Last week, I was stunned when I went with one of my daughters to a mother-daughter dinner at her high school. We walked in greeted by a running video of each of the girls speaking about her mother. I saw my daughter on the screen and tears came to my eyes when I heard her speak:
What I like most about my mother is that she’s not like other mothers that are like control freaks or bossy. I mean she makes some rules because she cares about me and wants what’s best for me, but I can talk to her about anything. And she’s like a teenager sometimes, I have a lot of fun with her and stuff. So, she’s more like a friend than a mom, and I really like that.”
As I stood there, I realized that even though I often wonder whether I’m making the right choices as a parent, I am succeeding at the most important part of raising my children: I’m building an authentic connection with them. More than anything else, I have always set this as my first priority. I want my children to know that they are loved. All the time. No matter what. And that they can speak to me about anything and know that my love will surround them whatever they do and wherever they go.
Here are six questions we can all ask ourselves to build better connections with our children.
1. Am I really listening? Am I hearing what my child is saying without preparing my response while she is talking? Am I listening to the feelings that are behind the words? Can I also hear what is not being said but what may be the whole point of what she is trying to say?
2. Am I giving this child what she really needs? Am I searching for and finding what the unique needs of this child are? Is she in an environment that is bringing out the best in her? Does she have the tools to develop her strengths and the support to deal with her weaknesses?
3. Am I giving this child enough space to grow? Am I stepping back when I need to? Am I giving him the chance to correct his own mistakes and to figure out solutions to his problems? Am I giving her the trust that she needs to try new things and the space to fail without fear?
4. Am I grateful for the presence of this child in my life? Am I treasuring this opportunity to be this child's parent? Do I feel blessed to be entrusted to love and nurture this child?
5. Am I aware of my one, essential goal in parenting that guides hundreds of other decisions I need to make as a mother? Am I clear what my purpose is as a parent? What is my priority?
6. Am I encouraging my child to be curious? Am I creating the kind of home that nurtures questions and the search for answers? Am I giving my children a glimpse of the depth and beauty of the world around them? The depth and beauty of Judaism? Am I providing the infrastructure for them to explore that beauty?
Let’s ask ourselves new questions and keep our essential goal of building authentic connections with our children in front of us at all times. This will help us accomplish one of most important parenting goals: ensuring that our children feel loved by us today.