As warm weather arrives, many of us find a sudden motivation to poke into the dusty corners of our house and freshen up the space. If the sunshine finds you brushing off cobwebs, decluttering, and browsing the throw pillow aisle at Target, here’s something else to consider: Do you need a spring clean for your parenting, too?

Work responsibilities, carpool schedules, and grocery trips can pile up like dust bunnies under the couch and cause parents to let busy days slip by without being intentional with our kids. You may even find yourself settling into habits that don’t reflect the vision you had for who you want to be as a parent.

But don’t worry—it’s never too late! Today I want to share four key ideas you can use to freshen up your approach to parenting:

1) Connect more than correct.

As parents, we feel the weight of responsibility for raising our kids. Sometimes, this can cause us to fall into the trap of correcting our kids more than we connect with them.

Do you know your child’s current favorite video game, snack, book, or YouTube channel? Look for ways you can enter into your child’s world. Kids are smart; they pick up on patterns. If you only focus on your child when there’s a discipline issue at hand, your influence will be limited. However, if you build a history of loving connection, your son or daughter will be more receptive when times of correction DO arise.

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Time invested in connecting with your kids will make correction more effective in the long haul! 

Here are a few simple ideas for connection: 

  • Show physical affection with a gentle hug, back scratch, high-five, or other loving contact.
  • Eat together as a family. This can often lead to great conversation and bonding time with your child.
  • Send your child an encouraging text or write a note.
  • Play a game, take a walk, or go out for ice cream.

2) Manage your expectations.

Most of us have expectations of our kid(s). We expect him to grow and learn. We expect her to do her best. We expect him to behave and be responsible. We expect her to process life well. We expect him to act his age, but sometimes we forget—or just plain old don’t know—what is actually normal behavior for that age!

If you find yourself constantly frustrated with your son or daughter, take a minute and assess your expectations. Are you being realistic? Our kids are works in progress. Look for progress, not perfection. Setting appropriate and fair expectations is a key to successful parenting. This requires us to know our children—really know our kids.

The next two key points will help you do just that.

3) Listen, don’t lecture.

Listening is one of the most powerful ways you can express love to your child. Listening gives you the opportunity to understand more about what your son or daughter is thinking, which will give you wisdom in how you parent. In your conversations, using phrases such as, “tell me more,” “what else?”, and “thank you for sharing” will encourage them to keep talking.

If there’s a pause in conversation, don’t fill the space with your own words. Be willing to wait. Signal that you are invested in the conversation. Nonverbal cues—body language, eye contact, physical touch—show your level of engagement, so be sure to set aside distractions. Close your laptop; put away your phone, and show love through listening with your full attention.

You can also strengthen your connection by using a technique called reflective listening. This skill involves tuning into what the speaker is saying, then repeating the key ideas back as a way to show understanding. Reflective listening takes the focus off of your response and sets it instead on the idea your child is sharing. This practice gives parents a chance to acknowledge a child’s feelings in a supportive environment and provide reassurance.

To sum up: Talk less, listen more.

4) Explore & embrace emotions.

Think back to your own childhood and pinpoint a memory where you felt sad or angry. How did the adults around you respond?

Too often, we instinctively try to shut down emotions rather than explore them. When parents encounter strong emotions in our kids, we can feel uncomfortable, but we don’t want to make the mistake of equating “good” behavior with hiding feelings. Be willing to sit in the discomfort in order to help your child process the emotion rather than suppress it.

By slowing down to explore emotions together, parents help kids gain awareness and tools to respond to the various experiences that life will bring their way.  

Here are some supportive statements that can help explore emotions:

  • I can see why you are frustrated/sad/disappointed.
  • How did that make you feel?
  • It’s okay to have big feelings. I care about how you feel.
  • What are you happy/excited/sad/mad about right now? 



Parenting is hard, there’s no doubt about it, but remember: You don’t have to be perfect! By taking a few minutes to “dust off” your parenting approach with these four key strategies, you can strengthen connections, build trust, and establish a foundation for a lifetime!

Looking for more support in loving your kids for who they are and embracing your role as a parent? Grab your copy of No More Perfect Kids!

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