Imagine your favorite song. Does it flow with the teamwork of several stringed instruments? Does it have a stong or soft beat? Now imagine someone dancing. Do their feet almost seem to me making the music happen? When multiple sounds or things contact repeatedly at just the right time in a fantastic pattern, beautiful unity is created!! It is the same in our relationships!
Rhythmic relational contact creates unity and trust. The need for “consistency” is a term frequently used in parenting conversations but it often refers to discipline not relational connection. Kids and parents both benefit from consistent interactions. The regularity of sincere contact is more important than the specific activity in which you are participating, the duration of the activity, or the monetary cost. Parents often believe that big outings, special items or long hours must be involved to make connections quality. In truth, as little as ten minutes once per week of positive connection can have a huge impact on conflict resolution, correction, and daily task management as a family team. On average, people usually wait for relational connection to “just happen” rather than taking time to assess and plan for it. This can lead to parents and children living months without smiling at one another. Monotonous questions at the end of the day receive lifeless answers of “fine” and the world goes along as parents and kids merely survive each day’s demands. In his book, Scary Close, Donald Miller describes a mentor, Al, teaching him about all relationships being “teleological”. This means they are “living and alive and moving and becoming something.” But it requires a choice, effort “guiding them to a healthy place” rather than allowing them to “take a natural course”.
So how can we the parents intentionally drive this rhythm?
Over the next couple of days, consciously investigate how often and when you and your child:
· make eye contact (glares do not countJ)
· smile at each other
· share a common interest
· share a laugh
· share a frown/ tear.
Take that information and begin to build in these habits to relay value to your child:
· Just before you see them after school/work, mindfully anticipate reuniting
· Look them in the eye, smile, and think to yourself “I believe in you, Kid!”
(They will hear the message even though you are silent and maybe across a crowded room!!!)
· When you hand them something, intentionally make eye contact & smile
· Find creative ways to ask them how their day was besides “How was your day?” (My current favorite is: “If someone took people from your school far away for three months to a safe place, would you want to go or stay? If you want to stay, who would you prefer to be taken away? Why?” )
· Ask “why” about everything! (not in a second guessing, “you’re weird” kind of tone; just in an interested tone)
Make an effort to create a rhythm to connection in the life of your child. Cell phones offer great reminder and alarm software to keep you on course.
Bi- monthly breakfast “dates” could be supported by weekly 10 minute games of catch or darts, jumping on the trampoline, dance parties, sharing of jokes, walks with the pet, manicures/pedicures, dreaming about the grocery list, or completing a shared chore. Some card games have short rounds and one round can be played in 5-10 minutes. (One of our favorites for a quick hand and lots of laughs is “Exploding Kittens”). Don’t be pressured to play an entire game; give yourself permission to enjoy just one round in the midst of life’s chaos.
Get creative and consider both your interests and your child’s; share your vulnerabilities and short-comings; allow yourself to be known even as you get to know your child more and more. Target common interests and don’t be extremely rigid about sticking to the exact same time; just use it as a goal and look for rhythmic, repetition. Strive for patterned contact to keep communication lines open and free of debris. Smile and enjoy the presence of your kids!