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How To Mistake-Proof Your Relationship With Your Child

Want a great relationship with your child? Find out the secret to building and maintaining a bond strong enough to handle anything!

relationship with your child | emotional bank account | This Time Of Mine

Do you want a rock-solid relationship with your child?

It seems like every time we make a mistake, we get a bit overly ambitious and optimistic. “Next time, I’ll handle it better.” True, we get a fresh start every day, but life has a way of catching up with us, doesn’t it?

We set goals, recommit ourselves, and hope for the best. Then our child does something that sets us over the edge, yet again, and we’re back to worrying that we’ve made another irreparable dent in that relationship.

Well, time for a change!

I’ll admit, I love a good parenting resolution. I relish the opportunity to grow and change and work on building a stronger relationship with each of my kids.

But parenting is hard. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. And there were days that I would have rather thrown down 100 burpees than face the fact that I’d just lost it on my kids again.

I always felt like whatever I did, I just wasn’t capable of keeping it together. What was WRONG with me? I’d load up on tricks and strategies, pour over books from experts, and “self-care” myself silly only to fall flatter than a pancake time and time again.

Well, not anymore!

I found that a simple mindset shift was all I needed. Because every relationship has its ups and downs – parenting included. And the trick isn’t to avoid mistakes but to learn how to balance the negatives with the positives.

If your relationship with your child isn’t where you want it to be yet, that’s okay. There’s no time like the present to get started on making it better!

Let’s flip the switch so you can start creating an amazing bond with your kids that’s strong enough to handle anything!

relationship with your child | This Time Of Mine

TIME TO START INVESTING IN YOUR CHILD’S BANK ACCOUNT

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

I think it’s safe to say that you’re committed to building a strong relationship with your child. That’s why you’re here. So today, we’re talking bank accounts – but not the financial kind.

Steven R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Families once described relationships as an emotional bank account. Here’s what he said:

“By proactively doing things that build trust in a relationship, one makes ‘deposits’. Conversely, by reactively doing things that decrease trust, one makes ‘withdrawals’. The current ‘balance’ in the emotional bank account, will determine how well two people can communicate and problem-solve together.”​

Here’s why I love this concept: it allows for mistakes. That’s good news because I’m far from being a perfect parent.

Every day, we’re making deposits and withdrawals in our children’s emotional bank accounts. And that ebb and flow is a natural part of every relationship, even the healthy ones.

Our goal is simply to remain in the green as much as possible. This reserve of positive emotional interactions gives us and our children something to fall back on when there are withdrawals. And we all know those happen.

So what exactly are “deposits” and “withdrawals”? Let’s go over each.

relationship with your child | This Time Of Mine

MAKING DEPOSITS IN YOUR CHILD’S EMOTIONAL BANK ACCOUNT

In her book Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham once said, “Children freely, even enthusiastically, cooperate when they believe that we’re on their side.” We can help our children feel that by building trust and making continual emotional deposits.

How do we do that? Simply by having positive interactions with them. Here are a few ideas:

  • A smile
  • A hug
  • Eye contact
  • Noticing when your child goes above and beyond
  • Allowing them to overhear you talk highly of them
  • Thanking them for doing something
  • One-on-one time
  • Laughing with them
  • Keeping a promise
  • Saying “yes” more

When it comes to connecting with our kids, it’s not always about doing more. Sure, ice cream dates are fun and memorable, but it’s the little things that add up the most.

It’s the times we break from the regular routine of life and make the interactions we’re already having just a little more meaningful. Those are the little deposits that will cultivate a strong parent-child relationship.

Then, even when we do make a mistake, our child can “give us the benefit of the doubt because all the other loving, affirming interactions created a positive balance in our relationship account.” (Dr. Laura Markham)

Want more ideas? Head here for more simple ways to make emotional deposits.

The Peaceful Parent Starter Guide | This Time Of Mine

WHAT ABOUT WITHDRAWALS?

Withdrawals aren’t as fun to talk about. These are the negative interactions we have with our kids and are often the source of a lot of our parental guilt.

Here are a few examples:

  • Snapping at your child
  • Talking negatively about them to others
  • Sarcasm
  • Looking at your phone when they talk to you
  • Criticizing
  • Giving command after command after command…
  • Nagging
  • Comparing them to others

No matter how strong we are, we’re going to make mistakes. That’s part of being human. But recognizing them for what they are – withdrawals – will help us know how to recover.

relationship with your child | This Time Of Mine

WHEN YOU’RE IN THE RED

Parents are a lot harder on themselves than they realize. And because we have a tendency to remember the “withdrawals” a lot more than the “deposits”, we often end the day feeling we’ve drawn a negative balance in the emotional bank accounts of our kids.

So before we talk about how to recover when we dip into the red, let me first say this: Pay attention to the times you do make deposits. Chances are, you’re doing better than you think.

Now, how do we know when we’re truly “in the red”?

In Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham also said, “The most obvious sign that your relationship with your child needs some repair work is defiance.”

Our children naturally love us (even when it doesn’t seem like it), and they want to please us. But that doesn’t mean they’ll always behave perfectly.

When your child acts out, resist the urge to take it personally. Deal with the behavior as necessary, but then think about your connection level. If you’ve had more negative than positive interactions lately, it might be time to start filling up their emotional account.

According to the Gottman Institute of Psychology, the “perfect ratio” of positive and negative interactions is 5 to 1. This means that for every withdrawal, a happy, healthy relationship has 5 or more deposits.

Of course, it’s not necessary to keep a running total, just make an intentional effort throughout the day to get back into the green.

AN EXAMPLE FROM MY OWN LIFE

During the school year, things can get a little hectic.

Our mornings are rushed trying to get everyone to school on time. Our afternoons fill up quickly with homework, piano practice, friends, dinner, etc. And our evenings are a small circus production as we try and get everyone showered and prepped for the following day.

Needless to say, I make withdrawals often.

I’ve been making an intentional effort to fill up the emotional bank accounts as I go along to make up for it, and it’s been helping. My relationship with each child is stronger and I feel less guilt. I’m not doing anything huge, I’m just trying to change a few habits.

For example, I’ve made it a goal to put my phone completely down whenever one of my kids comes to talk to me. And I try to keep it put away as much as possible from the time they get home to the time they go to bed.

The only “big” thing I’m doing is something just for my older two kids. They don’t get much of our time and attention after school because my kindergartener is often an emotional mess when he gets home and my 2-year-old is very…2.

So to make up for that, my husband and I have been doing “parent time” with our older kids once the younger two are in bed. We switch kids each night, set the timer for 15 minutes, and do whatever that child wants to do.

Of course, some nights it doesn’t work out and we can’t fit in “parent time”. But we do it more often than not, and it’s been enough to keep those emotional accounts in the green.

relationship with your child | This Time Of Mine

IF YOU WANT A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD, AIM FOR RELIABILITY, NOT PERFECTION.

Here’s the thing, we’re all going to have days when we make more withdrawals than deposits. But just like a financial bank account, we can recover. ​

When we fall into the red, we just need to make a concentrated effort to fill up that emotional reserve again. And when we’re intentional about continually making little deposits every day, it won’t be the end of the world when we make the occasional withdrawal. ​

So look for little opportunities to create meaningful interactions with your child. They don’t have to be big or fancy to make an impact on your relationship. And over time, your child will come to trust in your ability to be a reliable and emotionally safe parent – imperfections included.

For more help on staying calm so you can stay in the green, be sure to grab The Peaceful Parent Starter Guide. This free guide will walk you through three powerful steps for staying in control and yelling less.

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