the P.E.A.C.E. in your family and improve the most important relationships in your life …. those with the future, your children.

This article was originally posted on my blog PlayDrMom in July 2011.

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