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4 Tips To Improve the Parent - Child Relationship

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

One of our favorite acronyms for parenting is PACE. This approach is a wonderful way to promote a healthy, close realtionship with your child(ren), and build a solid foundation that will help them have deep, meaningful relationships in the future.

PACE is from Daniel Hughes’ parenting model, focusing on attachment parenting. PACE represents the characteristics of a parental attitude that creates safety, emotional intimacy, openness and joy in the parent-child relationship.

What does PACE stand for?

Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiousity and Empathy.

Read on for how these 4 tips can help improve your relationship with your child...


The parent is engaged with the child in a way that invites spontaneity, curiosity, and exploration. The parent is able to engage with the child expressively, using facial expressions, voice and body to join in the affective and creative life of the child.  A playful attitude implies that the strength of the relationship is larger than any minor irritations. Family members with a playful attitude don’t take themselves too seriously and are able to laugh at their mistakes. The primary intent of a playful attitude is to invite the other into one’s experience - to simply enjoy being together, with no spoken or unspoken goals.


Playfulness is fostered by an attitude of unconditional acceptance. The infant and/or older child’s safety is enhanced when her inner self is never at risk for rejection, ridicule, or disappointment when her parents relate to him.  Rather, only her behavior is subject to their evaluations and guidance, judgments, or criticism. The child who feels accepted knows that she is not her behavior. Acceptance, when felt completely and taken for granted, becomes a secure base upon which the child is much more likely to learn from her mistakes and to accept her parents’ decisions regarding her behavior. For true acceptance to take place, it is vital that the parent has a habit of perceiving the individual child beyond the behaviors.


Ideally, parents are very curious to know who their children are from the time they are conceived. From birth, parents are continuously involved in acts of discovery with their child. When an infant senses the impact of his actions and expressions on his parents, he becomes more aware of these actions and more likely to engage in actions that have a positive impact on his parents. Curiosity is important for discipline to be effective. An attitude of curiosity is a “not-knowing” stance that requires that the parent inquire about the child’s inner life that led to the behaviors under concern. When a parent holds this kind of attitude towards the child, the child is much more likely to feel accepted by the parent and subsequently more likely to follow any disciplinary action by the parent.


Empathy is a natural response to being with another person. Our brains are wired to experience empathy for others. If we have experienced empathy from our attachment figures, it is easy to access empathy for those who see us as attachment figures. Likewise, it is hard for us to experience empathy for others if we have not experienced empathy from others in the past. Parents often think empathy will not be that helpful, so they try to fix the problem, give advice, or eliminate the problem by dealing with it themselves. It is important that the parent be comfortable with the emotions the child is experiencing.  As the parent facilitates her own emotional development, she is also increasing her readiness to experience empathy for the child when he needs it.


About the Author

Dana Carretta-Stein is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, and Carretta Consulting in Scarsdale, NY.  

Peaceful Living MHC specializes in clinical psychotherapy to help children, adolescents and adults with parenting struggles, anxiety, behavior and trauma difficulties.

In addition to her professional parenting work, Dana is also a mother & business owner. She is a certified EMDR therapist, consultant in training, and Regional Coordinator of the Westchester EMDR Regional Network.


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