Correction, direction or connection: How do you spend most of your time as a parent?

By ParentTV on 10 Jun 2020
Categories: General Parenting

‘As parents, there are times when we need to correct the behaviour of our kids and times we need to direct it, but most often we need to connect with them.’ Jason Gibson

Do you ever feel like you and your kiddo just aren’t in sync?

We all have times in our homes when there’s a low, simmering frustration in the air. Everybody’s a bit snappy, things you would ordinarily shrug off really GET to you and you struggle to make yourself heard and understood. You know you’re nagging, but if the kids actually did what you asked, you wouldn’t have to nag, right? You might even be in the midst of one of these times right now. But, there’s not always a triggering event and you may never be able to pinpoint when exactly things started to go off course. So what do you do about it?

The answer, says ParentTV expert, Jason Gibson, is to take the temperature in your relationship with your kids. This may be better done with each child individually. To do this, have a think about your interactions with them lately, and ask yourself this question:

How do you spend most of your time as a parent? Correcting your kids’ behaviour, directing their behaviour or connecting with them? 

WATCH: Is there more correction, direction or connection in your parenting right now? With Jason Gibson

There’s a simple exercise you can do to work this out. Take a sheet of paper, draw three columns on it, and give the first one a heading of Correcting. As parents, we’re usually correcting our kids when they’re doing something that’s not appropriate, right or safe. Over the course of an afternoon (or another period of time), put a tick in the column each time you notice yourself correcting what your child’s doing. The next column should be headed Directing. These are interactions in which you ask your child to do something. It might be small, like asking them to put shoes on, or big, like asking them to complete a chore. Give yourself a tick in that column each time you direct your child. And finally, there’s the Connecting column. Connecting is when you’re engaging with your child without asking or expecting them to do anything. No demands, no requests, no agenda. Ticks for those times, too.

Now, we’re not suggesting you should beat yourself up if you’ve got lots of ticks in the correcting and directing columns and not so many in the connecting column. There will always be times when you have to correct and direct, and it would be irresponsible not to. ‘No column is bad or good, and they’re all part of parenting,’ says Jason, ‘but, it’s good if there’s a lot of connecting in there. If there’s a lot of correcting and directing, then that’s what it’s like for your child to live in your home, right now. They will feel like you’re constantly telling them what they’re doing wrong or what they need to do. You need to balance that out.’ This balancing isn’t always about lessening the directing or correcting you’re doing, but about increasing the efforts you’re making to connect as well, says Jason. ‘It’s about being aware of where you’re sitting in those columns and making adjustments. It can’t be all connection, because then you’re probably not teaching them how to be better human beings through direction and correction. We want them to have both: to know and to grow. That’s how they thrive.’

But what if you don’t know how to connect with your child?

Sometimes, particularly when your relationship temperature is on the low side and you’re finding your child’s behaviour challenging, it might be hard to figure out what you can actually do with them that gives you an opportunity to connect. And, especially when they enter the tween/teen territory, the activities you used to love to do together or the interests you shared may no longer appeal to them. It’s hard, but you can get back in sync, and a good way to start is by learning more about them. 

As your child develops, they’ll go through different neurological stages, and understanding these will help you understand them and their needs. When they feel understood and their needs are being met, connection will be a lot more organic, and you’ll be able to fill that column with ticks. We know that makes it sound a bit simplistic, but when you know what their brain is doing, you can calibrate your expectations and communication accordingly. Being responsive to their development will help you bend with them, not against them. That’s how you maintain connection.

Want to know more? We’ve got experts for that!