The Essential Mind Shift for Finding Joy in Parenting: Focus on the Relationship

Why did you choose to have children?

Sometimes we forget WHY we had children in the first place. Our lives get busy, our resources get tapped, the parenting techniques passed down from our own parents and the expert books aren’t working and we find ourselves screaming at – or giving in to – our children just so we can get through the moment. Did we have children because we wanted to spend endless hours a day cleaning, reminding, prepping, nagging, and refereeing for these people?

No. We wanted children to laugh and play with, grow old with, make memories with. We want to raise awesome humans who we LIKE TO BE WITH and who we want to give to the world when they leave the house at 18. You are in the business of growing a grown-up. A grown-up who will be compassionate, considerate, resilient, cooperative and filled with optimism for the future. So, for a few minutes, lift your head from the weeds of sibling spats, nutrition police duty, and homework checks, to talk about the most important strategy in parenting:

In every moment we are either interfering with or enhancing the relationship we have with our kids.

Everything you do, every parenting decision you make, is either interfering with or enhancing the relationship you have with your children, but we rarely take the time to evaluate which of these we are doing – interfering or enhancing.

Why does this matter? I think of it like this – each interfering interaction with one of my kids causes a small fracture in our relationship. Over time, those fractures add up until you suddenly notice that your 9, 10 or 11 year old is barely speaking to you. Getting all cuddly before bed, or enjoying a perfect weekend together does not heal all those fractures (as nice as that would be). The only way to ensure that we are invited into our children’s lives as they grow and mature is to commit to enhancing the relationship each and every day. Even when I was parenting my 4 year old, I was imagining my future 14 year old and what it would take to remain close and connected to her.

We all want a child who shares, cares, and feels connected to us. But, many of the parenting strategies we implement on a regular basis have the opposite effect – they interfere with our relationship.Think about how you FEEL after nagging, bribing, yelling, etc. Do you feel like you’ve hit it out of the park? Not so much. Usually we feel like we’ve failed – even if we’ve tricked our child into doing what we want. Ugh – why does this have to be SO HARD? The ugly feeling we get from these interactions is the disconnect from our kids. It’s the interference with our relationship poking its head. Aha. I’m down the rabbit hole again.

We’re hardwired to look for the things that need fixing. The mess. The handwashing. The sass. The food left on the plate. So we immediately start in with the reactive parenting strategies without thinking about the relationship.


Does your strategy of nagging enhance your relationship when you’re trying to get your child to wash their hands? No. Well, it’s time to come up with something different. Certainly doing the same thing you’ve always done isn’t working for you. It’s ok to shift the strategy. (It’s actually quite relieving.)

Here are three of my tried and true tips for flipping the switch from interfering to enhancing the relationship with your kids:

  • Superimpose the face of your best friend on your child. Now, as you talk to your child, imagine it’s your best friend instead. If you wouldn’t say it to her, don’t say it to your child.
    • “OMG – you’re NOT wearing THAT to the party”.
      “Miss, if you don’t put that down, I’m sending you to a time out!”
      “Do you have your shoes? Your bag? Your lunch? Your homework? Your sweatshirt?”
      Ummmm… try again – your bestie would be looking at you cross-eyed, or worse. (And, no, I’m not suggesting you be your child’s best friend.) This exercise is a great test to keep the words and tone of your voice in check. And for those of you thinking, “but it’s my job to make sure she is prepared!” click here.
  • Imagine you overhear your child describing you to his or her best friend. What word would best capture you? Is it the word you hope your child will use to describe you? If not, change what you are doing and act accordingly.
    • She’s so annoying.
      She’s controlling.
      She yells.
      She doesn’t trust me.
      Ouch. Time for a shift in your strategy.
  • Decide that being right is overrated and you would rather be wrong if it means that you and your child maintain a healthy, happy and satisfying relationship for years to come.

That’s it! Three tips to help you shift your thinking into enhancing your relationship with your kiddos. It’s really the most important parenting strategy out there. Whenever you’re tripped up and don’t know what to do – ask yourself, “Will this interfere with or enhance the relationship I have with my child?” and you’ll be steering your ship in the right direction.