The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 12, 2013

Rules, relationships are important in children's development

By Thomas L. Millard
The Clinton Herald

---- — ‘Rules without relationship equals rebellion” is a phrase coined by Josh McDowell, a prolific writer who has coined the phrase “The Disengaged Generation,” his reference to the disconnect between today’s adults and teenagers.

A consistent set of clearly defined rules and consequences for both following and not following is certainly important; however, discipline approaches are likely to be ineffective without building a solid parent-child relationship.

There is, of course, no other way to establish a relationship with your child other than the investment of time.

In a conversation with a colleague this past week we discussed that although children have access to a myriad of electronic devices and generally an abundance of material goods, what they really seem to want is to spend time with their parents.

It is never too late to develop a relationship with your child, although the earlier this is done the better.

In an excellent book titled “Parent Child Interaction Therapy 2nd Edition” by Cheryl Bodiford McNeil, the author describes four primary components in building a relationship with children 7 years of age and younger. The four components include Describe, Reflect, Imitate and Praise, which can be remembered using the acronym D.R.I.P. To illustrate this point I will use an example of a parent drawing with his/her child. In “describing” the behavior the parent would want to comment on what the child is doing using a statement such as “I see you are using a blue crayon and drawing your car.” In using “reflection,” a parent may respond to the child who is saying “My favorite color is blue,” by restating “so your favorite color is blue.” In using “imitation,” a parent would sit with the child and participate in coloring a blue car.

The use of “praise” should be specific and be a reflection on effort not on outcome (e.g., “You are working so hard on your car)”.

When interacting with our children, we are used to using questions and commands; however, one problem with this approach is that it forces the child to enter our world rather than allowing us to enter his or her world. Therefore, during this time commands and questions should be avoided.

As your child gets older it is important to show interest in your child’s activities.

This can go a long way in creating and restoring a relationship. It is vitally important to attend extracurricular activities in which your child participates as it sends the message that you have/will continue to be involved in their world.

Also, focusing on helping your child develop his or her talents is not only an excellent way to connect, but can have long-term positive ramifications.

The bottom line is to make sure that as parents we sacrifice time and effort to step outside our activities and interests and enter our children’s world. This investment of time and energy benefits all parties involved.

Today’s summary emphasizes building a relationship with your child. Next week we will discuss effective methods of implementing and enforcing rules.

Tom Millard is a psychologist with Cornerstone Wellness Center in Clinton.