Three ingredients for a close parent-child relationship

In the story “Stevie Weevie and the Silver Comet”, Stevie makes an immediate connection with his Uncle Jesse simply because of his uncle’s involvement in Stevie’s life.  No matter how brief the encounter, children know when they are respected and accepted by others. Researchers say, to create a close parent-child relationship, three ingredients are necessary.

  1. Acceptance: Your child knows you love him unconditionally.
  2. Connection: You’re warmly interested and involved in your child’s life, sensitive and responsive to her needs.
  3. Support: You respect your child for who she is and support her growing autonomy

Keep in mind that autonomy doesn’t mean permissiveness. Studies show that children need a clear, well-defined structure of rules and consequences. It’s within that framework that you want to give your child age-appropriate choices.

They also go on to say that having a close, caring relationship promotes your child’s motivation to learn. How does that happen? According to British Psychiatrist John Bowlby’s assertion that people are most effective when they have at least one trusted person “standing behind them” −what psychologists refer to as a “secure attachment.” In one experiment Ann Frodi and her colleagues examined the value of a secure relationship by testing the attachment of forty-one one-year-olds to their mothers. Thirty-one of the babies were found to be “securely attached” −for example, they were not seriously distressed when their mothers left the room −and the other ten less so. The researchers then gave the babies toys, such as Busy Boxes and Shape Sorters. The thirty-one securely attached children played more persistently and more competently with the toys than the children with weaker attachments. They were also more curious and venturesome. ⁴ Parents’ support “contributes to a child’s inner security,” explains Richard Ryan and his colleague Jessica Solky, “which is in turn reflected in the child’s ability and willingness to be a curious investigator of the surrounding world. ⁵ Like a gymnast’s support or a high-wire acrobat’s safety net, the secure base of support you give your child allows her to take on the challenges that are essential to learning; she knows you’ll be there for her whether she succeeds or fails. (You may have noticed a similar phenomenon in your work−when your job is secure, aren’t you more willing to take on a risk or challenge?)  Stipek, Deborah and Seal, Kathy,  Motivated Minds, Owl Books, 2001.