One of the earliest and most beneficial pieces of advice I would give families, whom I worked with, was the importance of reconnecting during the toddler years. It was something that would become a common practice throughout the rest of their lives. Toddlers go through their meltdown stage and need self-regulation skills to help them cope with their feelings that are out of control, at that moment. When a child feels disregulated, they need the parent, guardian or adult figure in their life to bring peace into their little hearts again.
It doesn’t matter what may bring on a disconnect, but left untreated, it can lead to other forms of emotional issues. Life happens. It can be a military deployment, a second job, being a single parent or simply an argument that causes that initial disconnect. The beautiful thing is that the repairing process is very simple, when practiced diligently and intentionally. A disconnect left untreated because a person is passive aggressive or doesn’t have their own energy to reconnect, must first refuel themselves before they can refuel their child.
As a Christian, we are to look to God for more fuel. Sometimes a spouse is very supportive and can help oneself get regulated again, but some have had a spouse die or have been a single parent from the beginning or have suffered through a painful divorce. Whatever the case, know that God is there to get us through those little battles we face with our kids.
I have had my moments, like all parents do, times when I have had “one of those days” and this was just the last button that my child just so happened to push. This is not about being the perfect parent, it’s about learning from a Father who IS perfect and applying His loving kindness to our lives. One scripture that comes to mind when there’s is a major disconnect with either of my kids is Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This is so true! How many times have we lost it and yelled at our kids in anger, to only create wise matters?! I have and times I chose to take God’s Word into account (before) I over reacted, it has always worked.
There are different ways to reconnect with children. Toddlers need parents to squat down to their eye level-always. This ensures that they have your full attention and it promotes self-regulation. There is so much power in a Mother’s face! Most are familiar with “the look”. The “look” is that glare from a Mother that says, “don’t even think about it.” It begins immediately after birth, when a Mother is able to breastfeed, she is already establishing eye to eye contact, which helps a baby to study their Mother’s face and facial expressions. In toddlerhood, I would have parents control their child simply with their facial expressions. As children grow older, eye contact is extremely important because it forces a child not to have the opportunity to “check out.”
Each child is different, my son is able to reconnect faster than my daughter is. I use eye contact, a normal tone of voice and physical contact to reconnect. Since my daughter is now nine, I have to take longer with her, making sure that I allow our conversation to take as long as necessary, until I am certain that she is past her dis-regulation and reached “forgiveness mode.” If I am at fault, I tell her what I did and why it was wrong, then ask for her forgiveness. If either of my kids are in the wrong, I have them think about it. First, I ask them if what they did was right or wrong. Then, I ask them why they did it. Lastly, I have them confess the whole thing and ask if they want forgiveness to make things right again. I use the same expectation that God has with His believers. When we ask for forgiveness, we have to confess what we’re asking forgiveness for, right? It makes sense to do the same, plus, by asking them for forgiveness (when appropriate) we are modeling strong parenting behavior to them. I do not encourage having your child say they’re sorry. When it comes to toddlers, they don’t even comprehend what sorry means. As they grow into older children, they don’t mean it, really. It is better to actually get them to say the words out loud of what they are being disciplined for.
- By reconnecting with our child, we are able to establish trust again.
- By reconnecting, we are able to keep open communication with our kids for that time when they grow older (teenage years and beyond!)
- By reconnecting, we show our child their value to us.
- By reconnecting, we teach our child that they are worth our time and effort.
- By reconnecting, we are able to personify the meaning of love to them, so that they will truly understand what it is to love another person and in return, they will be able to reciprocate it back.
- We promote a circle of security telling our child they have someone they can always count on.
- We are modeling behavior that they should receive from others one day, so that they don’t confuse what they thought was “love” with dysfunctional abusive behavior.
- We repair the hole in their heart, by reconnecting.
- We build confidence because they know they can approach us with anything.
- We build strength in our child because they know that love is something you have to work for, takes time and effort.
Let’s face it, parents and kids take no pleasure in an angry moment. One thing that we are supposed to stay clear from is provoking our children to wrath. The seed that will blossom from this kind of behavior will result in disconnected, angry children that become withdrawn from authority and will only bring havoc onto themselves and the parent! It starts from the beginning. If you were never told, “I love you” as a child, start practicing it with your child. Allow that unhealthy cycle to end with you. If you never received hugs or words of affirmation, make an effort to do this with your children, it will not only help repair your hurt, but it will build the foundation you need for a healthy relationship with your child. We all either know broken people or are one. When Jesus comes into our lives, it ends with us.