• Erica Tatum-Sheade, LCSW

Encouraging Connection With Your Child

Understanding The Crucial C's of Childhood



During our 3E Parenting Workshop, one of the concepts we cover is the “Crucial C’s of Childhood.” The Crucial C’s were identified as the four things we need to master in childhood in order to move into adulthood as thriving, resilient adults. If one of our Crucial C’s is lacking or is low, we tend to see behaviors that are trying to get that need met. Some of these behaviors may be seen as negative by caregivers and feel counter-productive and counterintuitive, but the reality is that a child’s need is to be seen and heard. If asking for those needs to be met in a positive way does not work, they will resort to the behavior that gets the focus of their caregiver.

The Crucial C’s of Childhood are: Courage, Capable, Count, and Connection. They can be explained simply like this:


Courage: Children need to feel that they can take risks and try new things. Encouraging courage in our children means we help them understand that they can face what comes their way, that no matter what happens they can handle it.


Capable: Our children need to feel as if they are capable of doing things. As caregivers, this Crucial C is developed when we allow them to complete and master tasks.


Count: Our children need to know that they matter in the world. Encouraging this looks like letting our kids know that they are significant to us and to those with whom they have relationships.


Connection: Our children need to know that we see them and hear them. When a child feels connected, they are more likely to cooperate with us, even to the extent of being willing to help do difficult things. A child who feels disconnected will respond by isolating or will exhibit connection-seeking misbehaviors.


From an understanding of the Crucial’s C’s of Childhood, how do you foster connection in your own children?


Have a Heart-to-Heart

  • A child is more likely to let you in if you listen with your heart and not your ears. When you truly listen to what your child is sharing with you, they will feel more connected (bonus: this also helps with them feeling like they count). Repeating back at a later time things like “I remember how important this book was to you,” or validating their experience vs trying to offer solutions shows that you value them.

Have Fun

  • Make time to engage with your child by having fun. Plan a family game night, take them on one-on-one outings, do the things that *they* want to do. We often get stuck in the parenting rut of making sure we provide our kids with opportunities, but we don’t always take time out for spontaneous fun. It’s great that Janie is playing on the most competitive soccer team and that you take her to every practice, but when was the last time you rolled down the windows and belted out cheesy 90’s songs with her?

Be Present

  • The biggest factor in encouraging connection is to show up and be present. This means no screens and no distractions – just you and your kid. We live in a fast-paced world and if 2020 taught us anything, this world can come to a halt on a dime. Being present and fully focused gives the attention needed for your child to know “I am connected to you.” Imagine being out to dinner and your waiter is constantly talking to other patrons or looking at their phone while you are ordering – we can all agree that wouldn’t be good service. We often sideline our children to return “just one more email,” or to respond to “just one more text.” To harbor connection, we need to be all in. Make sure you take time each day to connect without distractions.


If you’d like a more in-depth look at the Crucial C’s and overall ideas on how to improve your parenting, be sure to join us for our “Becoming a 3E Parent: Empathic, Empowered, and Effective” workshop!




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