Mutual Respect

What is respect?

Being respected means being valued as a worthwhile human being. It is being treated with dignity regardless of human differences such as age, gender, race and even knowledge and skill.

There are two parts to mutual respect:

  1. Mutuality is a two-way street (I respect you and you respect me.). For that to happened we must each also respect ourselves.
  2. Equality is the basis for mutual respect. Equality here does not mean sameness but in the fact that we are human beings, belonging to the human family. We all need to be treated with dignity and respect. It means we have value or personal worth simply because we are human beings.

How mutual respect works in an adult/child relationship:

Many of us were raised with the idea that children must respect adults, while children were often treated with disrespect. We were taught to obey and this was enforced with reward and punishment. Children were controlled by the adults in their lives. Under this system, children learned to have others think for them, to avoid mistakes and to be submissive to an external authority.

Mutual respect between adults and children requires us to shift out beliefs and techniques of parenting. While the roles of parent and child are different, the individuals involved are of equal value as human beings. When parents are providing for, nurturing and teaching children in a non-punitive way, children come to believe that they are worthwhile, that they have abilities and that others believe in them and trust them. Parents can most effectively help children to learn to become independent, contributing individuals with strong internal motivation by doing the following:

  • Encouraging and valuing children’s contributions, ideas and efforts.
    • Saying “Thank you for helping/sharing. I appreciate it.”
  • Accepting and acknowledging children’s feelings as valid, legitimate and real.
    • Saying “You’re really sad that you can’t play longer at your friend’s house.”
  • Accepting mistakes as opportunities to learn.
    • Saying “What did you learn from this?” – Also see last point.
  • Finding opportunities for children to makes choices and decisions.
    • Give opportunities to make age appropriate choices early.
  • Giving assistance in, and opportunity for, critical thinking and problem solving.
    • Working trough problems with your child initially to teach the skills and then letting your child do it on his/her own once s/he has the skills
  • Sharing affection and fun with children.
    • Lots of hugs and playing with your children.
  • Remember that example is the most powerful teacher.
    • No comment needed here!

Mutual respect begins early!

Adapted from an article by E. Quiring and B. Johnson.

Play, More Than Just Fun

Parents often ask me what is the most effective thing that they can do for their children, the thing that will benefit them the most. As a play therapist, family counsellor and parent, my answer is unequivocally, PLAY! Play is a child’s language and toys are his/her words. “Play stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego” (Landreth, 2002). Through play, children practice skills that they will need throughout their lives. They explore different roles in play thereby learning about those roles. Have you ever listened to your child’s play and heard the exact words that you said to him/her come out of his/her mouth? Your child is integrating what you have taught him/her. Apart from being fun, play provides relaxation and an outlet for reducing tension. Play encourages creativity, abstract thinking and problem solving. Through play, children learn how to master new concepts and play increases a child’s self-confidence. Socially, play is very important as it helps develop cooperation, sharing, turn-taking and conflict resolution. Play aids in physical development as well as in development of attention and language.

Free unstructured play is essential for children and their development. Playing alone or with a friend or sibling provides many opportunities to learn and each of these types of play provide opportunities to develop different skills. As a parent, playing with your child is great way to strengthen the relationship with your child, especially if you let your child take the lead in the play and you follow your child’s lead. They love it if they can tell you what to do and this is a perfectly appropriate place for them to do it: in their own world. Enter and be humbled by what their play can teach you!


Building Bonds: Playing With Your Children

Many parents believe that when they sit down to “play” with their kids, they should have a craft or something similar to do with them. Yes, crafts are fun! It is a good way to spend time with your kids and they learn many skills from this. This activity is structured and directed by you, the parent.

There is a lot of value in unstructured play between the parent and the child. You know how you hear time and time again, try to spend one-on-one time with each child individually and you wonder how you will ever be able to find the time to do this. Well, playing is a really easy way to have this one-on-one time and strengthen bonds between you and your child. It requires no planning, no structure, no scissors, no glue, paint or any other material. All it takes is a regular time, even as little as 20 minutes per week to play with your child.

Now here’s the really easy part. Sit down on the floor with your child, surrounded by some toys and then just let your child decide what to play with. As your child is playing, give him/her your full attention and just comment on what is happening in the play. “I see that you’re taking the baby for a walk in her stroller.” but don’t make any suggestions of how the play should go. Just listen and watch and try to put yourself in your child’s world. See the play through their eyes and you will also get a glimpse of how they view the world. Your child may ask you to take on a role in a play scenario and do as s/he directs you to do. It may mean that you have to use a different voice to go along with the character that you’re playing. Abandon yourself to the play while following your child’s lead. It’s okay to ask your child how s/he would like you to act or what s/he would like you to say if you’re not sure. This says to the child, “You’re important and I want to do this right, just the way you want it.” You are after all in the child’s world now.

This type of play is invaluable for strengthening the parent/child bonds. You’ve carved out a time to be completely there for your child and your child feels valued. By witnessing your child’s play, you do get the opportunity to understand your child better and you get to just have fun on your child’s terms. It expresses to your child that s/he is important and what s/he does is important.

Have fun!!


Listening to Your Kids

Sometimes we find good, sound parenting advice in the most unlikely places. Today as I was browsing through my Facebook page I found this posted by one of my “friends”.

“Listen earnestly to anything that your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all if is has always been big stuff.”

Communication does start from the very beginning and if your kids know that  you’ll listen to them, they’ll talk. Listen with no judgement or opinion, just with interest.

Attachment and Games

Mother Goose sure knew what she was doing when it came to nursery rhymes.  These often short ditties are loved by kids because they are rhythmic and fun!  Think about when you recite nursery rhymes to your child; you are sitting right next to or facing him/her, both of you are actively engaged and focused on each other.  What a great bonding moment that strengthens attachment. Children respond to rhythm because they spent nine months in their mother’s womb listening to the beat of her heart, the rhythm of her breathing and the rhythm of her body.  It is very familiar to them. “Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake” is great for building attachment because it is also a clapping game which involves very active involvement between child and parent.  You both need to be looking at each other and very aware of each others actions.  Then there are those moments when you miss each other’s hands and this usually evokes lots of giggles – more positive interaction.  “This Little Piggy Went to Market” and “Round and Round the Garden” are other games that, apart from being enjoyable for the child, help with attachment.  Let’s not forget “Peek-a-Boo”. “I Spy” is a favourite with children.  Change it a bit so that what you “spy” is something on each other and then you have a game where there is a great awareness of and focus the other.  Yes, you’re building attachment.

“I spy with my little eye something that is (a colour) / something that starts with the letter ___.”

Here are more games.

“Air” Hockey with Smarties:  Place a Smartie on the table and using bendable straws, move the smart around until one person scores a goal.  The person who scores the goal is fed the Smartie by the other. Licorice Race:  You and your child each put an end of the same liquorice string in your mouths and chew, chew, chew to see who can eat the most of the licorice string before it “runs out”. ”

Stacked Hands”:  Place your hand flat, your child’s hand on top, yours over top of your child’s and then your child’s on top of all that.  Remove your hand from the bottom and place it on top of the stack.  Then it’s your child’s turn and just keep stacking the hands.  For an extra challenge try this with more people.

Hide and Seek:  Especially if you are making comments like “I wonder where my wonderful Billy is?”  “When I find Sally, I’m going to give her a big hug!” ” I hope I find Joey soon, I love to see his big, bright smile!”

Do not Drop the Donut:  Place your finger through the hole in a donut and have your child see how much of the donut s/he can eat before the donut falls.

There are many other games that have the added bonus of building attachment and I’ve listed just a few.  I’m sure that you can even make up some of your own.

Do you have any games that you would like to share with the rest of this parent community?  Feel free to post them!

Teens and Attachment

Sometimes our teen’s behaviour looks very little like an attachment behaviour and at those time we wonder if we really want to be any closer to them!!  They are belligerent, mouthy, sassy, rude and foul tempered.  Is this really all about hormones?  I think not.

Teens and toddlers have a lot in common; they are both trying to identify themselves and become independent.  Remember when your toddler used to play in a room away from you?   S/he would come back to the room that you were in and check to make sure you were still there.   Your child was actually trying out independence by being apart from you and then coming back when s/he needed reassurance.  A teen is doing the exact same thing by pushing you away when s/he wants independence and then reconnecting for reassurance, comforting or acknowledgement.  An elastic band best describes this attachment and separation process for an adolescent.

Developmentally, teens are in the process of learning to live independent of their parents.    Our role as parents is to encourage and support our children while they are doing this.  We encourage good decisions and choices that we see them making; “You were really taking care of yourself when you decided not to go to that party the other night – the one that got out of control.”  We also guide and help with problem solving; “I see that its’t working out for you.  Would you like us to look at this and see if together we can come up with some solutions for you?”  If they say, “No.” then reply with, “I’m here if you change your mind.”

A good book on talking to teens: How to Talk so Teens Will Listen and How to Listen so Teens Will Talk  by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber