5 Principles: Connecting With Kids For Busy Parents
The "4 Robiogs" enjoying Boys Night Out
I get asked a lot about parenting in a household with two busy professional parents. While I definitely don't think I have it nailed, I like to share my perspective from time to time. Here are the best ways I’ve found to build connection with kids. These aren't just the "laugh more" B.S. that isn't particularly insightful or helpful. These principles are difficult, time consuming, but for me have moved the needle.
Literally, kids don’t process things as quickly as you do. When you’re rushed, or telling them 3-5 different things at the same time, they don’t get your urgency, they just get your anxiety.
But also, you just have to slow down your time expectations. This helps you, and it helps them.
When you slow down, you’re meeting them at their level. They feel it, and respond to it.
What I try to do: Look, I’m rushed with my kids too, but I:
Try to talk to one kid at a time
Give them my full attention
Respond slowly and with context so they understand why I am telling them something
Give them as much time as they need to get out their feelings and process what I say
PUT YOUR FUCKING PHONE AWAY
Your kids know you’re on it. They know you’re not paying attention to them. They think your phone is super important to you. They model that behavior.
Put the damn thing away when you’re with them.
What I try to do: I use my phone in front of my kids, but here are my rules:
I only read or work - articles, books, news (no mindless social media)
They are allowed to tell me to put it away at any time
I need to have already spent quality time with them (all three)
put the phone down, look at them and give them my full attention if we are speaking/interacting with each other
Manage Transitions better
Transitions are the single biggest source of friction with kids. Parents are usually rushed themselves and kids are notoriously hard to get out of the house.
Less friction, better connection.
You have to manage this time better. That includes managing the other adults that are around. When two parents + grandparents, etc are all interacting with the kids WHILE you are trying to get kids attention to get somewhere else - it’s a disaster. Children can’t focus on more than one adult telling them what to do. Plus, it’s even harder (and more frustrating) for them to try and reconcile if two adults are telling them different things.
What I try to do:
Give my kids 15, 10, and 5 minute warnings of when we are leaving so they are already going through mental tripwires.
Tell them what they are going to do next - ahead of time - and only one thing at a time.
Only allow one adult to direct the kids in a transition. For example, mornings. I am responsible for directing the kids on what they need to do to get ready and out the door for the day. My wife helps by getting things organized and ready to go, but does not manage them out the door. This helps our relatio
nship too - she doesn't have to worry about it, and we don't accidentally overrule each other either.
1 on 1
This isn’t just 1 on 1 experiences and play time - that’s definitely a must. Rather, I’m talking about what do you do when you have to discipline a kid or calm them down? Do you do it in front of the other kids or other adults?
In my experience this only builds shame in children, but when you take the time to pull them aside when no one is watching - YOU are fully present with them. You are calmer, and you can give them the proper attention that they need to manage their emotions in that moment.
This builds trust that I'm not just going to yell at them and leave them hanging. They are more open in telling me the truth and/or how they are feeling in a situation.
What I try to do:
1 on 1 events get built into my calendar
When disciplining or dealing with an upset child, I separate him from everyone else so it’s just me and him, 1 on 1.
I let him cool off and then come back to spend as much time as he needs to listen and tell his side of the story. I explain my decisions and why they are happening.
This all takes a lot of time, which is why “slow down” is the first principle.
Build rituals around moments
Your kids are living in the moment - you are not. Start capturing their moments and elevate their significance - it will make you feel better too.
Here’s what we do:
We write down funny quotes our family says in a Quotebook (this is my passion project that I developed over the years). We then read from the Quotebook before bedtime at least weekly.
We Created the “Jar of Awesome.” When anyone in our family does something exceptional, we write it down and put it in the jar. When the jar is filled, we do a celebration as a family.
"Boys night out" whenever my wife is out or working late (see picture above). We stay up late and pretty much anything goes - including being the "4 Robigos" in our robes!