Keeping Connection as the Primary Goal

By: - January 20, 2022

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Right after winter break, which lasted about two weeks (but a month for my one homeschooler!), six out of the seven people living in my house came down with the Corona Virus, and we had to quarantine for 10 more days together before everyone could go back to school. To be honest, I already dread winter break and very much look forward to the return of school. There is little to no routine, it’s chilly and harder to get outside, and children who have come from trauma have a hard time around the holidays because they are missing their first families. In our family, we love routine and structure, and it’s just plain hard to create routine and structure at home in a way that is not overbearing. So, you can imagine when I found out we had to quarantine for ten days, I was completely and utterly devastated.

Being home together had some positive aspects, but mostly it was just plain hard. I started seeing all of my children’s negative behaviors and correcting them or asking them if they had done this assignment or completed that chore. I felt like I was telling them what to do all day long, and I was exhausted. Connection with my children was not at the forefront of my mind; survival was. I just needed to make it to the next minute, the next hour, the next day. But in the midst of that survival, I missed a very important opportunity for connection.

Dr. Karyn Purvis describes correction without connection as “joyless for both the parent and the child” and I would wholeheartedly agree with that. When I allowed myself to get irritated with my kids being on screens too long or not offering to help or bickering with a sibling, I had an opportunity to stop what I was doing, get on their level, and connect with them while also redirecting them into the correct behavior. When they messed up, I had an opportunity to say lightheartedly, “Hey – do you think we could try that again?” or “Let’s think of something super fun to do together.” And in doing so, I would still be correcting the behavior, but in a way that keeps me close to my child, that doesn’t cause them to run away or avoid me.

As I was thinking about this, I also realized that if I keep connection as the primary goal with my children, then I can set healthy expectations and boundaries that will best help my them to connect – with their parents, their siblings, and the world. For instance, it can be really difficult to enforce boundaries and expectations with teenagers’ screen usage. I get caught up in the exact amount of time they’re allowed to have on a device or a specific rule, and I get nervous about what their response will be if I step in and set a boundary.

However, when I view this issue through the lens of connection, I can see that my child is having a hard time connecting with others because of their device usage, and I can help them with this by setting clear, consistent, and fair rules regarding screen time. Even if their initial response to these rules is negative, I can have confidence that this decision is in line with my primary goal of connection, which I know is what my children deeply need and want, but sometimes don’t know how to get.

It can be really difficult to connect with a child who seems to constantly buck the system and break the rules, but this child is the one who needs connection the most. Think about ways that you can regulate yourself so that you can tackle your child’s behavior through connection instead of constant nagging or correction. What a difference connection can make! Sometimes we just need a reminder.

Also Found In: Tapestry Blog