A couple days ago, I was washing the dishes and my 3 year old daughter was playing and dancing in the kitchen area. She kept trying to get my attention by singing and calling me. I would say “give me a second while I finish the dishes”. I kept washing away, when I heard her little demanding voice “Mommy look at me!” when she said it I stopped and turned around and watched her do a dance and said “good job sweetie” and went back to washing dishes. Later on that night when I put my three children to bed, I thought about that evening, I felt awful that in order for my daughter to get my attention, she had to demand it. I started thinking of other times I might not have been looking at them because I was too busy parenting and not being fully present. Parenting is one of the most important jobs I have as a mother, but sometimes I prioritize the house work and guiding my children, which basically means, reminding, scolding, teaching and disciplining them, that I forget to be present to actually look at my children and listen.
As the New Year rolled around I decided to make it my priority to learn to stop, look, and listen in order to connect and be present with my children. And I wanted to share three simple ways to do just that.
Every morning and/or night before bed, hug and cuddle. There’s been research that suggests that hugs are beneficial for anyone and gives an overall good feeling. So chat a little about what the plans for the day are or what’s on their mind if it's night time. Praying together is also great. I’m hoping that as they get older, in creating this habit, they will be more willing to always come to me and feel comfortable to share whatever might be going on in their lives.
Second, “Take 5” (inspired by Roma Khetarpal author of The “Perfect” Parent)
Take five is basically another way to connect with your child in quietness without an agenda. It is a way to make ourselves more approachable to our children. Ways suggested to do this, is by taking 5 minutes a day and do nothing with your child. I thought this is simple because while driving around in the car sometimes we talk to our children, but Roma says “you cannot connect while doing”. Again this is about dedicating time to them without an agenda for at least 5 minutes a day.
Third, Love and listen
When your children are doing something or talking and trying to tell a story. Stop and give them eye contact and really listen, and ask questions. If you do happen to be busy at the moment tell your child. “Hey, I really want to hear, let me finish up and then you can tell me your story” but really follow up later. When listening to them try to see things from their perspective. This will help them feel respected and that what they have to say matters.
I have been trying to do one of these every day and I love the connection I am creating with my children. Try just one or all of these once a day and it will become easier and natural over time. Remember, to listen and not just hear, look and not just see and most important be present and not just physically there. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which I think hits the head on the nail when it comes to being present with our children…
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” –Catherine M. Wallace.