Phil Nunn, an Australian psychologist, says that parenting is like having a rope around your waist. Parenting is all about knowing when to let the rope out and when to reel it in.

I take this metaphor a little bit further. The rope around your waist is the relationship you have with your child.

No rope = no relationship. Without a relationship there is no letting out and no reeling in. Your child is flailing about at the end of the rope without being hitched to something.  That’s a dangerous and scary place for a child to be. In my experience most of these kids look angry. This anger masks hurt, all children want to feel connection and belonging with their primary caregivers.

Without a strong and positive parent-child relationship, your child will not listen to you and will not do as you ask. It really is that simple. I believe that having a strong relationship with your child is the most important thing that you can do as a parent.

I reckon that building relationship is about 80% of the parenting effort. So, if you are disciplining and punishing your children about 80% of the time, then think about taking an about-turn, and concentrate on relationship instead, and see how that changes things.

So, how do you develop a positive relationship with your child?

Hugs, touch, care, unconditional love, attention, spending time with them, descriptive praise, nurture, listening to them when they talk, are relationship builders.

Things like put-downs, name calling, criticism, teasing, telling them that they are ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’, and swearing at your kids are relationship killers. If you don’t like being treated that way, don’t treat your kids that way.

Lots of parents say to me, “I don’t have time to spend lots of time with my children”. The best-kept secret to parenting is to spend small amounts of time (a few minutes) regularly throughout the day with your child, especially if she asks for it. Spending small amounts of time listening to your child or supporting him is worth more to your child than spending a half day per week. If you are not doing anything super-important, stop to listen to them or look at what they want to show you. Top up their emotional cup as often as you can.

If you are reading this, and you think that your relationship is not that great with your kids, and they are angry at you, not listening to you, and not doing as you ask, then it is not too late. It’s never too late to build a relationship with your child.

Dr Robyn Dolby also uses the rope metaphor to explain how parents relate to their children. She says that if your child is used to being out on the end of the rope most of the time, then you need to reel the rope IN very slowly. Some parents pull on the rope too hard, and the child pulls harder. That will lead to even more fights. Nope, just reel that rope in very, very slowly, and prove to your child that you can be trusted to be the parent they need you to be.

The same can be said for children who have been kept too close and too controlled (over protected) or kids who experience anxiety. You need to let the rope OUT very slowly, so they don’t get scared.

Relationship. It is essential to growing strong, resilient, healthy, and happy humans. The relationship you have with your child is their first experience of love. They will take what you teach them into their friendships and their intimate relationships. What are you teaching them about love?


Narelle Smith


Categories: Encouraging Desirable Behaviour

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