Has your child ever scraped their knee on the playground, then come running to you, crying, with open arms? When kids feel secure with their parents or caregivers, they automatically turn to them for comfort. Some parent behaviors foster that sense of security, while other actions can break it down.
Knowing the right way to react to your child in certain situations can be tricky. Here’s what to do to ensure you are raising your child to be a secure adult and setting them up to form healthy relationships later on.
Respond to their needs
Research behind attachment theory shows that kids have already established a sense of trust, or lack thereof, with their caregiver before they reach the age of one. If they are used to you reacting when they cry because they need something, they feel secure—they know they can count on you. They associate their relationship with you as one of comfort and dependability.
If they are frequently ignored or rejected when they have a legitimate need, they may become what’s called “insecurely attached,” and look to you not out of a feeling of security but rather out of necessity. This insecurity can carry over into their adult relationships.
Some kids may take advantage of the fact that adults respond when they act out. Use your judgement, but don’t blow your child off if they really need something. Being alert and attentive to your kids’ needs shows them that they’re a priority to you.
Get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses
No two kids are alike. If you have more than one child, you may see that one is more rowdy and may need reminders to calm down, while the other is shy and may need encouragement when around other people. In order to understand how to interact with them in a way that is beneficial, you need to know what is unique about them.
The only way to get to know your children in this way is to spend time with them. You need to see how they react in certain situations to become familiar with their habits. Then you’ll be better-equipped with a customized approach for how best to help them when they need something.
This approach doesn’t mean letting your child get special treatment or extra attention–if they do something wrong, or consistently repeat negative behaviors, it’s OK to let them know their behavior is not right and that there will be consequences. What matters is your approach and your understanding that the way to get the message across to them may be different for each kid.
Don’t assume your kid knows how you feel about them
Tell them! Although you know you love your kids and you show them affection every day, they often don’t connect the dots and understand that you think the world of them. Tell them that you love them on a regular basis. Let them know that you care about them. Ask them about what they’re doing or what problems they are going through, and let them know you’re there for support.
By the same token, engage with your child at home and make them a part of household responsibilities. Tell them how much you appreciate their help. Besides training them to be more responsible, this can teach them to show gratitude toward others. Studies show that those who say thank you are generally more compassionate and willing to help out.
Kids learn by example. Set a good one for them from the beginning. Be there for them, and they’ll have a better chance of growing up to be caring adults and parents themselves.
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