Improving the Parent-Child Relationship

One of the most unpleasant side effects of behavioral problems is the toll they take on the family dynamic. When a child has chronic behavior issues parents often aren’t enjoying the time they spend with their child. This can be both frustrating and guilt-inducing. Children are also negatively affected when they receive frequent criticism or pick up on their parent’s irritation, which can lead to resentment and may damage their self-esteem.

Improving the parent-child relationship should be a priority for all families dealing with chronic problem behavior. To that end, try to increase the number of interactions you have with your child that are positive and don’t promote conflict. For example:

  • Use behavior management strategies that reinforce what you do want to see (like giving clear instructions in a neutral tone of voice or using lots of labeled praise) instead of comments that are critical or focus on what you don’t want to see.
  • Pay attention to your own emotions and look for healthy ways to deal with stressful situations without escalating them. Use your own emotional self-regulation skills or give yourself a time out if you need a moment to cool down.
  • Like in any relationship you want to nurture, think about how you can build on (or create) meaningful bonds. Are there common interests you can cultivate? New relationship rituals you can establish?
  • Set aside a small amount of time every day to be present and nonjudgmental with your child.

How to establish daily quality time

Even a small amount of time set aside reliably every day can become something children and parents learn to look forward to. This should be a time for positive connection, without rules or commands, to help everyone in the family defuse stress and appreciate each other’s company. This should be considered special time and should not be contingent on a child’s good behavior. Here are some tips for success:

  • Aim for 5 minutes per day with younger kids, 15 minutes with teens
  • Let your child choose an activity she enjoys and you join in
  • Actively listen and let her lead the conversation
  • Validate her choices and interests
  • Focus on giving positive attention to good behavior
  • Ignore minor misbehavior
  • Avoid directing the activity or criticizing