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How to build a healthy & strong relationship with your child from day one (Part I)

Updated: Sep 30, 2019

In the hundreds of conversations I have had with parents over the years, on the subject of building a healthy partnership with our child, I have found that the concept of seeing ourselves in partnership with our kids – of being in an equal, respectful relationship – seems to be one of the most difficult ones for parents to get their head around.

There are a series of arguments against awarding children this more equal footing – this respect:

They include:

*But children need to have boundaries set for them.

*They need someone to make the important decisions.

*They need someone to teach them right from wrong.

*They NEED authority figures.

*A parent has more wisdom, emotional maturity and ability, so they have to be in charge.

I love questions! It is when we start questioning such beliefs that there is room for evolution, so let’s address each point in turn.

Healthy Parenting
How to build a healthy & strong relationship with your child from day one

‘But children need to have boundaries set for them!’

Yes, absolutely. Boundaries are very important.

Let’s talk about two of the types of boundaries I have come to discover are crucial in guiding and supporting kids: (For more on discipline, click here)

1. ’Yellow-line boundary’ - or the non-negotiables

A couple of years ago we were waiting for the train (subway). My husband was holding our youngest son’s hand - then 3 if not 2 years old and we were waiting right behind the ‘safe’ yellow line.

My son wanted to cross it and get very close to the railway ‘drop’. My husband held him tight. He was not going to let go. My son asked:

'Why do we have to stand behind the yellow line?'

I replied - Why do you think?

'We don't want to fall on the track. But why not?'

I replied - Why do you think?

'Because we’ll get squashed!'

Simple yet profound! I love kids’ gems of wisdom.

Yellow-line boundaries can be, but they aren’t always necessarily safety-related.

Yellow-line boundaries also keep us sane and centred as parents and are just as important.

So a yellow-line boundary could be holding hands when crossing the road as it could be ‘until I finish eating my dinner I’ll get up to help you with x’ or ‘soccer balls are to be played with outside’.

No negotiation in yellow-line boundaries.

Whenever I am feeling unsure about this boundary, I remember the yellow line:

I wouldn’t, for the life of me, let my child go right to the edge when a train is coming at high speed and he is jumping and rolling.

I would hold their hand firmly.

2. Win-win boundaries - or choice-boundaries

Because just like family life, some boundaries need to be ‘breathable’.

When my eldest was one and a half years old, he wanted to eat his snack on the couch. I explained I didn’t want food all over it.

He nodded, ran to the kitchen, grabbed a tea-towel, sat on the couch, placed the towel over his legs and said he was ready for me to hand over his bowl with fruit.

I did.

And I watched him eat: He was making sure the food wasn’t going anywhere outside of the towel.

Not one stain. Not even on the tea-towel!

Now, if I had seen the mango smashed on the cushions, his clothes, you name it, this win-win, open-for-negotiation boundary, would have become a yellow-line boundary until he would be older and me ready for another ‘trial’.

‘They need someone to make the important decisions!’

This is such a huge statement in itself.

What constitutes an important decision? Whom is it important to? And what are these decisions based on?

The child’s wellbeing? Yes, during the first couple of years, we will be making plenty of decisions for our child.

I am not saying that our child does not need caring for; I am saying that our child can have a say in their own development – in uncovering their own potential.

Consider being open to their unique viewpoint and opinion; consider listening to what they would decide for themselves – and why.

How much leeway/power 'should' one give a child in a decision making process?

One way to see it is that the age of the child could equal their input, but we need to be very in tune with how that input manifests.

Each child will have strengths (and challenges) that often won’t match the ‘average’ age/input ratio.

Asking a two-year-old what they want for dinner is too open and too overwhelming, for example, and asking a ten-year-old to hold your hand while crossing the street might not be necessary.

This is when knowing about holistic practices and child-development is crucial.

Above all else, consider your own motivations: When you make a decision for someone else, are you making it for them or for you?

In part II of this post we’ll unpack:

*They need someone to teach them right from wrong.

*They NEED authority figures.

*A parent has more wisdom, emotional maturity and ability, so they have to be in charge.

Here's to fabulous, happy families!

Suni xo

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