We all want our kids to like us, right? But the truth is the parent child relationship is about so much more than our kids just liking us. It’s also about more than discipline. Parent child relationships are complicated. Let’s dive in and talk about how we nurture these important relationships in our home.

Kids need structure. They need parents to set boundaries. They need natural consequences when they make bad choices. I believe it makes them feel safe and loved, even if they don’t like those darn consequences.

I think that sometimes, in wanting our kids to “like” us, we think have to forego those things when really that’s what helps build relationships.

Questions about the Parent Child Relationships

I’ve received quite a few questions on this topic and I LOVE questions like this because it helps remind me what has worked and what I still need to work on.

How do you ensure that your kids like YOU? I am feeling so bad because my kids told me that I’m a grouchy mom and they don’t like me. (they are 6 and 4). Seriously broke my heart especially because I’m doing my best! 

How do you have and maintain such an amazing and close relationship with your daughters?

My mother and I were never close when I was a child and into teenage years. We are closer now as I have grown up and gotten married but still, we’ve never had the close mother-daughter bond. I now have a daughter and she is 1.5 years old. I was very nervous when we found out we were having a girl because I didn’t want to repeat a negative parent child relationship.

Do you have any advice on what you do daily, or monthly or randomly to make sure you have such great bonds with your children? Where they can and want to come and talk to you and tell you about their day.

Any advice or even if you can give me links to prior posts you have done would be great. 

Thank you.

As always, such great questions!

Nurture the Parent Child Relationship

I am continually working on my relationships with my kids. They are a work in progress.  Each child is so very different. Some are so much like me, some are so different! And every stage is different too. But here are some basic things that I’ve noticed make us feel closer around here.

Find time to really BE with your kids and focus on them. 

Whether it’s taking them on an individual date or using drive time to have a real conversation. Be with your kids. Letting your mind quiet down opens your heart. And that’s the best gift we can give our kids. What in the world could be more important than being with that child right then? Engage them; reach into their hearts with questions.  There are so many things to find out about kids.  

I have to re-learn that every single day, so don’t go thinking I’m an expert.  I just know it changes my whole perspective and my whole happiness when I don’t let dumb little things get in the way of those relationships.

Put down your phone. Turn off all electronics. 

Yes, TURN IT ALL OFF.  Technology hinders relationships. A lot. I have an epiphany every now and then when I’m sitting on my computer or on my phone and realize I have a child sitting next to me. I swear this is the hardest one for me lately. There are so many things to keep track of on that little device. Who’s driving which carpool, emails about everything under the sun, social media itching to be scrolled through, weather broadcasts, news, even my scriptures pull me into that thing. I’ve been doing a lot of listening to scriptures these days.  All good and fine things for sure, but they can sure suck you in and make you lose balance.  And make you forget to look into childrens’ eyes.

Sometimes I will put Lucy to bed while distracted on my phone.  She’s at an age where she’s still telling me so much, and sometimes it’s so easy to tune that out.  There is such a dramatic difference when my phone is no where close and I am zoned in to what that girl is doing and saying. I loved that the other night she took my phone right out of my hands while I was checking Instagram in the backyard waiting for Bo to do her business and asked if we could read together.

So we did.

And it was the best Narnia night.

We haven’t been reading together lately because she gets fed up with waiting for me…and she is SO into reading which I love. But I realized once again, snuggled up in her bed with her, my phone in another bedroom, that that darn little device can take away from our relationship.

Pray intentionally and specifically for that child. 

You will get nudges on what to do and how to do it. I have noticed this as my kids have grown and the problems and issues get bigger and more complicated.  I don’t necessarily get the nudges as I pray, but praying helps me get in mind more what is needed, and I want to work WITH them to get through all this and I have felt “guided” (my “one-word” for 2017) numerous times on how to relate in a different way.

Have Family Home Evening and family dinners. 

Creating specific time for family works wonders for parent child relationships as well! This is a game-changer in this fast-paced world of ours. I love that our church encourages us to set aside one night each week to be family time (family home evening).  It is not easy these days to carve out that time to be together.  Last year Dave had to put his foot down on an extra class Claire was begging to take on Monday night.  But I am so grateful to have time to just be together. 

As far as dinners go, I love that when we sit down together we talk about our “happies and sads” (highs and lows) for the day.  There is nothing like having built in time to remember to talk about things.  Last night, for instance, we all discussed whether Claire should try-out for the junior high fall sports (soccer or volleyball), Lucy explained how it all worked when I came into her class to talk about BBS that afternoon (more on that soon), we talked about how we only have Elle for a little over one more week here and what we want to do to soak her in, we checked in on jobs.

Conduct Monthly Interviews

Whether it’s the first Sunday of the month or casually at a little lunch date. We’ve been bad with the Sunday interviews, but I still try to do lunch dates with each kid every month.  Ask questions.  Listen to answers. I always ask what they’re most worried about and what they’re most excited about to get started. Keep a big black book with their answers from over the years (more on interviews and that black book.  Kind of fun to go back and read those things as kids grow.

Physical Contact

Give hugs! They need them and so do we. Snuggle up in bed with them to wake them up in the morning.  Make up a handshake with little kids. Put your arm around them when you’re talking to them.  There’s something about physical touch that brings closeness and love in my opinion. This is one of the easiest ways to nurture a parent child relationship. If it’s awkward, start with a pat on the back or an arm around the shoulder and work your way up to a hug!

Create a Safe Space for One-on-One Interaction

Figure out how they will open up more.  I remember noticing that Max somehow opened up more when we were driving in the car, looking straight ahead rather than looking at each other.  I love cooking together because we are all in the kitchen in close proximity, and things come up.  I love late-nights, because it seems that’s when kids open up the most.  I love one-on-one dates.

Work on yourself, as the parent

If you are more approachable and available to your kids, they will naturally want to be with you and open up to you more. Here are a few things you can work on.

Creating Good Routines

Routines can make or break you. Set up routines that allow you to be present and be consistent with your kids. That way you’ll have more positive interactions which will inevitably lead to a positive parent child relationship. Make sure part of your routine includes taking the time each day to refresh your own mind and spirit so that you have the space for your kids.

Develop Thick Skin

Take the negative things that kids say with a grain of salt. Most of the time, they are just trying to get a reaction without even realizing what they are doing.  You just need to be a “durable object” and practice the “love and logic” method where if someone says “I don’t like you!  You’re grouchy!” you say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you think that way,” and move on.  

No emotion.  

If they realize they won’t get a rise out of you by telling you things like they don’t like you then they’ll stop.  I promise.  

Of course they love you, you’re their mother.  Kids just get confused sometimes.  

Make them take a hugging picture with you and they’ll laugh and remember, “oh yeah, I like that lady.”  Ha!

Have Fun

Oh and one more thing. Have fun. Life doesn’t always have to be so serious. Sometimes I’m guilty of forgetting that along with all the other important stuff I’m saying here. Joking, laughing and playing together creates core memories that help strengthen the parent child relationship.

Relationships are a constant work in progress. In answer to the mother who asked this question: you will have a great relationship with that daughter of yours because you are intentional about it and you are seeking it. That makes all the difference.

Looking for more relationship tips?

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  1. I have two daughters and one son. My son is 15 and I noticed a couple of months ago that the car is where we have the best talks too! I'm hanging on to the next six months I have with him before he gets his drivers license and we won't be together in the car so much.

  2. I just started doing one on one "mom meetings" after school with each of my kids. We sit at my desk, away from the others and talk about school/homework/friends/what's coming up/what's bothering them/practice spelling words or math facts etc. I anticipated it being 5-10 minutes but found they were anxious to share more with me one on one and we accomplished a ton (especially school prep/readiness) in only about 15minutes! I like it so much more than my old way where I would just sound like a broken record after school asking everyone the questions and rarely getting their undivided attention. I hope I can keep it up this year =)

  3. Shawni, I've been following your blog for six or seven years now and I can tell you, every time you write about your kids – whether it's interactions, thoughts, or stories about them – your love and your strong relationships are so very evident. I know we all only see small snippets of your life but every family has conflict and struggles and even if they're mentioned only in passing, it's amazing to see how you guys work through things. You have struggles, but you all struggle together and you all still love each other no matter what.
    I grew up in some very volatile households with no dad and a mom who was very much concerned only about herself. Our relationship was never that great and now she's been gone for nearly a year. I have been left with having to find examples of good moms and dads, of healthy and functioning families, and yours is one that I've found all of that in. We may not believe all of the same things, but the way you and Dave parent, the way you love and encourage and edify your kids? It's helped me construct the ideas of a family that I never got firsthand. Over the years, you've shared about family projects like the leaves and the hearts, filling baby Jesus' basket with hay. Shared about discipline and accountability, spending intentional time together, and bridging the gap when you guys are apart.
    I love this post and the post you did about fostering relationships between siblings (another thing I'm having to work out for myself) but it isn't just these two posts that share those things – it's all of them!

    1. Aw, this made my night. Thank you so much for your kindness, I'm so glad you have found some ideas that have helped you over the years! I love to keep this blog as a record of our family, but I LOVE when I hear that it helps other families.
      Sending lots of love,

  4. Shawni,
    I enjoy reading your blog. i was wondering if we could hire elle to photograph our family while we are in Hawaii in November and if she would be willing to share some of her hike suggestions that you posted about from your visit. could you email me if this is possible @

  5. Great post! I totally agree with putting down the phone and having dinner together as a family (at the table!) as much as possible (I'm amazed at the families that never do this). One things I've done since my kids were little is turn the radio off in the car and talk. I have NO idea what songs are popular these days but I sure have had some wonderful car talks with my kids. 🙂

  6. We have a tradition of doing "secrets" with each one of our kids at bedtime. We cuddle and chat about whatever is on our minds and hearts. Usually it's just a few minutes each but it has been so powerful for our relationships. Sure there are nights when I'm so sleepy or cranky or so ready to put them to bed! But even then they'll ask their dad to come get me for secrets and I love it. Some secrets I'll tell them things I've noticed about them lately, or things I adore about them (writing a letter on each finger like your cute dad used to do shawni). Some nights we'll brainstorm ideas for their next birthday (haha they really like this one even if it's another 300 days till their next birthday:)). Or others we'll come up with a secret mommy/child handshake or talk about their latest interest.

    And I believe, especially when they are young, to teach them that honesty and openness trumps all. Rather than getting mad at them for telling you how they did something "wrong," praise them for turning to you and let that be the lesson that sinks in. This will pay off big time as they get older and they have learned it's safe and best to turn to mom with their problems. Again we're not going to be perfect at this but it's something to strive for.

    The "Repentance bench" your family has inspired us to do is just as much for parent/child as it is for siblings! Just about every day I need their forgiveness and need to repair and heal something I've said or did.

    Finding ways to connect individually: One Sunday after getting home from church and now having starving kids and none of them listening for my plea for help with clean up the gunk off the table so we could actually eat… I flipped out and got all upset that my 8 year old defiantly objected to helping me! Our "fight" wasn't productive as it rarely ever is but instead fueled the fire. I protested – Ok, we'll wait to eat and they all dispersed! After having a moment to breathe and think, I realized he has just been through 3 hours of sitting still, his tummy so needs food, and his heart and body overwhelmingly need help! The Lord guided my thoughts and I snuck into his bedroom with 2 bowls of cereal and plopped on the floor without a word. He reluctantly but with a smile came over. After we ate, I said, "Do you want to play a game of skip-bo?!" (Games are HIS love language now) After the longest game of our life, I said, "Hey want to clean the kitchen with me?" and he gladly and willingly did. We finally got to that table but more importantly he felt loved and understood.

    And lastly, I just need to remember to LAUGH more with them!! It's so easy to be all uptight and stressed in "mommy mode." When we laugh we bond with people!

  7. Oh one more that has been a total GAME CHANGER for us. Each day kids have things you want them to accomplish (whether that's saying prayer/reading scripture, music practicing, a chore, brush teeth, whatever you decide). And each day they do those things, they put a sticker up and after 10 stickers they get to plan a parent-child DATE. Sometimes we do big things like roller skating at a rink or another time it was just roller skating around our neighborhood at 10pm and eating cupcakes haha. Usually my son will choose biking with Daddy or another daughter once wanted to go to the dollar store and then we shared an ice cream cone. Sometimes they'll team up and do a 3 on 1 date like canoeing with Dad. We have a little "date budget" for each child each month. It has helped us have less nagging and make that one-on-one idea really happen! Just another idea to throw into the mix.

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