How Does Your Child Relate to Others?

Two little girls laughing and looking at each while they enjoy an ice cream cone

Children have a natural bent that causes them to relate to others in specific ways. By understanding their relational tendency (what we call their "love style"), parents can help their kids develop healthy emotional connections with others. Here are three ways that children might respond to others:

The Avoider

These children do not readily seek comfort or help when distressed. They may dismiss emotions, minimize needs and value tasks over relationships.

How to respond: Give your kids words for their feelings — "You are grumpy because you are tired." Then help them recognize their emotions and link the feelings to a need. "I can see you are sad. Maybe a hug could help you with those sad feelings."

The Pleaser

These children are sensitive and aware of the moods of others but not their own feelings or needs. They tend to be overly compliant and let peers dominate them.

How to respond: When you applaud their exploration of the world or let them handle situations, independent of the influence of others, you recognize them as individuals. This builds confidence about who they are as people and helps them better enter relationships with others on equal footing, without always reacting to what others like or dislike.

The Vacillator

These children alternate between demanding attention and rejecting it. They wonder if they are a bother to you and if you love them. They are either happy or mad, with little middle ground.

How to respond: Teach them to express feelings underneath the anger and help them understand that they haven't been rejected when others just need space.

This article first appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2016 by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. Used by permission.

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