What did Darth expect after being emotionally absent for the first 18 years of his kids’ lives? There were no bottles given in rocking chairs. There was no time for a reassuring touch when they bumped their heads. He wasn’t able to build nurturing bonds with his children because he didn’t make a conscious effort to be with them, engaging in behaviors that help bolster a child’s emotional and social health.
But we can do better. We can be the good guys. The trick is in understanding which habits create strong attachments and finding the right balance for your family.
Children need a calm, consistent presence, both emotionally and physically. Routinely being with familiar caregivers nourishes your child’s social and emotional growth, giving them a dependable protector and creating strong attachments.
Plan days to maximize the time children spend with special caregivers. Build in time to play together, time for cuddles and reading, time for taking walks. And talk, a lot. Give words to your actions, and your child’s. “You’re rolling a ball to me. Good!” “Look at this leaf. It’s orange and brittle, with a bug on it.”
Hold hands, offer a lap, squat to keep your faces at the same level, maintain eye contact. Maximize proximity and engagement.
Put your phone down and exist in your child’s world, while sharing your own with them.
The Golden Rule
Remember that children have points of view, fears, interests, and agendas, too. Treat them like you expect to be treated by others, even when your child has misbehaved and needs some redirection. Emotions are powerful and managing them is confusing. Children need coaching from a trusted adult that can help them understand their world.
Falling into the ‘because I said so’ habits can be unconscious and easy. The reason he has to share the tangerine with his sister isn’t because you said so, it’s because it’s the right thing to do. Positive discipline is rooted in a sturdy, connected relationship between kids and caregivers. Describe what went wrong, correct the behavior, comfort, and be consistent.
Your Own Timeline
Bonding doesn’t happen the same way for every parent and child. Avoid comparing your experience with your baby with stories from your friends and family, or even your experience with your child’s older siblings. Instead, be thoughtful about how you spend time with your child, and be conscious of how your behavior is benefitting them. The bonds will develop in their own way as long as you are consistent with the investment of your attention.
Imagine how The Empire Strikes Back would have turned out if Darth Vader had made bonding with his children a priority, rather than the complete subjugation of the known galaxy. If he’d been a more consistent, positive presence in Luke’s life, it never would have come to slicing the poor boy’s hand off and tossing him into a bottomless pit.
The Sith Lord and commander of the Imperial fleet could have reached out to his son, not to crush his trachea with dark side powers, but with warm understanding.