Continuing the NaBloPoMo posts that scare me, I’m combining two at once: “the list post” and “the advice post.” I don’t mind sharing my own experiences in the spirit of sharing and connecting. But, I shy away from giving advice because I believe things are best discovered on our own.
So, here’s my advice on being a more connected parent today, in list form:
- Turn off the electronics
- Stop, Look, and Listen
- Be out of control
- Put your own issues on hold
- Do what your child wants to do
- Find the yes in the no
- Use your beginner’s mind
- Stop, Drop and Roll
- Forget those teachable moments
Yes, there are always things to do and people to reply to. If you’re not willing to turn these off to be a connected parent right now, then try another time when you do want to. And it’s better to be honest with yourself about this up front and do this when you really want to. You’re the only one who is going to know or judge yourself for when you feel most ready to unplug and tune into your child.
Whatever your expectations about connecting with your child, stop holding onto them. Get down with your child and look at what they’re interested in from their point of view. Stop and look them in the eyes, this time not from adult height, but from child-level. Listen to what they have to say and then ask simple questions to open them up more about it. Be interested.
Stop being the parent for awhile. It’s okay to let go of being in charge of the situation. This means, don’t structure or plan. Don’t look at the clock. Just see where your child wants to explore and go along for the ride.
If you don’t like it when your child says or does certain things that you feel are rude, overly demanding, or push your buttons for whatever reason, it’s time to put it aside until later. This time is for connecting. The only part of being the responsible parent that you should hold onto is being able to not react to your emotions until another time. It is okay to express your feelings, but do so using “I” statements that support your needs without blame or shame.
Don’t try to direct the activities. Go along with their imagination. Be the follower and let them lead. Talk about why and how. Be interested in what they’re trying to explore without steering the conversation to things that make sense or have a resolution.
If your child wants to do something that you normally say no to, pause for an extra breath and think about why you’re saying no. Can you say yes? What’s the harm? If you’re not controlling things, maybe you can let it go. If the answer still needs to be no, perhaps it can be rephrased into a yes. Instead, “No. Stop chasing the cat with the lightsaber,” try something playfully positive like, “Lightsabers are for battling with other lightsabers. The cat doesn’t enjoy being chased. I can challenge you to a battle in which I assure you of defeat, Jedi, or you can meet me in a war of Lego building.”
Think about what your child might be exploring with their play or speech. Put yourself in their position and imagine what it is like to encounter new things. Be playful with them and support them in trying new things. Failing can be a good thing, especially when someone is with you unconditionally. That’s an important lesson to learn from a parent and it doesn’t take much from us-just the ability to forget all we think we know as the supposedly mature one.
Stop whatever you’re doing. Kick off your shoes. Get on the floor and get physical. Touching, playing and cuddling are all done best at the child’s level and this means getting low. Following their lead to crawl around and be with them on the floor can go a long way to connecting. If your child isn’t responding, just reclining on the floor and relaxing is an invitation to join you. Sometimes the quiet play next to one another can be just as connecting as active play.
Parents love to make every moment meaningful. But, it can sound like lecturing if it’s done often. And by often, I mean that it’s probably a good idea to bite your tongue about a lesson to learn 99 times out of 100 (if not 100 out of 100.) Sharing teachable moments can suck the joy out of being in the moment. It puts up a wall between you. If you need to spread your parental wisdom, get a blog (no comments from the peanut gallery, please ;p )
If you must schedule something, then set a timer to laugh at regular intervals. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with what you and your child are doing in that moment. You’re not being the adult right now. Just laugh. Giggle. Decide to be happy. Even if you have to fake the chuckles at first. If you give it a genuine try to fake it until you make it, it’s irresistible.