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Parenting Advice Article

Keeping It Fun: 3 Secrets to Connected Parenting
y Amy Phillips-Gary

If you live with young people—of any age—chances are you’ve experienced the lead-footed, grumblings when they are faced with a task or activity that is just not their idea. 

It might be cleaning up his or her room, helping with a family project, or even visiting a relative who is not a favorite. 

Whatever the situation, when this lead-footed, grumbling begins, it feels like the experience is “ruined” for everyone.  Needless to say, nobody usually ends up feeling close and connected.

As parents, there are many times when we ask kids to take on responsibilities or perform jobs that are more important to us than to them. And, at times, this is putting it mildly!

No matter how hard one tries, the young person may not find your arguments convincing for why they should do what you want.

Various tools are often used: rewards, punishments, bribes, threats, and guilt among others.  At the end of the day the task or activity may have been accomplished, but the parent-child relationship has not been enriched.

It could even be weakened as we resort to methods of manipulation that don’t really feel good to anybody.

Take heart. There are ways to keep the connection between yourself and your kids strong and close—even in the face of disagreements and challenges.

A beautiful Saturday in Fall. The kids were asked to help mom and dad rake leaves in the backyard. The sun is out, temperatures are mild and the ground is just covered with bright yellows and reds.

Sounds like a recipe for some family connecting while working together on a project? Maybe to mom and dad, but not to the kids!

After much dragging of feet and complaining, everyone felt just a little bit irritated. Parents wanted help with the leaves—and for it to be a fun sharing time.  Kids just wanted to be doing something, anything else!  Yes, the leaves were being raked, but nobody was enjoying themselves.

How was this real-life situation turned around?

One by one, mom called to each kid, took him by the hand and together they took running leaps and dives into the giant leaf pile.  Everybody who wanted to took a turn and this instantly brought smiles to faces that before tended toward irritated grimaces. 

Doing the unexpected, fun, light-hearted action of taking each child along for a run and jump into the leaves helped turn a time of disconnection into one filled with more connection.

Give these 3 Secrets to Connected Parenting a try:

1) Stay awake

Too often in the busy-ness of life, we tend to go into a sort of autopilot—especially when it comes to parenting. Despite our intentions to “do it differently,” we get caught up in job responsibilities, chores, and bills and before we know it we hear words and see actions from ourselves that we never wanted to say or do. 

If you find yourself in this “autopilot” space—there are usually moments of realization-- breathe and come back to the present moment.  Be gentle and just take a moment to tune in to what you are feeling and what is going on right now.

In a place of being really present, you will be better able to work together with your child to allow the connections that are there to grow and flourish.

2) Come from the heart

This cannot be said enough. Coming to interactions with your child from a heart-led perspective can make all the difference. No, this does not mean that everything is ok and you don’t set boundaries or allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.

What this does mean is that when a tense situation comes up between you and the young person in your life, you are motivated by love: your love for yourself and for your child. 

It is more possible for everyone’s needs to be met when you are sharing and listening with your heart open.

3) Break the habitual pattern

Sometimes, when we “lock horns” with our kids, we fall back into habitual patterns. Maybe we yell even though we promised ourselves we weren’t going to.

Or perhaps we dig in our heels and refuse to hear anything that our child is saying essentially acting as stubbornly as we perceive our child to be!   

If you practice staying awake, you’ll be able to see yourself falling into these unwanted habits more easily.  When you see yourself doing whatever it is you didn’t want to do, change your course.

Break that habitual pattern by literally doing something differently.

In our example above, the mom noticed herself feeling angry and resentful that her children were unwilling to joyfully help with the family leaf raking project.  Somewhat spontaneously jumping in the leaf pile with her kids shook up the tension of the day.

The kids were still not happy about spending their afternoon raking leaves.  But the simple act of breaking the habitual pattern allowed them all to remember their connection and love for one another. 

When we think of children the word “fun” often comes to mind. This is a vital lesson we adults can learn from the younger ones in our lives. 

Keep it fun and light!

When tensions arise, come back to the moment, re-connect with your heart, and choose a different course—one of connection and closeness and joy.   

Amy Phillips-Gary is a person aspiring to live a loving-compassionate and mindful life. Partnering with her husband, home-schooling her two sons, and helping to lead an alternative scouting group provide her with opportunities to enjoy such a life!  She is Susie Collins' daughter.



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