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5 Keys to a Connected Parent/Child Relationship

Bonnie Harris


Traditional parenting teaches us that the parent/child relationship is one of teacher to student—but more than that, dictatorial teacher to submissive student. As long as children do what we say, life is good. But what happens when they don’t? How can that be? Children should do what they are told, and I should be able to make that happen.

Tougher measures provoke even more resistance, and we end up in power struggles, often losing control and spiraling in a direction we never expected.

Connective parenting puts a different spin on the relationship. Yes, parents are teachers but are also students of their children as well. Parent and child are in a relationship, and relationships must always look both ways. Reciprocal learning is constant.

Do you want your children to have the following traits?

  • learn accountability for their actions
  • take responsibility for themselves
  • be respectful and kind
  • learn appropriate behavior from the world around them
  • contribute to the world from a strong foundation of self-confidence

Most parents want the same things for their children’s futures. Ironically our traditional parenting methods send them in the opposite direction. We are a society of the walking wounded, but we refuse to connect the dots to see where the problems really begin.

  1. Unconditional acceptance of the child provides a strong foundation for self-confidence. Connective parents understand that children come into the world whole and ready to absorb—but on their own time schedule and with their unique way of learning. Parents gain the greatest understanding of their children by listening and watching each child’s developmental process. It is in this place that children thrive and parental influence is strongest.
  2. Respect teaches respect. The connected parent acknowledges and is considerate of the child’s agenda and sees that it is just as important to her child as her agenda is to her. Emotions and desires are always acceptable and acknowledged even when they are not specifically allowed.
  3. All children want to do the right thing and will do so as long as they can. If the child is not in a receptive state, she will not learn. In other words, she must want to learn and hear what is being taught. It should never be assumed that just because she is your child, she will do what you want. Resistance means that she is having a problem, not being a problem. There is an obstacle in her way of doing what she knows is right. It is that obstacle that must be addressed in order for behavior to change.
  4. Behavior provides clues for the adult to understand what is going on with the child; what it is that provokes the behavior. There is an underlying need that results in unwanted behavior. If only the behavior is addressed with rewards or punishments, that need is not addressed and the behavior must get louder and more dramatic in an attempt to be heard. Behavior should never be taken at face value.
  5. Punishment is never effective. Even consequences, the “pc” word for punishment, are usually threats and lay conditions on behavior….”If you don’t do…, you can’t do….” Connective parenting relies on problem solving and conflict resolution to truly hold a child accountable and responsible. When threats and blame are not used, defensive behavior is unnecessary and the child is free to see the true consequences of his behavior, state his side of the story and work out a compromise that works for all involved. Again, it is about the relationship. If your spouse speaks rudely or ignores you, you wouldn’t threaten him by saying, “If you don’t stop that, you’re not going to the party with me this weekend.” You would attend to the relationship.

A connected relationship with your child does not rely on the easy methods of parenting—the old standbys. It requires accountability on the part of adults to understand why both they and their children react the way they do and put in the work necessary to maintain a strong, respectful relationship.

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Bonnie Harris

Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed. is the director of Connective Parenting and is an international speaker and parent educator. She has taught groups and coached parents privately for thirty years. Bonnie is the author of two books, "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons" and "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With”. You can learn more about her work at or follow her on Facebook