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How you’re hurting your relationship with your child and not even know it

How you’re hurting your relationship with your child and not even know it

As parents we want what’s best for our children, but we’re still human, with our own weaknesses and challenges that often surface while interacting with them. As a result of these frequent interactions, we have the most opportunity to overcome our weaknesses and respond to conflict within our family relationships. During this learning process it helps to be aware of some characteristics to avoid to prevent hurting your relationship with your child.

Take some time to step back and see if any of these apply to you.


Criticism includes labeling your child (e.g. calling your child lazy or other non descriptive names) and continually pointing out what they are doing wrong. Receiving constant criticism not only leads children to believe that they are disappointing their parents, but the criticizing voice can become internalized and they will start to think negatively of themselves even when you’re not around. Although it is important to give your child feedback on behaviors they should change, don’t let criticism replace teaching. If specific behavioral correction is needed, teach them what they should do instead after giving the feedback. Children learn better through praise than through criticism.


Instead of using criticism, focus on maintaining a 4:1 ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback to encourage your child to participate in more positive behaviors, and in turn they will learn a healthy level of positive self-talk and how to overcome negative behaviors.

You can learn more about how to correct behaviors in the right way by learning the skill of Correcting Behaviors.

Consistently prioritizing other activities before your child

Consistently prioritizing other activities before your child teaches them that they are less important than your other obligations. Of course there will be times when housework, a project, or an errand needs to be done immediately and playtime needs to be put on hold, but if you find you are continually telling your child “Hold on minute while I ______”, “Let me do _______ first”, or your phone, a TV show, or social media feed becomes first priority over giving your child attention, then this could start to affect your relationship with your child. With the many distractions we have in our world and the constant demands on our time, it’s easy for time with your child be left behind without noticing. A good way to prioritize quality time with your child is to establish daily one-on-one routines, such as eating dinner together without electronics or spending 15 minutes each day doing an activity your child chooses.


Not fully listening while your child is talking

When you have a lot on your mind and your child is talking about a subject you don’t know much about or have an interest in, pretend listening can easily creep in. Show interest in what your child is saying, no matter how insignificant the topic may seem. If for some reason you can’t give your full attention at that time, explain this to your child and ask if they can wait until you can pay attention. It’s better to have them talk to you another time than to pretend to listen. As you spend more time fully listening to your child, you’ll be able to bring up these topics to discuss in future conversations. Showing interest and discussing topics your child is interested in is a great way to build a relationship with them. Everyone loves talking with someone who genuinely cares about their interests and they will be more likely to bring topics to discuss with you when a comfortable pattern of communication exists.


Inappropriately dealing with anger

Yelling, throwing objects, name-calling, and large threats not only teach your child bad responses to dealing with anger, which they often mimic, but it begins to damage your relationship if this is the common response to misbehavior. It leads to a fear-based relationship rather than a love-based relationship. There will be times when we act inappropriate while angry with
our child. When this happens, apologize to your child and be open about what you did wrong and how you should have acted. Although you cannot fully undo how you have acted, it gives a chance to resolve the situation, repair hurt feelings, and give a positive example of dealing with conflict. To prevent these situations from recurring, practice calming down techniques, such as deep breathing or taking a timeout.


Most importantly, don’t become discouraged and give up on trying to improve your own behavior. We all make mistakes as individuals and especially as parents. Luckily, we have hundreds of opportunities to practice interacting with our children. With sincere effort you will be able to build a healthy relationship with your child.