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  • Writer's pictureK.C. Dreisbach, LMFT

The Secret to a Loving Parent-Child Relationship

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

For today’s blog post, I want to discuss what the Parent-Child Relationship actually is. If you’ve been following me at all, you’ll notice that I reference the Parent-Child Relationship quite often. It occurred to me, however, that you may not really understand what the Parent-Child Relationship is or why it is so important.

Today, I’m going to go into more detail on what the Parent-Child Relationship is, why it’s so vital to a harmonious life with your family, and how it develops throughout the lifespan of your child. So, let’s jump right in.

At its most basic, the Parent-Child Relationship is the relationship you have with your child. Whether that relationship is positive, neutral or negative, the Parent-Child Relationship is the bond that you have with your kid. Some individuals may reference the Parent-Child Relationship as being equivalent to attachment (more on this later).

For myself, the Parent-Child Relationship encompasses the attachment you have formed, as well as other dynamics such as healthy boundaries. This concept can be difficult to break down, but at its most basic, it is the relationship you have with your child.

Developing the Parent-Child Relationship

The next question would be, how does the parent child relationship develop? The simple answer is that the Parent-Child Relationship develops over time. It begins at infancy and then continues to grow and change over time. Whether your Parent-Child Relationship is positive, neutral or negative depends on how you interact with your child from infancy through adulthood.

In many ways, the Parent-Child Relationship can be viewed as a bridge. Every interaction you have with your child is a stone that is carefully and intricately put on this bridge that connects one side of a riverbank to the other. For some of you, your bridges are strong, firm and hold even during the biggest rainstorm. For others, your bridges may have holes in them where stones have crumbled and fallen away. Only you know what kind of bridge you have developed with your child at this time.

Take a moment to consider it. Do you feel as though this bridge is firm and solid? Or do you feel that your bridge has become weak, rickety, and even unsafe? Having an honest view of the current status of your Parent-Child Relationship with your child is going to greatly impact how you will be able to improve it overtime. Essentially, you need to know where you are in order to know where you need to go.

The Parent-Child Relationship develops early during infancy. This is most commonly referred to as attachment. Whether your child has a secure attachment or insecure attachment greatly depends on how well you responded to your child early throughout infancy.

If your child cried and you responded to those cries appropriately, your child most likely developed a secure attachment style. If you had a tendency to let your child cry it out, this is more likely to develop children who have insecure attachment styles. (It is for this reason why the Ferber Method of sleep training your child is not recommended until your child is at least 6 months of age.)

The Parent-Child Relationship is adaptable, flexible and can change over time. A critical point to know about early stages of attachment is that it creates a foundation for your child’s future relationships. In many ways, it becomes a blueprint, showing your child what relationships should look like and how they should engage in those relationships.

Children that have formed secure attachments with a caring and loving adult will form appropriate, healthy and loving relationships with others in the future. Those who developed insecure attachment styles are more likely to form relationships that may be considered inappropriate, unhealthy, or just flat out toxic.

Let’s say now that your child has developed an insecure attachment style; is your child doomed to a life of toxic relationships? Of course not! You can help reverse these attachment styles by utilizing the Parent-Child Relationship. Remember when I said that the Parent-Child Relationship encompasses attachment but was so much more??? Here’s where that becomes important! Let’s take a look at how you can create a healthy, loving Parent-Child Relationship that serves as a tool to correct poor attachment from infancy.

Creating a Loving Parent-Child Relationship

A positive and healthy Parent-Child Relationship is the cornerstone to a loving and harmonious household, but it is in no way easy to obtain and maintain. Despite the challenges it might present, it is completely doable (even for the busiest parent). As mentioned, this relationship is adaptable and changes over time. This means 2 things:

1) It requires constant maintenance over time.

2) If yours is currently in the gutter, you can change it!

In order to help us in this next section, I’m going to use a metaphor to explain it. Your Parent-Child Relationship is much like a bank account. Every time you engage with your child in a positive way, a way that makes them feel secure, safe and loved, it is as though you are depositing money into this bank account. Every time you engage with your child in a way that may be considered harmful, negative, hurtful, etc., it is as though you are withdrawing funds from this account.

When this account is rich and "in the black", you have a rich and positive Parent-Child Relationship. When this account is out of funds or "in the red", your Parent-Child Relationship is suffering, conflictual, tumultuous, and most likely negative or unhealthy. This is what I like to call the Emotional Piggy Bank.

A positive, secure attachment that is developed early on in infancy is like a huge deposit of funds into this account. You start off as a parent ahead of the game because you have a nice healthy bank account that is rich. This means that, later on, when things get a little bit tough with your child, you are able to make more mistakes as a parent without dropping your bank account into the negative.

Let me explain this a little further….

As parents, we are going to have bad days and we are going to make mistakes. We are only human, and it's ok to make poor choices sometimes. But, every time you make a mistake with your child, you are (most likely) withdrawing funds from this Emotional Piggy Bank. The bigger the mistake, the bigger the withdrawal from your account. If you have to make several withdrawals back to back, this starts to deplete your account.

In turn, this places your account at risk of going into the negative. When your account drops into the negative, this is when you start to have a poor and potentially toxic relationship with your child. These are the relationships that are extremely conflictual: there’s frequent arguing and a lack of respect for the child towards the parents and the parent towards the child. If that sounds like your relationship right now, then your account is in the negative. The great news is, you can fix it!

Improving the Parent-Child Relationship

Let’s say that your Emotional Piggy Bank is in the red right now. Your Parent-Child Relationship is currently in the dump and definitely needs to see some improvement. Maybe your Emotional Piggy Bank isn’t in the negative, but you know that you are dangerously close to running out of funds in your account, and your relationship needs a lot of work.

Your next question should be, how do I improve my emotional bank account? How do I deposit more funds so that I can have a positive relationship with my child? These are great questions, and the answers to these questions are both easy and complex.

For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to keep it simple to some strategies that you can begin applying today. However, I do want you to remember that this situation may be a little bit more complex and may require a bigger repair job than what these tips can accomplish.

Regardless of how badly damaged your Parent-Child Relationship may be, however, these tips will still help to improve it. Lastly, each one of these tips deserve their very own post, requiring much more time than I can give here (this post is already super long!). But I didn’t want to end this post without providing you with something! With that said, here are some tips you can easily begin applying today:

1. Increase Quality Time - Spend more time together, engaging in activities your child wants to do.

2. Don’t be Afraid to Apologize - When you make a mistake that hurts your child, it's ok to apologize! This is super important towards remedying damaged caused to the Parent-Child Relationship.

3. Always End Disciplinary Sessions with an Act of Love - After administering consequences for behavior, you should always end with an act of love. This might be a hug, kiss, etc., that helps to reaffirm to your child that you still love them.

These 3 tips are a small component to what I call Wholistic Discipline, which is a parenting philosophy and system of improving your Parent-Child Relationship that simultaneously creates a loving, united and harmonious family life.

I hope you found this article useful in developing a united, loving and emotionally healthy Parent-Child Relationship and family life. For more great parenting help, download my free mini-ebook, Eliminating Temper Tantrums: 4 Keys to Mastering Your Child's Anger Outbursts. Or, you can check out my full-length series, The Art of Parenting. With 5-stars on Amazon, Bookbub, and Barnes & Nobles, you can't go wrong!

With that said, Happy Parenting!

1 Comment

Mar 14


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Krystal Dreisbach is a licensed therapist, mindset coach, adjunct professor of counseling, and published author.  Her specialties include depression treatment, anxiety counseling, stress management support, and mindset coaching.  Learn more about Krystal and see how she can help you live a better life.

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