Everywhere we look someone or something is vying for our children’s attention. Marketers make it bigger, better, flashier, and more exciting. I feel like I am competing with friends, school, coaches, and screens for time with my children. So how do we capture their attention long enough to build relationship?
1) Listen to them.
My five-year-old daughter is a wonderful, spunky, painfully verbose young lady. Her stories take, FOR-EV-ER. Not only are they lengthy, but also they are often full of incredibly important information about what her stuffed animal did that day. Sarcasm aside, we are failing her. We talk over her, and are often distractive and dismissive when she wants to tell us something. I want to do better. When our kids want to talk to us, we need to listen. There will come a day, when I will be begging my child to tell me about her day. If I can’t make time now for the exciting adventures of “Puppers, the Wonderdog,” how can I expect her to make time for me when she is 15? Her stories may not be earth shattering, but really what is? Certainly not the tweets I’m reading or the new post on Facebook. The adventures found in my child’s pretend world, the book my son is reading, or the things that happened at camp are of far more importance than anything else that I might need to do in those 10 minutes of my day.
2) Say Yes.
Sometimes I feel like I am channeling Meghan Trainor, but instead of shooting down the dudes in the club, I am shooting down every idea that my kids bring me.
“Mom, can we ______________________?” (You can fill in the blank) and I begin to sing, “Nah to the ah to the no, no, no My name is no
My sign is no
My number is no
You need to let it go”
Well, Maybe it isn’t quite that bad, but I can get in the habit of saying no to things just because it’s inconvenient or I’m being lazy. Frankly, those reasons are not very good reasons. We need to embrace the yes. What a difference it could make in my relationship with my child if instead of no, I said yes more often.
“Can I have ice cream?” “Can we squirt you with the hose?” “Just another 10 minutes until bedtime?” “One more story?”
95% of the time, a yes is not going to be end of the world. Practice the power of “YES”. Sometimes we need to bend the rules or routine. Let’s face it; our kids are a lot better at fun than most of us. Let’s live a little.
3) Let them try impossible things and dream big dreams.
This goes hand in had with #1 & #2. My kids come to me with crazy ideas and crazy conversations. They want to build things, cook things, explode things, create things, and do things. My 8 year old had a phase recently where we he wanted to talk about the validity of Sasquatch sightings and alien abductions. We are planning a Sasquatch trap for our back yard, just kidding, but we did talk about how we would make one. He loved it.
Just this week my daughter had her preschool graduation. The kids shared what they wanted to be when they grew up: acrobat, coffee shopper, and butterfly made the list. I thought all of those sounded pretty great. It was good to see that no one stood up and said, “Well, that’s impossible!” We all recognize the important part imagination plays in a young persons development. Someday these kids will find out that becoming a butterfly is probably not in the cards, but not today.
We need to let our kids dream big and try to do impossible things. Without dreamers, the world gets boring and stagnant. Someday, these kids will lead the world. They need to learn to try. They need to learn to fail. Who knows, the next kitchen experiment you allow could be the beginning of a cure to the common cold.
4) Be interested in what your kids are interested in.
We are all aware of the damage that trying to live vicariously through our children can do, but we still fall into it. For me, when my eldest came home almost daily to express his disdain for school, I realized that he might not grow up to be the academic all star I wanted him to be. He might just be an average student. That’s okay. Maybe you were a star baseball player or wished you were, so you push your child to play hard, even in T-ball, though he would rather build a Lego creation. Maybe you are the girly-est of moms, but your daughter would rather wear jeans, climb a tree, and find bugs to inspect. Your children are individuals. They have their own natural tendencies and interests. Yes, encourage them to try new things, but remember to invest in what makes their hearts beat faster. If it’s photography, buy them a camera. If it’s sports, play in the front yard with them. If it is a certain book series or marvel super hero, let them tell you about it. The sooner we learn to meet our kids where their interests are, the sooner we can learn to love it too, because we love them.
What can you do this summer to invest in your child?
By Kudoso Kontributor, Jesica Swanson