You want the best for the smaller humans who have become part of your family. You also want to develop relationships with them that will help them make the most of what life has to offer. But strong relationships don’t happen automatically. We have to work at them, and parents aren’t always exactly sure of the best ways to do that.

A strategy created for understanding and responding to behavioral problems offers valuable insight to insight for parents, even if their children aren’t facing problems. Dr. Karen Purvis of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University developed a process known as Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI) that’s based on how a child’s brain develops and that uses a caring, loving approach to meet each child’s needs.

One of the most important benefits of TBRI is its effectiveness at helping parents and children create lifelong connections. In fact, connecting is one of the three pillars of TBRI, because parents cannot guide or change behaviors unless they’ve established effective connections with their children. Simply thinking “we have a good relationship” usually isn’t enough.

Children are constantly learning and growing, and every activity and interaction shapes the development of their brains. As you and your children interact and as they learn from you — whether that involves help with spelling words, support for an issue with a friend or sibling, or even demonstrating patience with another driver in the drop-off line — actual connections grow inside the brain.

Connections within the brain happen automatically, but connections between people require some work. Connections with parents and other adults who are important in the child’s life help the child feel safe and secure. Every day is filled with unknowns, but a child who is connected to adults can navigate those unknowns with greater confidence.

None of us is perfect, and while we’d love to become the perfect parent, we know that isn’t going to happen. But what we can do is pay attention to how we talk and interact with our children. Being mindful of the impact of our words and body language is so important. For example, maintaining eye contact tells a child they are the most important thing in our lives at that moment. Gentle touches such as stroking their forehead or holding their hands while walking makes them more comfortable and models their view of how parents behave. Even your tone of voice can have a lasting effect on your connection.

If you’re finding developing connections with your child to be difficult or frustrating, both of you might benefit from TBRI. You’ll be better able to connect and learn skills about the best ways to correct negative behaviors, and your child will gain the lifelong advantages of having a strong connection with you. Care to Change has several counselors with training in TBRI. They’ll be happy to sit down with you, answer your questions, and determine whether TBRI is the best approach for you and your child.