Relational Gestures, are also known as Reconciliation Gestures.
A member of my Connective Parenting Hub started doing these recently and realized just how powerful they are. They’re very small gestures, very simple, but incredibly powerful.
At the start of my Connective Parenting NVR journey, I called them “relational” gestures, but they’re also known as reconciliation gestures and that’s the term I use in my book, Connective Parenting. The two words work well together but you might use them at slightly different times and that may be where the two different terms have come from.
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“These gestures help you to build, or rebuild, the relationship you have with your child. They help your child to know that you love them irrespective of any tricky behaviours that are going on, or anything else that’s happening at home. They show your child that you love them anyway.”
They are one of the key pillars of Connective Parenting NVR and they have huge benefits to connecting you with your child, to connecting you with a positive image you have of your child and to showing your child that they are loved and that they deserve to be loved – lots of children don’t feel like that.
Let’s go through these in a bit more detail and give you some ideas of how you can implement these amazing gestures:
We know that with Connective Parenting NVR, it’s not about forcing the child to change, but it is about how we see the child and how the child sees themselves.
These gestures are brilliant for showing us in a caring position in the eyes of the child and helping the child have a positive image of you as a parent, as well as to show them that even when you’re not with them, you’re thinking of them.
For the parent, these gestures are an incredibly positive way of reconnecting with the positive mental image you have of your child. We all know those days when things are really tricky and you may feel quite disconnected from positive feelings of love and support that you have for your child. We’ve all been there – we might not want to admit it, but we’ve all had those days!
These gestures really do help you to reconnect with your child in a positive way and when we can reconnect ourselves with our positive feelings for our child, that’s critically important. It’s a good feelgood factor for us as the parent, and it’s a good feelgood factor for the child – it helps them know that they are loved whatever is going on.
One of the things I often say to parents is that if you’re feeling really disconnected from your child and struggling to feel positive emotions for that child, these gestures are a really powerful way of reconnecting. When you least want to do them is often when you need to do them most.
We use the two different terms for these relational gestures and reconciliation gestures.
I tend to use the term reconciliation gestures as part of the deferred conversation – after there’s been an escalation, to reconnect with them to show that you love the child irrespective of what has just happened.
We tend to call them relational gestures when we’re just doing them as part of our day to day normal life.
They don’t need to be done every day and it’s not about “big” things but a couple of days a week is fantastic if you can do it. It’s not about buying your child big gifts – it doesn’t need to be about that at all, and for many children they find big things harder to accept or they may want more and more.
What we want to do is those small gestures that really do fill up that emotional void that they may have and help them to feel loved and connected with themselves and know that they deserve to be loved.
You probably want to start of with very small gestures – these could be:
Their favourite desert;
Their favourite meal;
Sitting on the sofa watching their favourite tv programme;
Spending a bit more time at the park with them;
Watching them game (if you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know my son is a big gamer -he knows I’m not in to gaming, but taking time out of my day to watch him means a lot to him).
Sometimes we find these gestures are rejected by the child and we need to remember as parents to try not to take that personally.
They’re not rejecting it because it’s come from us, although it can often feel like that. They’re rejecting it because it’s very hard for them to accept and believe that they deserve it.
It’s the same as when someone pays you a compliment you may brush it off – not because you don’t like the person but because you don’t feel comfortable accepting that compliment, so we really need to be thinking about how we can make that work.
To help the gestures be more easily accepted we want to have them as tailored to the child’s needs as we possibly can. Something that shows them they are cared for can also work – a note in their lunchbox, a text message, a personalized gesture as opposed to a general gesture.
You could also use a gesture that is for a particular area that they’re really enjoying – eg if they love swimming, take them swimming and give them extra time in the pool. Little things like this is a really powerful way of supporting them.
One thing we need to be really clear with these gestures is that they are not rewards.
The child does not have to work towards these. It is not a case of “if you behave you will get this reward”.
We are giving them in a spontaneous way in the eyes of a child.
For example, they are given their favourite desert at dinner time irrespective of their behaviour.
What I would say here though is not to do to one immediately after an escalation, give it a little bit of time and make it part of the deferred conversation.
We want to give them that feeling that we get when we get an unexpected phone call or gift from a friend. It makes us feel good and it fills up our emotion tank. That is what we’re aiming for with these. That’s what we’re working towards with relational, or reconciliation gestures.
It’s not unusual for these gestures to be refused or pushed away. It’s not about you, so try not to take it personally.
It’s about where they are and it tells us a lot about them if they can’t accept the gesture, so we might need to dial it back a little bit and make it even easier for them to accept it. That way they’re less likely to push it away.
If we treat these gestures more like rewards, then the child will be more likely to sabotage them.
For example, if you’ve decided that they’re going to have their favourite dinner that night and you make a big thing of it when they come home from school, you’re likely to cause yourself some big problems because they could well feel like they don’t deserve it, and they’ll try to prove to you that they don’t deserve their favourite dinner. Don’t make a thing of it, don’t tell them, just put it on the table in front of them. That will make it easier for them to accept. They may still reject it but it’s much less likely.
It’s important to make it as easy as possible for them to accept.
Try to make sure when you’ve got more than one child in the house that you’re doing gestures for all of the children as evenly and consistently as you can. Make sure each gesture is personalized for the needs of each child. In the eyes of the child, these gestures need to appear spontaneous – that’s where the power in these gestures are.
Things to think about when it comes to these gestures:
They’re regardless of the child’s behaviour but not given straight after an escalation.
When you’re feeling like it’s the last thing you want to do, it’s probably the most important thing you could do.
We’re doing them whether or not they’re accepted or appreciated.
We keep going, even when they’re rejected.
That is it for reconciliation and relational gestures. If you need help and support with these and would like to start using Connective Parenting NVR within your family to create better relationships, you can join The Connective Parenting Hub to get all of my trainings and support in there alongside other parents who are going through similar situations.
Through my training and support in The Connective Parenting Hub, I can help you decide if The Announcement is the right next step for you and if it is, I’ll be there to support you at each step.
If you’re a professional who works with children and families, click here for more helpful resources and support.