Tuesday, October 25, 2016
A couple years ago, a mom shared in a parenting class about how one time, she knew something was bothering her ten year old son, but he wouldn't share it with her. Instead of nagging at him, she decided to wait.
"Is there something bothering you?"
She waited for 45 minutes.
Finally, her son started talking about his day at school and what had happened that was bothering him.
Waiting for our children to complete a task can be extremely frustrating, but there's a point to waiting it out.
A couple years ago, I learned something from my wife, Sara. She used to be a child-development home-visitation social worker. One thing she mentioned to me one time was that infants and toddlers have a much lower processing speed than adolescents and adults.
When reading a book, we might say, "Where is the car?" For a toddler, it might take up to ten seconds to point to the car. It is pointless to keep asking the question because the child needs the time to process the question in their brain, and then more processing time for the brain to figure out how to move the hand to point to the car in the book.
To muddy the waters a bit, let's talk about obedience, disobedience, and waiting. A couple months ago, my daughter was really having a hard time laying down for me to change her diaper. I found myself fighting with her, trying to get her to lay down. I decided to wait and see if it would simply take her more time to lay down.
"Can you lay down so I can put your diaper on?"
She stood up. She wanted to touch pictures on the wall and then to hold me and get off the changing station.
All of this took about ten to twenty seconds.
"Can you lay down so I can put your diaper on?"
Then she laid down and I changed her diaper.
This has been working reasonably well for the past month or two. It seems she needs time to process completing the action, especially when it isn't something she wants to do in the first place.
But, it took waiting on my part.
I take my daughter often to the park. Sometimes, I decide immediately that I want to leave and that we're done. My daughter is getting old enough that she often decides she doesn't want to leave right away. If I try to force her to leave and call it disobedience, then I'm missing out on her processing speed.
Instead, when I remember, I tell her we are leaving in 5 minutes. Then, we are leaving in 4 minutes. Then 3. Then 2. Then 1.
"Okay, time to leave now. Let's get on your bike."
Almost always, she is much more peaceful about leaving if she gets this countdown. Her toddler brain is processing what is going to happen over a 5 minute time span.
It requires waiting on my part.
By the way, I don't think this countdown is just for toddlers. I bet it is effective for a number of age categories all the way up through teenagers.
"Hey guys, we're gonna leave in ten minutes. Make sure you finish doing whatever you are doing with your friends, okay?"
So often, we chalk up refusal from our kids as disobedience, but maybe it really isn't about that. Maybe our kids simply need time to process something over a period of twenty seconds, 2 minutes, or 45 minutes that our adult brains process instantaneously. When we wait, we give them the opportunity to complete the tasks that we are asking them to do. I'm not saying it always works like this, but I believe that if we try waiting instead of nagging or punishing that we might get more out of our kids than we think is actually possible.
(Photo taken by permission of Nils Endrikat at flickr creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/nilzxx/)
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Kids really need our undivided attention. I know that we need to cook, clean, and even do things that are for us and not just our child. I get that.
But, here's the thing. Put the phone away. Our kids really need to know that they matter more than our phones. I'm not saying that we need to do this 100% of the time, but what I do mean is that there are many times when our undivided attention is crucial. Our kids need lots of time when technology isn't dividing us from them.
Try taking your kid to the park and leaving the phone at home. Spend an hour at the park with them. Play with them, swing with them, get on the slide with them. Do it without a phone.
At home, try putting the phone away for hours at a time. Turn the ringer off. Turn off the TV and computer. Just try it for an hour. Then, work up to two hours or more.
Turning off technology means we have to get creative and enter our kids' worlds. I'm not saying we need to ditch technology all together, but we need to set up specified amounts of time when our attention to our kids is undivided. There is nothing more heart breaking for me than when I see a parent surfing the internet on their phone when their kid is begging them to watch them swing on the monkey bars. Is it really that hard to pay attention to them?
I don't want people to feel ashamed of themselves for being on their phone in front of their kids all the time. That isn't my goal. I know it takes a lot of effort to put our attention into our kids for long periods of time. Nevertheless, this is a real issue of emotional attachment with our kids that needs to be addressed by each of us as parents. The goal isn't to feel ashamed. The goal is to try to do what we can for our kids over time. Just try to do good to them and see what happens.
On a spiritual note, I think we need to know that we are forgiven. If we know that we are forgiven for neglecting our children then we can finally start to do good to them. We don't have to try to make up for lost time. We can simply try to do good as much as we can to them in any given moment in the present.
(photo by Joris Louwes taken with permission from flickr creative commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/jorislouwes/)