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How to bond with your children is an age-old question we, as parents, have struggled to learn to do for a very long time. Maybe it is us knowing we are always right, and they are still learning life that puts a wall between our children and ourselves. Maybe it is because we have trouble relating to the individual who may eat a hairball off of the floor, put bologna in the DVD drive, or even smear poo all over the bathroom, even though they are potty-trained and know where their poo should go. Whatever reason or wall that separates us from these tiny humans, it is there, and to bond more with your children requires you to break this wall down.

We all have busy days and it is easy for our children to become a part of the busy, and less of the day. Building a bond starts with you, but it isn’t all about you; it’s about them.

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Play, play, play (and play some more): To bond with our little ones, it is critical that we first get down to their level, and begin understanding where they are in life. Oh yes, I mean playtime. If you have a baby, that may mean you are on the floor, engaging in picking up the tiniest crumb on the ground or feeling the texture of the hardwood. If you have a toddler, this may mean you are walking around the house with a cookie in your hand and your pants on your head. If you have an older child, this may mean you are building legos, or choreographing a dance for no reason. Whatever the developmental stage of your little ones, you should meet them at that stage and get ready for some fun, questionable entertainment. Engage fully with them during this time by asking questions and listening to their responses. If you have more than one, try to bond individually this way with each child at some point during the day. If they are close to the same age, you may be able to have an all inclusive playtime. These other contributing aspects of bonding are looking at your kids, respecting or seeing them as a separate person, developing trust, just to name a few. Let me elaborate.

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Look at your child: “Mommy, mommy, look at me.” While reading this, your child may be asking for your attention right now, so quick, look up! Merely recognizing your child is there and recognizing they have something to say increases the level of a bond between you and them immensely because they know they are important to you. They know that even though you are busy juggling whatever it is you juggle, that they are more important and that you care about what they have to say and want to listen or see what it is they are able to do in that moment. So just look at your little one when they want to be seen, and maybe even when they aren’t asking to be seen, so you can make sure they aren’t injuring their self.

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Recognize them: Yes, even a tiny human demands respect. You may even remember it. That first time you remember you were trying to ask a question or explain something to a parent and they said, “You are too young to understand,” or the classic, “Mother knows best.” Sure Mama, you do know best and they might be too young to understand, but it doesn’t change the fact that they still understand what they understand. And even if it is wrong, it doesn’t help them understand when you don’t talk to them about it. Children as young as they may be, they are still very unique, have feelings, concerns, and a personality of their own.

>> Read more: 14 Lessons Every Mother Should Teach Her Daughter

And don’t forget that they know more than you think they know. They need to be delighted in and appreciated for who they are, in all of their strengths and weaknesses, and in all of their feelings. Even when their feelings are hurt because you asked them to put on a jacket when you just had the biggest snowfall ever. Teach them and let them experience why they must wear that jacket. Recognize them and give them the respect they need.

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When you yell or lose patience and hurt their feelings, apologize to them. Teach them how to say they are sorry after they lose their temper. You may be older and wiser, but you aren’t always as patient as you would like to be. When they are upset about anything, recognize it and process their feelings with them, so they know how to handle these inevitable feelings of life. How does this help with bonding? It helps because they know you will understand when they lose, or that you will understand when they are upset, and they know you will listen when they need it most. It also can help increase confidence, which will give them a greater self esteem and will allow them to learn who they are, and what they want.

Build trust: Children need this to thrive and to trust you. This means consistency in schedule, consistency in the way you handle problems with your little one, and even consistency in the timing of your playtime with them. Children learn quickly what to expect from you, and love it when their expectations are met.

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I will go back to playtime with your little one now. Fully playing with our children and participating in their interest, is the root to all of the other aspects listed above that help us bond with our little humans. It is the most simple way to touch on every one of these aspects that help create a strong bond between you and yours. In play, you look at them and engage with them, you respect their independence and creativity and you recognize that they are their own person with thoughts and questions of their own, no matter the age.

>> Read more: 10 Things to Do with Your Daughter to Improve Her Self Esteem