In most of the parenting books I’ve read, and in most of the parenting books I see, the parenting techniques focus on stopping certain behaviour.
We’re focused on how to react when kids do something wrong. Our starting point is already the negative: how to deal with negative behaviour.
As I said, I do believe we need good techniques for that, and I’m a firm believer in consistent discipline.
However, I know a ton of parents who know how to give a good time out who at the same time do not know how to actually play or interact with a child.
I think we have focused so much on discipline that we have neglected the happier parts of parenting–just how to interact.
I have to confess that I absolutely HATED playing with my kids. I hated playing when I baby-sat, too. I’m not one of those sit on the floor and play Barbies moms. I never have been. What I could do, though, was talk to my kids, read to my kids, and listen to my kids. And I found that the more I talked to them, especially outside the house, the more they would play when they were inside the house without demanding that I participate. So it was a win-win!
I’m not saying, then, that a good parent is one who is always playing anything and everything with her kids.
Not at all. I know many of you, like me, struggle with stuff like that. But do discover how and when you are best at interacting.
I always found it easier to involve the kids into my life than I did to try to enter theirs. So when I was cleaning the kitchen, for example, I’d give them a cloth and a spray bottle of water and they’d go to it with the bottom kitchen cabinets. We’d talk and laugh and they would be “helping Mommy”. They really liked cleaning time, because they got to spray water!
We also folded laundry well together. While I was folding, I’d throw sheets up in the air for them to run under, like a balloon. And then, when they were done that, they always got to fold the pillow cases and the facecloths into nice squares. They could do that even at 2, and they were quite good at it.
And even though they were entering into my sphere, they were “playing”. They were laughing, and having fun. And they felt as if they had my attention because I was laughing with them and talking with them. I figured I had to clean anyway, so if I could involve them, then I was playing and doing my own chores at the same time. Then later on, they might let me have some downtime!
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Sometimes I think we demand too much of ourselves, thinking that raising great kids involves getting into the sandbox, or acting out Barbie’s wedding.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but that may not be who you are. But if you involve them where you can, where it’s more natural for you, as often as you can, then they won’t feel abandoned if you make them play by themselves at times.
A child feels secure when parents pay attention and talk and laugh with him or her. When parents talk to them and try to teach them things about the world, they learn, “I am important. I am loved. The world is an understandable place, where someone will always help me to figure it out. And my Mommy thinks that I can handle it.”
Isn’t that we want?
On the other hand, if your view of parenting is to raise a child who is completely obedient, and who does not make demands (because that means that they are “spoiled”), you’re setting yourself up for failure. Your child won’t feel secure, which means that they will become even more demanding (they’re searching for love and for affirmation). You’ll become more frustrated with them and more frustrated with your own parenting. And you set up a downward spiral.
We’ve heard a ton in parenting literature about three things, it seems to me: the importance of having a schedule, the importance of discipline, and the importance of touch. These are all wonderful.
But I’m not sure we’ve heard enough about the importance of just talking to your child and involving them in your life.
I see so many parents who really don’t know how to interact with their kids; they go for the more appeasement model of parenting. Kids act up and whine, and they try to get the kids to stop by offering bribes, or trying to distract them, or feeding them. The only time they actually talk with the children, then, are when the children are whiny. When they’re not whining, then the parents leave them alone because now they can grab some time to themselves.
What I don’t think parents realized is that if they took some time when the kids are in a good mood and just talked to the kids–even if you do it while you’re already doing a chore that needs to be done, like cleaning, or making the bed, or dishes–then your kids would be less whiny at other times of day, and you could get those minutes to yourself. But it needs to start with you putting a priority on interacting with your kids.
What do you think? Let me know how you involve kids in the everyday things of life!