Parenthood can be overwhelming, frustrating, joyous, challenging, fulfilling…the list is endless. In my experience working with families, especially those with young children, parents want to build strong bonds and effective relationships with their children, but are not always quite sure how to go about doing so. So, I would like to present parents with P.R.I.D.E, which provides basic skills to build attachment and engagement between them and their children.
1. Praise: When parents offer their children praise, children learn what behaviors are appropriate and encouraged. Praise may also help build children’s self-esteem. Now, it is important to make the praise specific and not general. For example, instead of “good job!”, try “you did a really good job cleaning your room!” Praise does not need to be material. Verbal praise is very impactful for children.
2. Reflect: When parents repeat or mirror what their children say, they are allowing the children to direct the conversation. To children, this indicates that their parents are engaged and accepting. Reflecting also offers the opportunity for parents and children to increase their verbal communication. For example, if the child says, “I love riding my bike,” the parent may reflect, “I can see that! You have so much fun on your bike!”
3. Imitate: When parents imitate their children’s play, they are allowing the children to lead the play and teaching the children how to appropriately play with others. Again, imitating children’s play demonstrates that parents are interested and attentive.
4. Describe: When parents verbally describe their children’s appropriate behavior, they are again allowing the child to lead, which builds confidence. By describing their children’s behavior, parents show children they are engaged and help children learn concepts. For example, if a child is stacking blocks on top of each other, the parent may describe, “you’re building a tall tower.”
5. Enthusiasm: When parents are enthusiastic about interacting with their children (and when using the P.R.I.D.E skills), they show interest and enjoyment in their children and model appropriate positive emotions. It is important to note that enthusiasm is not simply in parents’ tone of voice, but also in their body language and facial expressions.
Now that we have covered what parents can do to enhance their relationship with their children, here are some behaviors to avoid. If the children are engaging in safe behaviors, parents should avoid giving commands while playing, as commands impede children from leading and demonstrate parents’ lack of confidence in children. Parents can use “selective attention” when children are engaging in inappropriate (not to be confused with unsafe/destructive) behaviors. When using “selective attention,” parents focus on children’s appropriate behaviors while avoiding giving attention to the negative behaviors. For example, if a child becomes sassy while getting dressed for school in the morning, the parent may ignore the sassiness and praise child getting dressed. By consistently employing “selective attention,” children will learn that they are not receiving attention (good or bad) for their negative behaviors. Parents should avoid criticizing their children’s behaviors as this may increase said behavior and decrease children’s self-esteem. When engaging with their children, parents may ask a few questions to express interest. If parents ask a bunch of questions, children may feel overwhelmed or think that parents are not listening to them. When parents use these P.R.I.D.E skills with their young children, they are working to establish effective communication, confidence, and attachment with their children.
Parents, remember that implementing these skills is a learning process for you and your children. This process will not happen overnight so be patient and kind with yourselves. If you feel yourself becoming frustrated, put yourself in “time out” and take a deep breath before continuing.
For more parenting skills and tips, or if you are struggle with some aspects of parenting, we can help coach you through the challenges of parenting at any stage. Reach out to us by calling 303-393-0085 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to support you and your family in having the very best relationships possible.
~ Jennie Tuttle Baughn