Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about connecting daily with children. I mentioned that random touch was one of the most powerful practices I knew for connecting multiple times a day.
She laughed and said, “I come from an Italian family. We’re snugglers and kissers. When I read about random touch in your book, I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got this covered!’”
As we continued our conversation, she mentioned she found it hard to touch her kids when she was involved in her business. She’s a work at home mom and often feels stretched and overly busy. There were other times too, when she wasn’t reaching out.
Here is where I stepped back into the conversation
I want to share with you what I shared with her.
I love random touch! It’s an effective tool for connecting in astounding ways with children. Random touch helps reduce the need for discipline, opens pathways to mini conversations, melts stony hearts, and bonds children to parents. Reaching out and touching your kids is practically magic for connecting. BUT there’s an equal, if not even more important reason, to do it. It’s for you!
Random touch doesn’t just help your kids know they matter. It’s also a prescription for stress reduction in your own life. Kids are like batteries. They’re filled with energy and light. The younger the child, the truer this is. When I’m stressed, I work at remembering to stop and grab my grandchild in a big hug as I say, “I love you!”
If you’re down, you can get up by accessing your child’s energy. They’re up more often and are far more energetic than you are. It’s a gift of being young.
Sharon Silver has expressed this perfectly: “Focusing on love and creating a connection causes unseen properties to magically eat up stress. It’s as if stress and love can’t exist in the same space. When a stressed-out parent takes a few minutes to sit and lovingly reconnect to their child, heart to heart, it’s like a key has been inserted and the stress begins to dissolve”. (Silver, “4 Minute Way to De-Stress”).
A wonderful story and example!
After I shared this information with my friend, she told me this story. “One day, when I was helping one of my boys with his math, I felt irritated because he was dawdling. Then I touched the back of his neck and ruffled his hair. I felt less irritated. My energy changed.”
Touching your child makes a significant connection that strengthens your relationship. But it also helps you ground yourself. It helps you change your energy dips from negative to positive.
Share and comment. I love hearing what you have to say. : )
Have you ever noticed that when we’re having trouble with our spouse, neighbor or our children we begin to wonder what we can “do” to make the situation better? Can we devise a new system, have a good old-fashioned “talk it out” session or come up with a consequence/reward and so forth.
Recently I was mentoring with a mom who found herself in that sticky place. She wanted to know if I had any counsel that might help. I want to share with you what I shared with her.
Blame is an indicator
Relationship is everything and ultimately it depends on you! You can’t “do” yourself into a good relationship. You have to “be” yourself into one. Our way of being is far more important in our relationships, especially with our children, than anything we can do. It comes down to how we are with them. How do we treat them? How good are our own boundaries? How consistent are we? Do we have control of ourselves? Do we keep the promises we make to ourselves and to them? When “how” we are changes, when our way of being is right, everything begins to change and the relationship grows.
I always know when my “way of being’ is at the heart of an issue. I can tell because that is the moment I point my finger at someone or something and blame them for how I am feeling. Blame is an indicator that we need to look at our own behaviors, our own stories.
This good, loving mother shared with me that her son is needy, sometimes whiny, and doesn’t respond when asked to do something. He doesn’t like being directed. It’s frankly annoying. The energy between them is not positive and she is short with him.
See that blame finger pointing. Because of how he is, how he is behaving, she has to put up with feeling irritated and annoyed.
You Can Re-write the Story
As we talked further here is what else came out:
• He loves to snuggle
• He likes having a choice
• He needs details to move forward in a job or activity with confidence or to make a smooth change in plans
• He is interested in learning
This mother realized that she was telling herself two different stories about her son and that her focus was most often on the negative story about him.
So she designed an experiment to change her “way of being” with her seven-year-old boy.
She rewrote her story. He isn’t needy. He is bright and needs detail and information to move forward and when given a choice is responsible for doing a good job. He likes her company because he loves her and he loves connecting with her.
She has coupled this new story with a new way of being when she deals with her son. She gives him a choice when asking him to do something. For example: “You need to clean your room. Which would work for you, to clean your room now and then go play, or to have 30 minutes to get stuff done you want to do and then clean your room?
When major plans change she takes him aside and lets him know before they tell the whole family. For example: They had a family activity planned. As she and her husband looked over the calendar for the week they realized that that one extra activity would mean they were gone from home every evening of the week. They decided to do the activity the next week. She let her seven-year-old know why the change needed to be made and when they would do the activity. When they told the family he didn’t make a scene.
She has also begun using “random touches” with him as often as she can remember to do it. A random touch takes 3 seconds and is accompanied by silence while looking the other person in the eye. It’s just a pat on the arm or back as you walk past them, a squeeze of the knee when sitting by them, etc.
I asked her today how her experiment was going. She said that when she remembers to give him details it works PERFECTLY. When she gives him a heads up about a change in the schedule it works PERFECTLY. And as for random touches….well that is making ALL the difference. Not just for her seven-year-old, but for all of her children.
She said that using random touches has changed how she is with her children. For example: When she is working and a child asks her for help in some way, if she turns so she can touch a shoulder or arm she is able to disengage for a few seconds and focus on them. She is learning to be PRESENT.
Check Out Your Way of “Being”
When you find yourself angry, frustrated or bewildered in any relationship when you feel that someone or something outside of yourself is causing your discomfort or pain that is the time to check your “way of being”.
This mother’s efforts to change her “way of being” in this relationship is paying HUGE dividends in her family.
Remember that relationship is everything and that you can’t “do” yourself into a good relationship. You “be” yourself into one.
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Recently I attended a parenting event. I had the opportunity to ask a few parents what they wanted to know. One woman’s response was poignant – How do I manage to connect with a teen if no foundation has been laid?
I could feel her pain. I raised seven children and I know that the teen years can be difficult. We can feel estranged from youth that we love. We can know they love us and still feel a big disconnect. However, building a relationship with teens is the same as building a relationship with anyone else. It takes being Present which sends the clear message I SEE you, I HEAR you, you MATTER to me. If you haven’t built a relationship of trust and connectedness it is never too late to begin.
There are many avenues to being Present. Let’s consider two that are particularly effective with youth.
A random touch is just that, random. They don’t require any reason for the touch or hug. They happen whenever you’re in close proximity to your youth. They’re effective with children, youth, and adult children.
Here are a few examples of what a random touch looks like in real life:
• If you see your youth sitting on the couch, at the table, on their bed or anywhere, stop, sit close to them, stay for 10–20 seconds, squeeze a knee or give a quick hug, and go on your way. No need to say a word.
• In the morning go into your youth’s room to wake them up. Don’t stand in the hall and yell “Get up.” Go in; give a gentle shake to the shoulder and maybe a hug. Say, “Hey buddy. It’s time to get up.” It’s going to take a few more seconds than yelling from the hall, but it will build your relationship.
• As you walk through a room or down the hall and see your youth, look them in the eye and smile. Touch them on their back, arm, or shoulder as they pass by. Don’t say anything; just give a squeeze or a pat. You can do this a dozen times a day and use up only a few minutes.
• When you’re moving from one room to another (as you go through your day) and you see your youth, make a small detour. Grab them and tickle them for a few moments, just long enough to get a little tussle going. Then gently punch a shoulder or tousle a head and move on.
• When you’re walking together put your hand on their back or shoulder for a few moments at a time.
• Rub or scratch your youths back while sitting in church, in the doctor’s waiting room, and so on.
If you have a youth who doesn’t like to be touched, then respect their boundaries, experiment to find out what is acceptable to them. A teen may not want to be hugged but may allow you to rub their back or pat their shoulder.
I want you to understand how powerful this one skill can be in changing the dynamics of your relationship with a youth. It’s easy to do, takes only moments and practically shouts “You matter”.
A Success Story
I worked with a mother who was having significant relationship issues with her seventeen-year-old daughter, who was getting ready to graduate. The mom was often irritated by her daughter. They avoided each other in order to not argue.
As we talked about how she could reconnect their broken relationship, she decided to experiment with giving her daughter as many random touches as she could remember each day. I’ve seen random touch produce amazing healing in relationships, so I felt confident in offering it to this mother as an experiment.
In one week it improved her and her daughter’s relationship significantly. They were beginning to talk more. Mom felt less annoyed by her daughter. She was more aware of her daughter. She had begun responding in calmer and more loving ways. They had even made plans to go to lunch together.
Mom said later that using random touch had changed how she was with all of her children. And in turn, it has changed how they responded to her, including her seventeen-year-old daughter.
When I was raising my children, I had many opportunities to use transition times to be Present with my youth. When they return home in the evening or late at night is a perfect transition time to connect and help them ease back into the family. Be prepared to pay the price required to connect with youth—a small amount of your T-I-M-E.
Leave the TV, the ironing, the email, and Facebook. Meet them when you hear the door open. Look them in the eye and smile. Touch a shoulder. Say, “I’m so glad you’re home. How did it go?” You may get nothing more than a quick “OK.” That’s all right because they’ll feel your Presence. Now and then you’ll get more. They will, in turn, be Present with you and share feelings. These can be precious, sweet, and, at times, crucial moments.
As a youth, when I left home, I would go out the door and yell “Bye Mom.” From some far-flung place in the house, I would hear her call back “Bye Mary. Be safe.” This scenario was repeated often.
There isn’t anything wrong with this. But what if my mom had replied, “Wait a minute,” and had come quickly to the door? What if she had looked me in the eye, smiled, laid a hand on my shoulder, and said, “Bye Mary. Be safe”? Can you feel the difference? Can you sense the Presence I would have felt at sixteen? Do you think it would have made a difference for me?
Coming to see me off would have cost my mother something. It would have cost her T-I-M-E. Time is a precious commodity. That is why it’s so powerful when we give our precious time to our children and are Present. There’s an innate knowledge that you have received a gift and it’s valuable.
This can also work in reverse when you’re returning after a long day. My friend Tiffany has a teen-aged son. One day when she returned home from shopping, he met her in the driveway and offered to carry in the groceries, an uncommon occurrence.
Although she was tired and anxious to get things put away and dinner started, she got Present. She watched her son as he carried in the groceries and paid attention to his body language. When the groceries were on the counter she asked, “What happened today?” Her son opened up and shared an experience that was bothering him.
My friend said, “I almost missed this opportunity because I was transitioning back home and I was tired and had an agenda. I’m so glad I stopped and got Present.”
Are you getting a sense of how you can use transitions to be Present and create more connected relationships? You won’t be able to do this all the time. You’ll run late for work. A work-at-home parent may have a deadline. You may miss a youth coming back. But as much as possible, we can use transition times to be Present with our children. When we do, we build relationships, we bond our family, and, frankly, we are happier.
If we are just beginning to create a connected relationship with our youth then it will take some time. It will take consistency. It doesn’t require that we do big things. It requires that we connect daily in these very small ways, day after day and week after week; as we consistently touch and use the comings and going of our day to connect it will make a difference. Trust can and will be built. A sense of connection will be forged.
What is your experience with connecting with youth? What have you used that has worked well? Leave a comment and I will respond. : )