A Healthy Relationship
It is essential to know and have conviction about the “why,” otherwise when the going gets tough, we will crumble under pressure! However, once we have conviction about the need to train our children, we need ingredient number two: a healthy relationship. Since training is such a difficult thing, it needs to happen in the framework of a healthy relationship. So, what constitutes a healthy parent/child relationship?
It is agreed among psychologists that children have five basic needs:
1. Structure: Children need to have boundaries in their lives to feel secure. Basic things like three square meals a day, a rhythm of life and regular times of rest, common sense rules that help them treat themselves and others well, and a stable family unit are all things that help kids have the structure to feel secure.
2. Engagement: Kids need to have regular, meaningful interaction with their parents each day.
3. Challenge: Children need to have their parents challenge them to do things that are currently beyond them.
4. Nurture: Kids need an encouraging relationship of sympathy, understanding, and kindness with their parents.
5. Playfulness: Children need to play with their parents to foster empathy, trust, and to engage their imagination.
What do all of these relational components have in common? TIME. All of these things take time. Before we dive into the time it takes, first let’s consider how these childhood needs are best met.
When I asked a trusted psychologist about how much these needs should be met by parents and how much these needs should be met by community, here was his response:
“…in order to make sense of needs getting met or not met as a child gets older and functions more independently in community, you have to look at how a child gets their needs met from the beginning of the child’s life. When a child is born, and during the first several years of life, there is only one place a child can get their needs met: Mom and Dad. All kids know this instinctively and won’t trust anyone more than they trust their mom and dad. Therefore, if mom and dad miss or don’t provide the child’s need, the child will interpret that as if there is something wrong with themselves. They didn’t do anything. They were just being themselves and then the need did not get met. So, the only way a child can interpret that is that there is something wrong with themselves…”
Wow. This is heartbreaking and shows the core need of a parent to meet these childhood needs. Let’s get back to the common element in meeting these needs: TIME. If a child is not spending most of their time with mom and/or dad in their first several years of life, their basic needs may not really be getting met, and the relationship will not be as healthy as it needs to be.
Obviously, time alone is not the answer. You can spend all day in the same house as your child and still not be meeting these basic needs. But the fact still remains that time is inherent to the kind of relationship that does meet these needs.
How do we make time for these relational realities? First, we acknowledge our own brokenness in this area. Our needs were not always met by our own parents, and now we are scrambling after other things in order to compensate for that. Second, we rethink our priorities about lifestyle, etc. to make these relationships a priority over providing material things or being involved in so many activities. These hard choices are so worth it! We were made for these kinds of relationships. Everyone loves their kids, but not everyone enjoys them. Let’s enjoy our children!
Next, we will dive into the nitty gritty of child training with ingredient number three: clear expectations and consistent consequences.