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How to Parent with a Customized Give and Take style that Maximizes your Relationship to your child: 7 tips

As any wise horse rider knows, there is the give-and-take with the reins.  If you are overly harsh, you not only create an angry horse, but a horse that loses respect for you.  A horse that will then look for any chance to knock you off or disobey what you want them to do.

But when the rider finds that give-and-take Sweet Spot – there is something magical that occurs: the rider and horse become One.  The rider slipstreams into the rhythm of the horse and the horse WANTS to be in rhythm with their rider.       

And regardless of the breed of the horse, there is still the need to take that horse’s temperament – and their unique personality – into account.  You cannot simply know the breed of a horse and then calculate some formulaic way to ride that horse.  It is about getting to know THAT horse:  the horse’s background: its temperament, experiences, fears, desires, talents, skill gaps, etc. 

As parents, we are challenged – and often overwhelmed – by the task of finding the Sweet Spot with our kids.  Especially when, as our children move through Life Stages, that Sweet Spot must be relocated; what worked at one stage may not work at the next stage.  And yet life is so much about Ages and Stages.  And HOW that Sweet Spot changes at that Next Stage also is unique to each child.

So, how hard do we pull back on the reins in any given situation?  How much do we give slack? How do we stay in that Sweet Spot as much as possible?

Here are 7 nuggets I have dug up after 15 years of working in the trenches with anyone from a child with schizophrenia to young, but world class athletes:

1. Constantly be willing to – genuinely – ask your child, “How can we improve our relationship?”  Be willing to ask them what they think you can improve on.  You are not letting them call the shots, this is about you showing them how quality relationships operate.  Teaching your child how healthy relationships function to me is the MOST IMPORTANT lesson to teach your child.  Many so-called successful kids have miserable adult lives because no matter how much money they make, or prestige they have, no one ever showed them how good relationships operate.  Kids learn by watching, not from lectures.  

2. With discipline, pull back on the reins enough that your child feels a sting, but not so much you break their Spirit.  Or cause them to develop a lingering hatred.  The key is to discipline enough to prevent further misbehavior, but not so much that your child simply decides they do not want to have a relationship with you.   Many adolescents I work with have gone into an underground bunker, because the parent did not appreciate the need for a customized give and take.   They tried to parent from a perspective that ignored that child’s unique personality.  Use personality based discipline.

3. ACCEPT that especially during adolescence, there may need to be periods where the child is more distant, where they pull away.  That is normal.  Their friends now become their “trusted confidants”.  Understand you now need to completely re-think how you can re-connect with them.  This time of parenting is not for the meek, as you must work day and night to discover that new formula.  But do not give up until you find some way to regularly connect through a mutually enjoyable experience.  And your formula may need to change regularly.  

4. To reconnect with your now adolescent child, realize you will likely need to check your Ego at the door, and eat more Humble Pie than you ever have.  Your adolescent will now challenge you, call you on your stuff, and will throw some real sizzling zingers.  They know your weaknesses.  Believe it or not, HOW you handle their backtalk, defiance, disobedience, etc. is a great predictor of the kind of relationship you will have with them going forward.  Part of parenting an adolescent is to use that “give and take” of the parenting reins in a way that makes them realize you are fair.

5. Every time you discipline your child, use it as a learning experience to constantly evolve how you will handle misbehavior next time.  The best disciplinary techniques evolve over time. 

6. Be like a video game, right side up.  Most parents operate like upside down video games.  In video games, when you win, all kinds of sounds and visually appealing things appear on screen.  When you lose there is much less of a visual or auditory event.  But parents tend to do the opposite; little excitement when expectations are met or accomplishments earned, but intense noise when the child falls short or misbehaves.  Part of great parenting is when your horse does a good job, you let them know, in the ways that horse MOST enjoys.  Your child is no different. 

7.  Understand that to be a great parent, you must analyze the ways you thought your parents excelled and/or fell short, and capitalize on the gains and look to fill in any skill gaps you may have due to lack of development in certain areas.  We all have a shadow, a place where our most undesirable traits reside.  To successfully parent, we must show our children we are willing to face our shadow.  Consider sharing with your child your own struggles in facing your own shadow.  You may just find that being vulnerable to your child is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond to them. 

Additional resources:

What is the best Holiday gift to give your child?

9 Qualities for raising a child who will cultivate great relationships

Great blog and video on the power of vulnerability for building relationships

How to teach your child (and yourself) that the True Nature of Romantic Love is about Giving not Getting

10 steps to a chore system that runs itself, and teaches your kids “inner discipline”

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Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.