When a child is feeling disconnected, the whole house begins to feel it. If left unchecked, the home can become a battleground and the child acts out more which causes parents to be frustrated more, and the cycle of disconnection can spin out of control.

We all want to do the best we can by our children, but of course, none of us are perfect. With all we are trying to juggle, it’s no wonder that it’s so easy to slip into habits that can cause a disconnection between parent and child. Bringing awareness to these habits and to the state of our relationship is the first step to reconnecting to our children and bringing peace back to our homes.

Here are three habits that cause can cause a disconnection between you and your child:

1. Seeing the negative in our children.

Pay attention to how you interact with your child. Focusing on what’s going wrong or on the behaviors we don’t like is an easy habit to fall into, and when it happens, we lose sight of the positive behaviors and traits we love about our kids.

Are you mostly correcting and criticizing? Is there a certain behavior that’s really grating on your nerves? Are you quick to punish? Are you caught in a cycle of time-outs and misbehavior that has you feeling worn out? These are all signs that you’re focusing much of your attention on the negative.

2. Spending too much time on devices in front of our kids.

Mindful phone and device usage is a discipline that we must cultivate not only so that we can stay connected to our kids but also to model good habits and set a standard for putting people first.

The average American spends more than 10 hours a day on a device. One study showed that 42% of kids felt ignored by their parents while on vacation because their parents were on their phones. Whether we intend it or not, our kids are feeling the disconnection.

3. Using time outs.

Time outs became a popular alternative to spanking once we began to realize the lasting harm of physical punishment. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the emotional harm that isolation can cause.

Bonnie Compton, a child and adolescent therapist, and parenting coach says, “Children experience feelings of isolation and abandonment when placed in time out. There is a loss of contact, which can be interpreted as loss of a parent’s love, especially for younger children. Kids who are sent to their room often believe their isolation is a result of being bad enough that parents don’t want to be around them.” When a time out is used regularly as a form of punishment, disconnection occurs.

Here’s how to reconnect with your child, mama:

1. Engage with your child during play time.

Play is one of the quickest ways to a young child’s heart. Whether means playing trains with your toddler or Minecraft with your teen, spending time in your kid’s world with him is a great way to grow the attachment bond.

2. Speak your child’s love language.

Some children need more affection, others need to hear affirming words. Know what fills your child’s love tank and make sure to give it daily. On the flip side, be careful to avoid things that go against their love language. For example, if your child’s love language is words of affirmation, be especially careful with criticizing that child. For more on this, read The 5 Love Languages of Children.

3. Meet emotions with empathy.

Children need a safe space to express their emotions and to feel heard and understood. Often times, their big emotions can stir up our own, and remaining calm and empathetic in the face of that is challenging. However, you’d be surprised at how healing it is just to feel listened to and to be able to get it out in the loving and warm presence of a parent.

4. Be a parent you can talk to.

Practice active listening without doling out immediate judgment or advice. We have a tendency to want to offer our two cents before our kids even finish a sentence, and we often discount their feelings with words like, “It’s not that big of a deal” or “You’re blowing this way out of proportion.” The more we listen well and open those lines of communication, the stronger our connection becomes.

5. Use positive discipline.

Trade time out for time in and ditch punishments for problem-solving together. When you come alongside your child with a focus on teaching rather than working against from an authoritarian standpoint, your child will feel that you’re on their side and that they can count on you for guidance. The more you try to control, the more that counter will instinct will be activated.

6. Recognize and point out the good in your child.

This is a good corrective measure if you’ve been too critical. Shift your lens to see the good, and point it out to your child. Research says we need five good interactions for every negative one, so if you’ve scolded or criticized once, find five ways to encourage or affirm your child.

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