Understanding the impact connecting with each other has on our lives has been a light bulb event in my life. We tend to live our lives next to each other rather than with each other. Being really present becomes more and more of a challenge as things like technology competes for our attention with all the fun and interesting things it dangles in front of us. Intention quickly slips into an excuse of why we don’t go through with our planned actions. For example, I always promised myself that I would not raise my children in front of a television screen. Guess what, when trying to get ready for work, get their bags and lunch boxes sorted and you have two children under 3 vying for your attention, the television screen suddenly looks like a wonderful babysitter.

Fast forward a few years later and now the kids are hooked to the tv screen. You struggle to make eye contact with them and they barely hear when you talk to them. I can think of a hundred excuses why I did what I had to do. But did I really? Was I present when I made those choices or was it a function of a rushed life that has taken over?

Fortunately for me, my children are still young and I have the opportunity to set the right foundation. So I set out to find what the best building blocks would be to raise balanced, strong and independent human beings that will make a difference in the world. The answer was so simple – connection.

From the moment a baby is born, all they want is to connect. Every action they take, every move and every sound is so that you will connect with them. As they go into the toddler years, every tantrum is their immature attempt to connect with you, get your attention fixed on them. In the teenage years, which is a repeat of the toddler years, they act out and rebel because they didn’t get the connection with you before and now they are too big for you to bend them to your will.

So how do you connect with your baby, toddler, young teenager?

Get on their level

Get down on the floor and play with them. A wonderful Montessori principle is to have all kinds of things that are their size. A small table with their size chair. Their own mini knife and fork. Having their clothes on eye level so they can choose what they want to wear. Having healthy snacks within their reach.

It makes them feel acknowledged and part of your world rather than tiny being struggling to cope in a grown up ‘big’ world. The more you give them access to their own size things, the quicker they will feel empowered and become independent.

Eye contact

This is so important in today’s life where a phone or tv screen can so easily pull our focus away. We get used to talking to each other sideways. While a child’s body is developing, their ears automatically follow where their eyes are. We try to talk to them while they are watching a television program and don’t understand why they don’t listen to us coming from the side.

Stop trying to have it your way – observe first

Our little human beings are actually geniuses. They are incredible observers but poor interpreters. We as parents are excellent interpreters but poor observers. Give your child a chance to show you what they are capable of before you just jump in and try to do it on their behalf. It may take a bit longer but the reward and sense of achievement is so worth it!

Put yourself in their shoes

Imagine you were this tiny human being, completely at the mercy of whatever these grownups do to you. Take a moment to ask yourself – would I like it if someone did that to me? So often we display behaviour that we won’t tolerate from our children. Grabbing something out of their hands but then scolding them for grabbing something out of ours. Do what I say and not what I do? Not a chance with their limited skills and tools that need a lot of help from you developing.

If we can let go of that ever constant need for acceptance and approval in the eyes of others, we can raise children that live lives where they are proud of themselves instead of wanting to please others. If we can raise them with respect rather than fear of the consequence they will be able to regulate themselves instead of only being able to perform when there is a consequence from someone else.

Think about what you want to achieve in raising your child. Be present while you are raising them, through the ups and the downs. Take the journey with them. Get down on their level and give them the tools to take on this life rather than holding them to these incredibly high standards that we ourselves cannot achieve.

Go out and connect so that they will see and learn what connect is. Together we can build a society that is based on kindness, dignity and respect, creating a better world for all.