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Over the summer, we had a broken sprinkler. We had to dig up the grass where we “thought” the problem was and keep digging until we tracked down the source. Once we found the actual leak, we realized we had another problem … tree roots! Not a surprise (we have a huge tree in our front yard), but definitely a bigger job than we anticipated.

We had to cut through huge roots just to get to the pipe so we could assess what repairs were needed. In that process, we found a whole section of pipe that was solid root. There was literally no space between the plastic and the root. That had been developing under the surface long before we saw any signs of a problem.

With sprinklers, you can physically dig your way to the problem, repair it and put the dirt and grass back. In no time at all, everything looks great and your sprinklers function. With children, however, it’s not that easy. Emotions and hurt feelings are hard to track down. Kids don’t always want to open up and talk about things or they may not remember or recognize what upset them. As much as we don’t like fixing broken sprinklers, it takes way more effort to repair a child’s heart. The good news, though, is that we can actually see what’s happening in a child’s heart much easier and much sooner than we can see what is happening in the dirt underneath our yard.

In parenting, prevention is incredibly important. However, many families do not have clarity on what “prevention” looks like. To assist with that, I thought I would share three tips on how you can take a preventative stance in your parenting and avoid some issues later on. It’s really much easier than you might think.

Tip #1: Be available. When our children are little, they are constantly looking for our attention. We can’t give them ALL of our attention, but are we too busy to give them ANY attention? How much time are you able to spend with your children? Do they seem needy or distant? It is imperative to keep those lines of communication open. You cannot do that effectively without spending quality time together.

Tip #2: Be curious. Care about what your kids are doing during their day. If they are interested in a bug, stop and look at the bug. If they wrote a paper or did an art project they want to share with you, please take the time to read it, look at it and talk about it. Ask them questions. Be curious.

Tip #3: Be willing. Be willing to reduce your activities if they produce too much stress and not enough down time. Be willing to stop what you are doing and prioritize your child’s needs. Be willing to sacrifice time and comfort to invest in your parent child relationship. What you put in is what you get out. If you don’t have time or patience to invest in the early years, it will be very difficult to get your children to see your value later.

If you are not available, curious and willing, who is taking that place in your child’s life? It may be the internet or a not-so-healthy peer or adult. Those are the roots that can slowly take hold inside your child, similar to what happens to the sprinklers in your yard. Your child will find someone who is available, curious and willing. It is your job to make sure they find you. For assistance with this or to receive additional parenting tips and insights, take advantage of our free newsletter and call to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. It’s a great way to check-in and make sure your family is on a healthy track!

Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent, an organization devoted to healthy parent-child relationships. She can be reached at 951-240-1407 or traci@alovingway.com.