Being a friend to children

How to ask a child as a parent to play with you and share their concerns

0 Start Early

Start bonding early. Take time to be there for the needs of the child from changing diapers, health care, so that things won't get awkward when they grow up since the bonding has formed.

The relative lack of early contact with your child has a circular effect. The older your child becomes without a bond having been established, the more awkward you and your child will feel when you are together. And the more awkward you feel together, the less you will want to engage each other again.

1 Try again

You approached your child and asked "Shall we play together." Your child say "No thanks, Dad. I don't want to play now." You feel rejected. (If he doesn't want to play with me, it's fine why bother!) You feel self-righteous about asking again. You feel "I tried once, it won't work for me."

Simply respond with "Okay, let's make a specific date for another time. What do you think might be fun?"

2 You have a very difficult child

Difficult children are difficult to be with. Instead of pleasure, they often provide stress and frustration. Instead of offering joy, they cause you to wish you had a different child. You believe that he can't do anything right. It is natural to want to withdraw from interactions which are painful and unrewarding.

Ironically, it is more difficult child who needs you the most. He hears your constant criticisms. He sees your looks of exasperation. And he feels terrible that you think those things about him, for he is desperate for your love. He is desperate for you to tell him he is not the bad person who he suspects everyone believes him to be.

How do you not lose patience with a difficult child?

Your child is so bossy because inside she feels so powerless. Your child is a brat because inside he feels frightened and out of control. The patience, self-control, and generosity you can ham from raising a difficult child will also help you better deal with the problematic, troublesome people you will inevitably encounter in daily life.

The Gift of Fatherhood: How Men's Lives are Transformed by Their Children, Fireside, 1994

Copyright © 1994 by Aaron Hass, PhD

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