Love & Relationship

How to Bond with Your Child by Sharing Fondness and Admiration

Your child arrives. Nothing is more precious or magical than the human being you are about to nurture and guide through their life. You love your child. Raising this human being brings you boundless joy, personal growth, and fulfillment.

And then the “honeymoon” ends. This little person is crying all night as an infant, constantly saying “no” as a toddler, ignoring you as a child, and then rolling their eyes in contempt as a teenager. The magic starts to fade a bit. Many parents start to feel impatient, frustrated, and sometimes downright disrespected. With these feelings often comes disconnection. 

Disconnection begins when parents react to their own thoughts and strong emotions. You may begin to resent your child’s choices or actions, retaliate by using your control to “teach them a lesson,” or retreat and withdraw from your child (come on, we’ve all felt this way at times!). These reactions do not help manage the behavior effectively. Neither do they model the behavior you want to develop in your children nor help build the relationship. There is no warm fuzzy feeling or sense of awe in these moments. Children thrive, however, when they feel connected and respected. As Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline says, “We have to connect before we correct or redirect” and “kids do better when they feel better, not worse.”

One way to avoid getting trapped in the reactive cycle is to nurture greater fondness and admiration in your family. By working consistently and intentionally to foster these two qualities, you maintain and deepen connection with your child. More fondness and admiration will also give you a more positive view of your child in those trying moments when you have hit your limit. When that happens, you will be equipped to manage your child’s challenging behaviors and choices with greater ease, intention, and grace. 

So, how is this done? It’s done with intention. 

Cultivating fondness and admiration can be as simple as acknowledging your child and offering thanks. One practice that is easy to adopt is a daily or weekly acknowledgments. In my family, we call them “shoutouts”. It can be part of a family meeting or a stand-alone ritual of connection. Start by having each member of the family go around and give recognition or share an appreciation for everyone at the table. At first, you may need to coach your child on what types of things they can acknowledge and some of the language they can use. For little ones it might be as simple as having them fill in the blank by saying “Thank you, ______, for______.” It can be useful to start these conversations by going first so you can model how to acknowledge everyone. 

Acknowledgment and encouragement are different from praise. An acknowledgment describes a productive behavior or offers thanks for doing something without adding a value judgment. Praise adds judgment words like amazing, good, or fantastic.

Your appreciation may sound like: 

I noticed that you…

I appreciated it when you…

I appreciate that you are… when… 

When you… I felt…

You crushed it this week when you…

Thank you for…

Congratulations for…

And don’t just wait for your daily or weekly conversation. Be sure to model this practice throughout your day with your children and anyone else you encounter. Your children are watching you and will develop these skills and feelings when they see you modeling them with consistency. Emotions are contagious. So don’t hold back when you go to the grocery store and you can tell the clerk has had a long, hard day. Offer an appreciation! Your kids will notice. 

Making time to have acknowledgments on a daily or weekly basis can be simple, but maintaining them consistently may require work. By making this a new habit, you build fondness and admiration, nurture deeper connection with your child, and respond to negative behaviors with greater calm and intention. So, what are you waiting for? Set up a conversation and give shoutouts today!

Learn more about parenting the Gottman-way with our Emotion Coaching resources. Also, read Dr. John Gottman’s “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.”

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