Preventative Maintenance: 4 Habits to Strengthen Parent-Child Relationships

June 25th, 2015 by Dionna | 1 Comment
Posted in Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting

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preventative maintenance

I am participating in a round table discussion with some friends from Natural Parents Network, where we’re all reading Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham. I’m loving some of Dr. Laura’s suggestions on connecting with kids!

One thing she recommends is to do daily “preventative maintenance” with your kids. Preventative maintenance refills kids’ love tanks and gives them “an emotional tune-up” everyday, “so you don’t end up in the breakdown lane.”1 Life gives us many opportunities to feel some disconnect from our kids, and we need to be very intentional about reconnecting. If you forget to perform this preventative maintenance, chances are that you’ll find more conflict than cooperation in your daily interactions with your children.

Preventative maintenance can benefit both the adult-child relationship and the sibling relationship. Here’s how:

  • Your child feels treasured just for being herself, which is the best possible antidote to sibling rivalry.
  • Your child feels deeply connected to you, which helps him want to cooperate with you, so your life is more peaceful.
  • Your child feels safe, which helps him regulate himself.
  • Your child gets your help with her emotions before she falls apart, which minimizes those crisis moments when both children urgently need you.
  • Your children enjoy more frequent positive interactions with each other, which research shows leads to a closer sibling relationship, which leads to less conflict, which leads to more frequent positive interactions – a positive cycle.2

Dr. Laura offers four preventative maintenance habits that can make parent-child relationships – and therefore, sibling relationships – more peaceful and positive. They are:

  1. Use routines. Children feel safer when they know what to expect throughout their day. When children feel safe, they are better equipped to “regulate themselves emotionally and thus get along better with everyone in the family.”
  2. Make empathy your go-to way of relating to your child. Instead of lectures and time-outs when children act in negative ways, expressing empathy can help kids work through their emotions immediately. Responding with empathy also strengthens your relationship with your child, and it teaches kids to use empathy with their siblings and friends.
  3. Daily roughhousing. Kids can feel anxious about many little things every day, and that anxiety builds up. We can release “anxiety and clear the stress hormones from our bodies” by giggling. It really is true that laughter is the best medicine! Laughter “also releases oxytocin and endorphins,” which builds trust and strengthens the bond between parent and child. Dr. Laura urges parents to schedule 15 minutes each day in roughhousing and giggles. It will probably help the parents shake of their stress just as much as it helps the kids!
  4. Special time. In addition to daily roughhousing, make sure to spend one-on-one time with each of your kids. Meet your child in his world, let him lead you in whatever play he’d like. Letting your child direct your interaction also allows him to process any upsets he may have had throughout the day. And of course special time is a source of connection and love with you.3

Do you practice any of these “preventative maintenance” habits?

If so, please share tips in the comments!

Tomorrow I’ll post some ideas on how to roughhouse with your kids. It’s always nice to have a few new tricks up your sleeve!


Photo altered (words added) with permission from Stephan Hochhaus via Flickr Creative Commons

One Response to:
"Preventative Maintenance: 4 Habits to Strengthen Parent-Child Relationships"

  1. Life Breath Present   LB_Present

    These are good tips and I know I could incorporate the roughhousing/tickling more some days. It’s also hard for me to play for long periods with young children, so a few minutes a few times a day is better than nothing :)

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