How to Create Healthy Relationships with Children

The Importance of Creating Healthy Relationships with Children

Creating healthy relationships with children is of critical importance for a variety of reasons. One of the most important is that our behavior toward children will help mold them into the adults of the future. If we are not mindful of our actions, we will very likely find out later the error of our ways.

To a small child, an adult looks like a giant. The dependent child seeks to have all needs, both emotionally and physically, met by the parent. What many parents fail to realize is that all children are constantly taking in, and interpreting, information from our words and our actions.

As we have seen with Transactional Analysis, from the time children are born, they are making assessments and writing Life Scripts they will play out in the years to come. Sadly, some people discount babies and small children and do not realize the impact adults have in helping to determine these Life Scripts. To a child, a grownup is a huge person who looks down on them when speaking. Imagine how that feels if you are a child and have a parent standing above you who seems so huge and powerful. They tower over you, sometimes talking in a harsh voice. How would that make you feel? How would it be different if they were your size? Undoubtedly, the large parents, regardless of what they are saying, would make a big impression. The question becomes what kind? Good or bad?

What many people seem to forget is the subjectivity of interpretations. As we have said before, no two people will report an accident they witness the same way. How do we know how our children are interpreting things? We don't.

So if that is the case, and we never know how a child is interpreting us, what do we do? The best guidepost would be to be aware of our actions and be aware of our words. Be clear in what we are doing, and be supportive. Giving love in all our actions -- be it discipline or play, cannot go wrong. This does not mean to allow them to run wild. Quite the contrary. It does mean to be firm in what we are requesting, yet be supportive and loving.

Set Boundaries
Coming from love and being supportive, along with setting boundaries is mandatory for a healthy relationship with a child.
How many parents seem to find it adorable to allow little Johnny to run amok, wreak havoc, and then justify his actions. Too many people become enmeshed in relationships with their children, and so the child has the authority to call the shots. Boundaries are not enforced and the child learns he does not have to respect what he is told to do. This relationship becomes a problem.

Boundaries are healthy and teach the child to respect all types of people. They also help keep a child safe.

Living through a child

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Have you ever seen a parent who, once their child is born, lives only through the child? Many do. The child does not get to be an independent person and develop individual interests, instead the child develops interests based on his/her parents. The parent wants the child to be a "minnie me," with the same interests and outlooks. They take pride in telling others how the child resembles them and acts like them.

How many little kids really want to be toddlers with tiaras or sports champions? Some do, but there are many who are simply going that way because their parents are interested -- not the kids.
Living through a child is not healthy for either the child or the parent. The parent needs to have his/her own interests independent of the child. Likewise the child needs to have the same in order to develop into his/her own person.

Children raised with this kind of controlling parent do not develop their own identity and interests, and some end up believing that they must spend their lives being someone they aren't and doing things that they don't care for to be liked and accepted.

Do Not Make a Child Be a Small Adult

How often are children caught in situations where they are asked to be a little adult? Many times this happens in divorces where the child is stuck in the middle and torn between parents. They lose the carefree life of a child and become burdened with warring parents and trying to keep them both happy. This can go on for years with the child never getting to be a child. They are robbed of their youth because of the parents. Later in life, this may show up in a variety of ways with issues in adulthood.
How many children end up babysitting smaller kids 24/7 while Mom or Dad go out. Or maybe they spend every day of their lives actually being the parent, even though they are so young and a child themselves. Some children are born into situations, or situations develop, due to divorce or other means, that an older child may become the parent to the other children. These types of situations make them responsible adults before their time.
On the surface this "little adult" behavior may not appear to be a problem. But the child deals with an unhealthy level of stress that may lead to unhealthy problems as adults.

Instilling Confidence and Security

In Tranactional Analysis we learned about the Nurturing Parent. This is the parent figure who loves and supports us emotionally and physically in a healthy way.

The opposite of that is the Negative Nurturing Parent. This is the parent who takes the level of nurturing too far, which ends up making the child feel less confident. The child is made to feel they are not able to do anything on their own because mom or dad will end up taking over.

Take for example a mother who does the homework for the child because the child is struggling. Instead of helping the child work through it, she does it for him. Although the child may be thrilled not to have to do it, there is a good possibility that the child may interpret this action as, "He is not smart enough." If this becomes a belief the child develops, imagine how it could develop throughout life.
These parents may also do other things, such as encourage the child to overeat. "One more piece of pie won't hurt you."

Their intention is not bad, but their boundaries on nurturing are unhealthy and dysfunctional and will lead to a negative result.
Nurturing plays a dominant role in developing a healthy relationship with a child. However nurturing needs to be balanced in order to really help a child.
Dealing With Difficult People

Think of the last time you encountered a difficult person. When was it? What were the circumstances? How did you handle it? If you are like most of us, it may not have been pleasant. The thought of dealing with certain people makes a wave of dread wash across you, and you feel miserable.
With an estimated 6.4 billion people in the world, there is a good chance we have a healthy dose of those we will find to be difficult -- and probably, from their perspective, find us the same -- much to our shock!
When you are confronted by a difficult person, how do you respond? Many get uptight and agitated and the whole encounter ends in a negative way.

Do you try to control the other person to make them conform to what you find acceptable?

Do you lash out at them because you find them so frustrating?

The best advice is to not give your power away to them. This means you remain detached from them, similar to an observer watching a television show. You see what they are doing, and you hear what they are saying, but you are not invested in it. You are not caught up and "hooked" into the drama, and you do this because their words or actions push a button in you. This may be easier said and done for many of us, but if you practice this, in time it will become much easier and make your life much more peaceful.

Becoming the Observer of Life

It has been said that we live in a world of polarity. This means that everything in life has an opposite component. Right-left, up-down, hot-cold, happy-sad, backwards-forwards, etc.

Polarity simply refers to opposite ends of the spectrum. If you drew a line on a piece of paper, like the one below in this article, you would see the opposites at the end. For instance, the emotion of happy and mad would be placed on the opposite ends.

Notice that along that same line is a line of empty space between these extreme points. The Law of Polarity believes that if we do not allow ourselves to become lodged in either extreme -- meaning we are not hysterically happy or fighting mad -- that we will naturally fall somewhere in the middle, which will bring us closer to the experience of peace.
In the center of the line, halfway between both points, is where we should maintain our emotions. This center area does not mean that you do not experience any emotion -- it just means you do so from a different point of view. For example, you are not so "extremely and obnoxiously happy" that if someone does or says anything that threatens your euphoria, you will not immediately flip down to the other end and become "extremely and obnoxiously angry."

Instead, you are living life as the observer and not being controlled by either extreme feeling. You observe life and do not allow yourself to get upset because things are not as you judge they should be.
From this viewpoint, you remain at peace with things around you. You are not hooked and whipsawed around by your emotions or the actions or inactions of others.

Living in the center of this line keeps you balanced. How many people do you know who are so caught in their emotions that they are happy one moment and then fighting mad the next. The slightest word may set them off and they expend time and energy being upset. At the end, they are drained along with those around them.

There are some people who have become addicted to their emotions and find it impossible to live in the center. They have spent so much time reacting and/or being held prisoner to their emotions, that they are addicted to the chemicals/feelings that are released in the body when they engage in this type of behavior. Those individuals can "detox" from their emotional addiction, but they need to be made aware of it first and engage in interactions to keep themselves balanced and at peace.

Each time we are confronted with a difficult situation or person, it is helpful to ask: "Do I want peace, or do I want an angry confrontation?" Remember, no one can make you feel anything -- only you can. Put simply, what is your payoff for allowing yourself to engage with this person.

Don't take it personally.

In the book "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz, the author talks about how we shouldn't take what happens to us personally.

Easier said than done.

But there is great wisdom in his words. When we are confronted by a person who is making us upset, remember that there is usually something or someone else that the other person is having difficulty dealing with, and this is really why this person is causing us to be upset.

They are responding to a negative life experience or trigger event, and they instinctively respond by verbally lashing out.

Our reactions really will not affect them too much, as we are really not their main target. So for those who are so irritatingly negative, critical, and difficult to deal with, always realize that it has nothing to do with you.
Don't take it personally. Remain in your Adult Ego and do not engage. Realize that you are (unfortunately) the person who is on the receiving end. Perhaps your ability to remain centered in your Adult Ego will help this person heal whatever is going on.
If you engage and feed into the drama of the situation you will only make it worse. Pretend that this difficult person is simply a scene you are watching on TV. It take two people to have a fight.
Stand back in your observer mode and simply watch. Ask yourself, "What can I learn from this situation?" Perhaps you can learn something about yourself from this person.
Choose to surround yourself with people who empower you.

When choosing your friends and acquaintances, choose to surround yourself with those who empower you instead of those who drain you. There will of course be situations throughout your life where you will have to deal with difficult people, but as a rule, do your best to choose to be around those who add to your life, avoid those that take away from it.

There are people in this world who, when they walk into a room, suck the energy right out of it. When you encounter them you feel as if a hose were plugged into your side and all your energy was drained out. These folks are called Energy Vampires. No doubt you have encountered them. They are people who feed off other's energy and their mere presence drains you. They are usually negative and have a series of dramas they have to tell you about. There really is no use in engaging with them since most are very happy with their lot in life, and have no intention of ever changing. You either deal with them and be their energy supply, or you walk away. For your health, the latter is the best choice.

Crazy Makers is another group to avoid. These folks always have something going on that is disruptive to your peace. They are the ones who have repeated late-night problems that they want you to fix when you desperately need sleep for a big exam the next day. Or they will be at your front door when they know you are having a busy day, but they "need" you to do something -- right now. Their actions will make you crazy -- hence the name,Crazy Makers.

Avoid these people. If you cannot, because this person is family, at least be aware of how they work and what you need to do to remain happy and healthy yourself. Unless you take control and see the signs and patterns, you will get caught by them. Forewarned is forearmed.