Relating To Children - Starting From The Right Place
My belief is that if you’re sincere about your goal to relate to the children in your life, and if you table your agenda to focus on the building of relationships, you will be successful. If your goal is to get ‘Harry’ or ‘Harriett’ to like your music or your sports or your hobbies or your alma mater, then you are starting from the wrong place.
It’s possible, with time, communication and trust, that the child might in fact become interested in one or more of the above topics but you have to treat this like an investment that will take time to mature and, more importantly, you can’t make the meeting of your interests your primary goal.
If you keep in mind that every interaction is designed to build a relationship from which you can eventually introduce the child to your interests you’ll be fine. Too many adults insist upon leaping over the critical step of developing a relationship with a child in the interest of getting the adult’s needs met.
Also, keep in mind that building any relationship takes time and effort. Do not be discouraged if, after one interaction with a child, you feel that you haven't cracked the code. It will happen if you take it slowly and show the child that you're genuinely interested in them and having a relationship with them.
One of the saddest scenes is seeing an adult who hasn't developed a relationship with a child try to rush the relationship. I once overheard a grandfather trying to get his young grandson to open up to him over dinner. It was clear that they had had very little interaction and the grandfather insisted upon peppering the child with questions until the child finally went silent on him. The grandfather, clearly frustrated, blurted 'I guess you're too tired too talk, eh?' and they sat silently until their food came.
So, where to you start? Pick an activity that is 100% focused on an interest or need that the child has. It might be playing catch, going to the library, building or drawing something of interest...but it should be centered on the child. Also, set the bar really low for this first activity. Pick something easy and something that the child will enjoy and not be overly challenged by. If you decide to 'head to the mall', do not turn this into a buying spree. The child will begin equating time with you with 'getting stuff' as opposed to 'spending time'.