Characteristics of the parent-child relationship vary from family to family and culture to culture. Some families communicate often while other families talk little and play more. One family may value strict adherence to what the parents say while another may encourage independent thinking. Each parent-child relationship includes values, boundaries, discipline and communication.
The parent-child relationship is based on specific values such as integrity, responsibility and other characteristics of the adult's approach to life. These values demonstrate what's important to the parent and are passed to the child through modelling, nonverbal messages or direct teaching. Children are encouraged to determine their own values, take on the parent's values or a mix of the two. Values may or may not be healthy for the relationship, depending on the results. If a parent values making money more than connecting with the child, the relationship may suffer. As children grow, the values of the relationship may change to become shared values rather than just the parent's.
The way the parent and child communicate sets the tone for the relationship. Some parents speak angrily or admonish children to correct them while others show compassion, listen and talk about other ways they can behave. Jane Bluestein, Ph.D., an award-winning author on building relationships and personal development, notes that healthy adult-child relationships use positive communication that separates the child's worth from behaviour and takes responsibility for a person's feelings. This may include listening to and not judging a child, asking the child for possible solutions to behaviour or conflict issues and not making the child responsible for the parent's anger.
The parent-child relationship includes various boundaries. Boundaries define the parameters of the relationship and set the foundation for discipline. Some parents may have limits for the amount of time spent using anything with a screen like the TV or computer while other parents may allow unlimited use. According to Bluestein, healthy boundaries consider what the parent and the child want in a positive way to find a mutually agreeable solution or limit. An example of this may be to have a room for toys and the routine of cleaning up toys right after play. The child gets to have toys, a free area to play in and the parent gets to have an organised home.
Discipline can be looked at in two ways. It is the method in which teaching takes place and it is often referred to as the way inappropriate behaviour is handled. Some parents teach children about the behaviour they want to see by modelling and direct teaching. Other parents may punish children in an attempt to teach them what is wrong and then talk about appropriate behaviour. Bluestein indicates that finding a win-win solution to conflict and behaviour problems helps encourage cooperation rather than obedience and people-pleasing.
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