My 3-year-old daughter stood up from the potty and slowly started peeling one square of toilet paper away from the roll. The baby was fussing in the other room and I knew he wanted to eat. Ohmygosh hurry up! I shouted in my mind. She was tired, and no one in the house had been feeling well… we were all coming down with something and it was only a matter of time until she did, as well. “Please use the toilet paper and come wash your hands.” I could hear the strain in my voice, and she did, too. She looked at me sullenly, and just held the toilet paper in front of her. Not moving. “Honestly, you’re taking too long, I need to get the baby. I can’t stand here anymore.” My voice was louder, and sterner than it should’ve been, and after I disappeared from the doorway she immediately started crying. It’s not that she needs help using the bathroom, but she prefers one of us in there with her. I picked up the baby and called to her from the living room, “Just wash your hands and come on out!” She continued to cry. I set the baby back down and walked into the bathroom. She was standing at the sink with her hands held out, shoulders shaking and tears rolling down her face. She knows how to wash her hands, and does so repeatedly. But, she’s also only 3, and there’s a major disconnect between the two of us right now. Making another demand, raising my voice, showing any more frustration or anger, or annoyance would only deepen that chasm. She didn’t need any of that. She needed me. I stood behind her and quietly asked, “Would you like me to help you wash your hands?” She nodded, and reaching around her I gently washed her hands for her. We dried our hands together, and then walked out of the bathroom. She walked up to her baby brother and started playing peek-a-boo. His fussing stopped, and she looked over at me and giggled. She just needed that little bit… a bit of touch, tenderness, connection, to let her know she was still important, and that she mattered just as much as her brother. To let her know we were still on the same side.
Connecting with your child isn’t just something you do once. It needs to be done constantly. Over and over again. Connecting, empathizing, being present: these are what allow you to have a peaceful, positive relationship with your child every day.
Of course, not every moment of every day is going to be pleasant. But each moment of the day is an opportunity to make a connection.
When you find yourself repeating the same request over again, you feel as though you’re not being listened to, that you are being ignored, or when your child is having a difficult time and crying… these are moments of disconnection. Do you sometimes struggle to make a connection with your child? Do you feel that you more often have moments of disconnection?
It’s easy to take these situations personally, to get mad and frustrated. Remember, though, that all behavior has a function. A reason. And usually it means your child is needing something.
Having a few key phrases to fall back on can make mending those disconnected moments a little less stressful. Even if there’s no immediate and noticeable change, know that the effort, and the words, are really making a positive difference in your relationship with your child.
Keep this handy for when you feel especially worn out, stressed, and completely disconnected from your little one. Just saying one of these phrases has the possibility of turning the whole situation around. 🙂
Want a free printable of these Connecting Statements? Go here!
“I hear what you’re saying.”
“I see you are crying. How can I help?”
“I know you want to go to the playground… and it’s tough because we can’t right now.”
“I’m here for you. How can I help?”
“Take a minute, I can wait.”
“I understand what you’re saying.”
“Can I help you?”
“This is tough, I know. We can get through it together.”
**These statements work for anyone…partners/spouses included!**