Be attentive

In the last issue, I talked about “making time” for your child and how significant that is in having them feel secure in the fact that you care enough to spend quality time with them. Nothing can beat offering your time to your children or to anybody else, for that matter.

But what happens when you are not available? And it is important for kids to realize that their parents are not on a 24/7 beck-and-call basis for them.

If anything, catering to every whim will cripple your child’s ability to grow into a confident and self-sufficient adult who can make wise choices for themselves.

But let’s get back to being attentive and why this matters when child and parent have not been in each other’s company for a while – over the course of a school day, as an example.   

Listen to what your child is saying: Kids are like sponges and will pick up words and phrases easily, even the ones they don’t understand. Being attentive to what your daughter is saying can help you spot vocabulary that can be explained and corrected so she understands what is acceptable at home. Hearing “she’s a good-for-nothing” at school, and repeating it because it sounds funny may be the opportunity for intervening and explaining why that phrase is not nice to use. It’s not so much being a policeman, but a parent who cares what her child is saying.

Pay attention to what your child is watching: It’s so easy to set up the iPad or stick the TV on for your kids while you decompress from work, answer emails or start getting dinner ready. Though a program may be labelled a kids’ show, the graphics, storyline, soundtrack and/or dialogue may be too mature for them. Review what’s coming on; perhaps compare notes with a neighbour to do a quick assessment of what works for your child’s age level and temperament. Because kids are different, something Bruce’s boy can watch may not be suitable for your son. 

What’s behind the bedroom door? If a computer and TV are already in your kid’s bedroom, it’s going to be tough to be attentive to what’s going on when the door’s closed. My advice? Less is more in the bedroom. A quiet setting for reading, drawing and sleeping is best. The entertainment zone can be where you can look in on your child – be attentive to them – where both of you are comfortable knowing the other is nearby.

Who’s coming over to play? A child who feels secure in inviting their friends over to play and takes delight in “playing host” is a delightful scenario. It’s more work for you for sure, but you see whom they’re playing with, how they’re playing and how your example as a parent can make a difference not only to your kids, but to other children who see you being attentive to them too.

When you are attentive to your child, you automatically become attentive to yourself, not only as a parent, but also as a person. What are you saying? What are you doing? How are you with other people? Believe me, there’s no need for perfection, but there is need for self-awareness to be attentive when it comes to parenting. It’s part of the territory.