There are a few things a mother needs to do to secure a successful relationship with her child. Perhaps I need to clarify—a relationship where you will win more than you lose. I have learned it is the most realistic and real definition of success. Because mom, you will win some and lose some. But that’s fine!
It doesn’t matter your child’s age, nor whether you have a boy or girl. These 4 principles will apply to all.
1. Get to Know Your Child
It seems like a mother should automatically know who her child is. At least, we have those expectations. But the truth is we don’t know. Whatever the day looks like, you are meeting this human for the first time, whether it be through birth, marriage, or adoption.
You then discover that each child comes with a boatload of personality, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. They are not replicas of anyone else: you, their father, a sibling, or a distant relative. This will be obvious, even when they’re infants. So, it’s on you, the adult, to get to know them—building a bond by doing many of the same things you would do in any other relationship.
Mom, you will win some and lose some. But that’s fine!
2. Take the Lead with Your Child
By being present. Hate to tell you this, but this means putting the phone down. Not everywhere, not all the time. But your kids need to know they are a priority. That they matter more than all the life distractions we deal with daily.
By listening to them. That may be easy. Or it may not. If your child is the incessant chatterer, you can turn them off. Sometimes you have to for sanity’s sake. But don’t make a habit of it. They tell you who they are, their interests, and what is important to them through all of the long dialogues.
If yours is the silent type, then your listening is different. You have two tools for that one. First, watch their actions. Have they changed or do they appear ill at ease? With whom have they surrounded themselves? Actions speak louder than words, especially with your quiet one.
Second, there will be times it will require you to physically place yourself in their world. You do this discretely, not letting them know your real purpose for being there. Create “no escape” blocks of time. Your goal is to set up comfortable scenarios, not the need for a prison break. Perhaps it’s just the two of you at dinner, a sporting event, or a weekend trip—whatever you know your child loves, take them there. No-pressure scenarios create the best opportunities for them to open up.
By being honest. If you have made a mistake, admit it. If you need to say “I’m sorry,” say it. If your child feels uncomfortable going to a new place, and you do, too, tell them. Hiding all of our weaknesses builds a wall instead of a bridge in the relationship you want. Now, don’t think they need to know everything all the time. They don’t. It just means that they need to know you are human.
3. Help Your Child Be Better
By telling them they’re great. Don’t do this when they’re not great; I can promise you, they will have their moments when they aren’t. But every time you have an opportunity, let them know there is something special in them. From character traits to talents or actions, they need for you to applaud them for merely being who they are.
By helping them to stretch. When they are fearful or insecure, be their cheerleader. There will be times you will need to let them walk away from a challenge. You do that because you understand it will do more harm than good. But most of the time, you push them to finish, to accomplish, encouraging them as they do. They need to know you expect them to face the challenge, but they also need to know you believe they can. When they finish what they first doubted, their self-confidence takes a big step forward.
By being who you want them to be. Remember, your child is always watching and always listening. There is no better teaching tool than by example. You can’t expect them to embrace a personal faith if you don’t. Honesty won’t be necessary if it’s not essential to you. Kindness will not be shown if you don’t show it. Whatever character traits you want them to have as an adult, you need to display.
4. Love Your Child
By setting boundaries. These will change with age, your child’s ability to handle situations, and circumstances you find yourself in. But one of the most effective ways to show your child you love them is to keep them safe, even from themselves.
By never giving up on them. Children will test you, stray, and say and do things that can break your heart. Part of what they are seeking is to know they are loved no matter what. Your answer needs to be a resounding “yes.” This doesn’t mean you accept bad behavior; this means you accept them.
By never turning your back. I have never understood a parent saying, “If you do that, you are no longer my child.” No matter what they do, that is your child. They need you in the middle of their challenges as much or more than any other time in life. Your constant love through their disappointing choices will maintain a relationship. One that will be much-needed when the consequences of their choices come to light.
By showing them that you do. Every way, every day, they need to hear you say it and see you do it. This does not require perfection, moms. We aren’t going to be that perfectly loving, eternally patient, Stepford mom. We are real-life women, living in the trenches with all of life’s challenges. When you get past the inevitable conflict or quit steaming from the words that sassy child says, it’s the perfect time to let them know they are loved.
The Legacy of a Mother Is Built One Day at a Time
It’s a tough job, motherhood. But here’s how I know these things matter—I did most of them imperfectly. Now that my daughters have grown, there is nothing I am prouder of or feel the most significant accomplishment from than that. I have accomplished a lot in my life but nothing better.
It’s not because I am a perfect mother. I am not. Nor is it because I have perfect daughters. I do not. But as I watch my now-grown daughters do their best for their own children, I am thankful. They each parent in their own unique way, different from the other. Yet watching them, I realize I built a relationship with them that was successful, one that helped them become the women they are, and now they are carrying it forward.
There is nothing better than a legacy created through the children you’ve raised. You can do it, too, and one day you’ll have your moment of fulfillment and feelings of accomplishment. Until then, remember that success will come, one day at a time.
One day you’ll have your moment of fulfillment and feelings of accomplishment. Until then, remember that success will come, one day at a time.
Raising kids is a big job. For more tips on doing it well, listen to this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How to Raise Responsible Kids: Tips for Every Age – 087