3 Words To Change Your Parenting

Mark Resch   -  

Connect before correct.

There you go, there’s the 3 words. Blog post over. Or you can read on to hear more.

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend an Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) training here at our church. One of the biggest takeaways I had from that weekend were these three words when it comes to parenting: connect before correct.

Disclaimer: This training was for therapists, which I am not. But I wanted to share my takeaway.

The big idea is that in order for there to be healthy correction in a child’s life, there also needs to be health relational connection.

Imagine this scene with me: You get home, tired from poor sleep the previous night and a long and stressful day at work. You are happy to see your kids but also hoping to take a few minutes to relax on the couch before diving into what the evening has to offer. Your 5-year-old child has too much energy and is jumping on the couch. You’ve asked her to stop but were maybe a bit too tired to follow through (this is purely hypothetical by the way). A minute later she falls off the couch and hurts herself. She’s crying, you’re angry, the house is chaos. What’s your response?

“This is why I said stop jumping on the couch!”

My default setting in that moment is to correct. To say “see this is why dad was right, I told you not to jump on the couch. Now maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I say that.”

That’s all fine and good. After all our kids need correction and boundaries for their own good. The problem is it is missing one crucial piece: what does your child need in that moment? They need relational connection, they need comfort. Whether or not they realize it, your child is asking the basic question of childhood existence: are you there for me?

A better response from me would be: “Are you okay? Come here. I’m sorry you fell and got hurt.” Then, a few minutes later, when the tears have subsided and comfort has been given it gives me the opportunity to say, “I’m sorry you fell. That’s why I asked you not to jump on the couch, because I didn’t want you to get hurt. So next time when I ask you not to jump on the couch will you obey?”

Connect before correct. In this scenario I’ve emotionally connected to my child, given them the secure base of a relationship with me, where they know they are loved and cared for, and then I’ve corrected when they were ready to receive it.

Does it always work this perfectly? Heavens no. Parenting is far too messy to expect it to be simple and easy every time and I fail at this weekly. But I have also seen fruit and growth in myself and my children in this.

Are there exceptions to all of this? Certainly. If my 1-year-old is running toward the street I am not going to take the time to connect with him before yanking him off his feet and into the safety of our yard. But as much as we can, seek to connect before you correct.

Is your relationship with your kids built more on correction or connection? Both are needed.

Correction without connection is cold and damaging.

Connection without correction is unloving and incomplete.

When you correct your teenager are you going in guns blazing? Do you seek to relationally connect with them? Is your correction happening in moments where it can be received? Or is it only happening when you finally reach your boiling point, and it spills over as anger?

As I was thinking about this a scene from scripture came to mind. It takes place early on in the story, in Genesis 3. Adam & Eve have both just rebelled against God, disobeyed him, eaten from the only tree they were instructed not to eat from. They have brought sin and death into God’s perfect world, infecting the whole creation and cursing all future generations. Not great. If there was ever a time for their heavenly parent to rip open the heavens and thunder down his correction it was now. I can just see it:

“You had one rule! Are you kidding me!? Look at all the good things I’ve done for you. You couldn’t do this one thing for me?”

But what does God do?

Genesis 3:8-9 – And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

God comes down, and walks in the garden. He is looking for them, to speak face to face with those he loves. And correction is coming, make no mistake about it, yet God is meeting Adam and Eve on their level. He is speaking correction into the relational connection he has with them…walking with them in the garden and beginning a conversation.

Seeing how God responds to his wayward children in the garden gives me great hope that I will never regret emotionally connecting with my child even in a moment that there needs to be correction.

Does your child need more correction this week? Or more connection? I would guess for most of us, the answer is connection. How can you emotionally connect with your child this week?