Have you noticed that your children can push your buttons and stir your soul…often within the same minute? It’s a way your kids have of connecting with you. Sometimes they’ll do it in ways that brings joy to your heart. At other times, they can bring frustration. Either way, each child has his or her own unique means of seeking connection.
Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert with more than 40 years of research experience, refers to these small efforts to gain relational attention as “bids for connection.” These are moments when our kids are seeking to connect with us on a mind and heart level. Sometimes bids for connection seem to come at the most inconvenient times. We may respond positively, but often we end up rejecting, dismissing, or ignoring them.
Bids for connection aren’t always easy to catch, even if you are looking for them. In fact, you might have missed several today already. Here are a few examples:
- A boy tugging at his mom while she’s on the phone.
- A little girl grabbing her dad’s hand
- A child asking dad to shoot hoops
- A teen boy giving his mom a hug while she is busy and saying, “I love you”
- A child being silly
- A child wanting to help, even if it offers more distraction than assistance
- A child yelling or annoying someone
- A child beaming a smile at mom or dad
Bids for connection aren’t always obvious. Or pleasant. But that’s not the point. They represent your child knocking at the door of your heart. Are you there? Are you listening?
If the timing is really bad for you, let your child know how to bid successfully, and with good timing. Bids don’t always occur at the most appropriate times and kids need to learn to be okay with the words “not right now” and accept an appointment for later if necessary. Do this gently, though; scolding and shaming them is not the answer. Likewise, understand that if the answer is always “no” the bids may become fewer and fewer, and may disappear altogether. They may even seek relational connection elsewhere.
Early on, children bid for connection from their parents and begin to shift their focus toward peers during their school years and into their teen years. It’s imperative when you begin to see this shift that you become diligent about keeping track of who they are hanging out with and befriending. I can’t impress enough the importance of Asset #15: Positive Peer Influence during this pivotal, time of transition. While it’s important to keep track of who they are hanging out with and getting to know their friends, you must also remember that as your kids get older, you may notice yourself becoming the bidder more often. They still want connection with you.
As a family, this school year, think about how you can:
- Notice bids for connection
- Share with each other how you bid for connection
- Listen for ways that work best to gain connection
- Come up with a plan to respond to each other’s bids for connection in meaningful, respectful and effective ways
- Get to know their friends and observe their interactions
There are countless things clamoring for your attention, including work, bills, responsibilities, and entertainment. Think about how you can set these aside, when possible and when appropriate, for your child.
Be on the lookout for bids for connection from your kids, and help them learn how to manage their desire for connection in healthy, appropriate, and confident ways.
RezilientKidz is a 501c3 educational organization created to champion the needs of children and equip parents to build thriving, healthy families. For information on our parenting curriculum, Raising Highly Capable Kids, contact us at 855-REZ-KIDZ or 8675 Explorer Drive, Col Springs, CO 80920.
Raising Highly Capable Kids Curriculum: https://www.rezilientkidz.com/raising-highly-capable-kids/
Fight for Your Marriage Curriculum: https://www.rezilientkidz.com/fight-for-your-marriage/