Every good communication course teaches the importance of eye contact. Anyone who works with children is taught to be sure to sit, kneel or in some way get on the child’s level in order to make good eye contact. However, did you know the wrong kind of eye contact can do more harm than good?
The eyes truly are the windows to the soul, as the old saying goes. Recent neuroscience shows that eye contact between two people conveys what they are feeling. It happens so fast and so frequently—six cycles per second—that it can’t be faked. With each cycle of visual communication, the feelings are amplified. Ever wonder why people in love stare into each other’s eyes so much? Love is ramping up every 1/12 of a second! Who wouldn’t want that? But let’s get back to parents and kids.
Brain scans of mothers with their infants also show that during eye contact, the child’s brain changes to match the mother’s brain. That’s right, Mom & Dad, all those times you played peek-a-boo with Baby, you were downloading your brain into hers! (I know, it’s kind of scary, isn’t it?) The really cool thing is, when the eye contact is joyful, it grows the part of the brain where we have our sense of self.
When an adult makes eye contact with a child, whatever that adult is feeling will be picked up and felt by the child. If you are happy when you make eye contact, they will begin to feel happy. If you are feeling proud of them, they will feel proud. If you’re feeling irritable, they are going to feel irritable. They probably will look away, because they don’t like that feeling.
Eye contact has incredible power. As parents, how do we harness it? How do we use this power for good and not for evil? There are lots of ways to do this, but let’s just start with one that I use with my kids. I call it the Morning Blessing. Every morning before they head for school, I stop for a moment and think of something that I appreciate until I can feel the appreciation in my body and my eyes. Then, I will put my hands on my daughter’s shoulders, look her in the eyes, and say, “I love you! Make this a great day!” There may be a hug and a kiss in there, too. This one, simple, daily ritual has done wonders for my relationships with both my daughters. I’ve also seen a difference in their self-confidence, and how much they smile during the day.
So, if you want to connect with your child be sure to look them in the eyes with love. Try the Morning Blessing yourself for several weeks. Here’s how:
- Be sure you are feeling joyful yourself. Take time to think of something you are thankful for or someone you appreciate. When you feel your eyes smiling, that’s what you’re going for.
- Pause and look your child in the eyes. You may want to put a hand on their shoulder, too! Loving touch is very powerful.
- Give your blessing. “I love you! Make it a great day!” Or, “Have a terrific Tuesday!” Or, “I know you’re going to do a great speech in English class today.”
What NOT to do:
- DON’T be annoyed, angry or even just distracted. Remember, your eyes and tone of voice communicate what you are feeling.
- DON’T toss the blessing over your shoulder as you walk out the door. It only takes a few seconds to pause and make eye contact.
- DON’T use this as a time to lecture. You want your child to look forward to this brief morning connection, and to feel loved no matter what else is going on.
- DON’T take a long time. Ten seconds is all it takes. Mornings are rushed, and if you take too long, you won’t keep it up.
So, if you want to build a strong, loving connection with your child, loving eye contact is a powerful way to do it. Try this Morning Blessing with your children. If you make this a habit, you—and they—will be glad you did!
About the Author
Dawn Whitestone is the Founding Partner for WhiteStone Professionals, LLC and the author of Strategic Business Prayer and the Strategic Business Prayer Workbook. Her passion is growing people into their full potential. Ms. Whitestone has developed a targeted approach to organizational growth and professional development utilizing the Four P’s: Purpose, Plans, People and Productivity. She is sought after as a speaker, Executive Coach, Business Consultant and Program Development Specialist in the areas of Leadership, Professional and Personal Development and Coaching.