Good parent-child relationships cannot be bought. Good parent-child relationships are a by-product of spending not money, but time together.
Many parents say they spend “quality time” with their kids, but when looked at more closely, it seems this phrase can take on a different meaning – I don’t spend much time with the kids, but when I do, I spoil them by buying them things.
Parents whose quality time consists mainly of buying their children things are at risk of building their relationship on the basis of purchases and are at risk of developing a sense of entitlement in their children. In time, their children do not want to spend time with a parent if that parent isn’t spending money on them. Given the rise of this situation, the parents then begrudge the relationship with their children and feel they are being taken advantage of. Sadly though, this is how some children have been trained to relate to their parents.
An important indicator of quality time is actually quantity of time spent with children. Children, whose parents spend time with them as opposed to money, learn to value the parent for who they are, rather than what they may purchase. Instead of purchasing things as the basis of the parent-child relationship, activities can be substituted, particularly activities that are inherently fun for both parent and child.
The process of developing a good parent-child relationship starts when children are young. Bath time and feeding time can be fun activities as is peek-a-boo and making faces for the wee ones. Come toddler age, going for strolls, playing on the floor and looking at picture books can be entertaining. For the preschooler, running around outside, walks to the playground or visiting the library can form the basis of spending time together. School age children enjoy throwing a ball, playing sports and going for bike rides together. Given parents have continually spent time with their kids, come teenagers, even they enjoy time with their parents. Their time can be spent talking about life, exercising, and even listening to music together.
Throughout, have at least one meal a day together as a family. This provides opportunity to stay connected and discuss how things are going in your child’s life.
In terms of self-esteem, like a good relationship, it cannot be bought. Self-esteem is also a by-product, most notably, of a good parent-child relationship. Those parents who concentrate on developing a good relationship with their kids through spending time, not money, tend to have kids with better self-esteem. These kids learn that they must be of value; otherwise, their parents wouldn’t spend so much time with them. They also learn that it is the relationship that matters, not the purchases.
If your child is costing you money, take a good look. It may be that you are building your relationship on the basis of purchases. Your child may even be fueling that fire by making you feel guilty for not buying them things, but if you give in, then for sure, you will only be valued for what you bring. So, continue to bring yourself and let that be joyful, entertaining and caring. Spend your time with your kids listening and doing things together.
Tell a baby cootchy-coo and he looks at you, buy him a toy and he looks at the toy. Do you want your child to have a relationship with you or the toy?
Now get on the floor and play.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report. Call him for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops. http://www.yoursocialworker.com