A Daily Opportunity To Connect With Your Child

A nine-year-old girl who usually gets picked up from school by her mother walks out of her third-grade classroom and sees her father waiting for her instead. Her eyes widen and a surprised smile crawls across her face. “Daddy!” she shouts and starts running towards him.

Emotionless, the father asks, “Where’s your sweater?”

The little girl’s smile falls to the ground as she stops running.

“Why don’t you have your sweater on? It’s cold,” the father says.


A five-year-old boy comes to the door of his kindergarten classroom when his mother arrives, looks up at her smiling, and says, “Mommy!”

She doesn’t acknowledge him (or even look at him), but starts talking about him with the teacher.

Then she takes him by the hand and leads him away, while talking to another mom.


A 14-year-old girl gets into her mother’s car after school, bursting with energy and excited to tell her about the A she received on a math test.

The mother holds up her index finger while she continues a conversation on her cell phone.

After ten minutes, the mother hangs up and asks, “So, how was your day?”

The girl’s sparkle has dulled and she simply answers, “Fine.”




The way you reconnect with your kids each and every day helps set the tone for your relationship. The more they feel connected to you, the less they’ll need to act out in order to get your attention. And the stronger your bond, the more they’ll actually want to cooperate.


How do you connect with your child after you’ve been apart?


Do your eyes light up? Do your face and voice show how excited you are to see him? Do you put aside all other distractions and focus just on her?


Forget about how they greet you. Focus on what you can control: how you greet them.


In other words, when the first words out of their mouths are, “Can we go to the park?” or “Where’s my snack?” — don’t come back with a defensive, “Well, hello to you, too!”As the grown up, you’re their model for how to acknowledge people warmly and politely. After you’ve greeted them and made a loving connection, then you can address the park, snack, etc.


Also, it’s ok if they’re not as excited to see you. Don’t take it personally. Kids tend to hold themselves together all day at school and then fall apart when they’re back in the comfort of your presence. Knowing this, you can be prepared to show compassion for them and allow them to decompress after a long day.


This doesn’t mean you allow them to be rude to you or get whatever they want. You can show compassion while setting limits on how they behave or simply ignore their invitation to a power struggle. For example, “Seems like you had a hard day, but it’s not ok to talk to me that way. Try again.” or “Sounds like you had a stressful day today. Wanna talk about it?”


Going back to the three examples above, what could the parents in each situation do differently?


The father in the first example could greet his daughter with a hello and a hug before questioning her about her sweater. I’m not sure where it originated, but there’s a saying, “Connect before you correct.” I like that philosophy.


The mom in the second example could kneel down to her son’s level and hug him before talking with the teacher. She could also include him in the conversation, rather than talking about him as if he’s not there.


Ideally, the mom in the third example would hang up the phone before her daughter gets into the car. If that’s not possible, she could still show excitement on her face and pause the conversation long enough to say hello and let her daughter know how long she thinks the conversation will last. This little bit of common courtesy shows the daughter that she’s valued.


Start to pay closer attention to how you connect with your kids (and spouse, too, for extra credit) after you’ve been apart, and notice how they respond. These times include first thing in the morning, after school, after work, etc. Focus on being present, listening without judging, and showing them you’re happy to see them. Sometimes the simplest actions yield the most powerful results.


Leave a comment below and tell us: Do you remember how you were greeted by your parents when you were a child? How did it make you feel?


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Showing 16 comments
  • Nicholette von Reiche

    Oh this made me tear up. So beautiful, so important, so easy to take for granted …

    I always try to let my toddler know how excited i am to see them after some time apart and how very happy his acts of affection make me. I can imagine that it becomes easy as parents to get so involved with our own lives, that we forget that little eyes are always watching.

    It also easy to take our partners for granted and forget to thank and praise them for what they do for us and how excited we are to see them too.

    I will take you up on this assignment this week. Thank you for for the beautiful reminder.

    • Pam Howard

      You’re welcome, Nicholette. Please keep in touch and let us know what happened as a result. Thanks for commenting!

  • Robin Chellis

    I love your post Pam! This is something that I make sure to do when I pick up my kids from school because I want them to know how important they are to me and that I am glad to see them. It can be a bit frustrating on those days that they don’t reciprocate that, but I appreciate the days that they light up and get involved in our conversations. Thanks for sharing such a lovely post.

    • Pam Howard

      Thanks, Robin! Keep it up…your kids appreciate it even if they don’t always show it.

  • Amy

    Wow… what a powerful post! As a Mama of a year 1 student and a pre-school student, this is such a beautiful reminder thank you. And I especially love that you mentioned how we great our partner too! That’s something I would really love to work on more. Thank you. x

    • Pam Howard

      Yes, Amy…don’t forget to connect with your partner, too! So important!

  • Louisa

    Beautifully put. Thanks for the reminder. Signing up for more tips right now! 😀

  • Clare Greig

    This post is so important. Such a simple act – that makes such a difference. I miss my kids when I don’t see them all day, I can’t imagine not running into their arms for big hugs when we have been apart.
    Beautiful, thanks for wording this so beautifully Pam.

    • Pam Howard

      Thanks, Clare. Sometimes the simplest and most powerful acts are the ones most overlooked. The image of you running and hugging your kids is fantastic. Do it for as long as they’ll let you:)

  • Kristy

    Hi Pam,

    What a thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing.

    I have vivid memories of our special family greetings- butterfly kisses before bedtime and big bear hugs first thing in the morning. Such cherished memories.

    I often ask parents is technology preventing their child having enough ‘Vitamin C’- connection?

    • Pam Howard


      It’s so nice to hear that you have fond memories of how you were greeted by your parents. It sounds like you had a really loving and connected family.

      And I love the “Vitamin C!”

  • Kelly - Project Me

    This resonated with me so strongly! I observe the same scenarios you’ve described at our school gates, and I’m sure I’m guilty of it too! Thanks for this excellent assignment. Awareness is always the key to making positive change and you are helping parents to be aware 🙂

    • Pam Howard

      Thanks for your comment, Kelly. Please come back and let us know if you notice anything different after completing the “assignment.”

  • Helen Butler

    What a wonderful article Pam! I can’t really remember how my parents greeted me. Isn’t that awful? But I do know on an intuitive level that it’s so important and try to greet our son in the morning, after school, when I return from a trip away with hugs, eye contact and love – because I want him to remember how much he means to me even when I’m not with him. 🙂

    • Pam Howard

      Hi Helen! How do your parents greet you now? (Hint: It’s very likely that it’s the same as when you were a kid.)

      Glad to hear that it’s important to you to connect with your son…he might not express it, but it’s important to him, too.

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