As parents living in a fast paced society, it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, concern ourselves with all the chores that need to be done and give what little time we have left to our children.
“Quality time” means different things to different people. Giving just five minutes ‘quality time’ to children isn’t the answer and doesn’t go very far in meeting children’s needs. All children need real time from their parents, not just to make them feel special, however, also a natural part of the nurturing, development, secure relationship building, guidance and supportive processes that parents need to provide.
Recently, I took some downtime, which also allowed me to immerse myself in to some chores around the house. Taking this downtime made me wonder how on earth I manage my busy schedule, a home and make time for the children. It’s a case of prioritising. And no I don’t always get it right! However, it’s about having the focus to make your children a priority in your life because no one else will do this for you, unless of course you have a nanny that takes care of their practical needs, but this in no way replaces the love and attention that children need and deserve from their own parents. Time flies by so quickly these days that before you know it, your children have reached the age of 16 and able to make some of their own decisions which includes leaving the family home.
Children and young people need to know that you love them and they need to see and experience this behaviourally rather than just auditory, i.e. what you say. That is, you need to show your children that you love them, and not just tell them!
So how do you give your children focused attention?
- HUG YOUR CHILDREN!
Big and small, old and young, they all still need to be hugged. And they are still your children irrespective of how old they are. Hugging your children is so much easier when they are young children. Hugging your teenagers, on the other hand, is an art in itself. This is one of those occasions where you need to tread carefully as your teens go through an interesting, challenging, frustrating and confusing phase in their lives. Make it easier for both of you by following your teens lead. For instance, not hugging them in front of their friends unless they instigate it, nor outside of school.
Don’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that your children do not need a hug. We all do! Don’t you just feel so much better, connected and loved when someone gives you a hug? Just because your teenager is not approaching you for a hug, does not mean that they do not need one. They will be following your lead and it takes courage to take the first step, especially if there is an element of hostility between you.
Also, be willing to say sorry and apologise to your teen if you need to. It’s amazing how many barriers that the word ‘sorry’ can break down, don’t you think?
An alternative to hugging your teen, depending on how receptive they are to your hugs, is a simple touch or pat on the head, shoulders, knees, or back will suffice to show your teen that you love them. This can even be done as you walk past them, which might get a few grunts a long the way from you teen, but don’t let up on physical contact.
One parent that I have recently worked with as part of my Easy Tiger Parent System™, said that she had no problems hugging and being playful with her 3 year old. However, she only hugs her 10 year old at bedtime.
Whilst her 10 year old might not be moaning or saying anything about not being hugged at other times, she will be very aware that her sibling is getting a lot more hugs and her parents attention that she is and, at a psychological level and to make sense of it, may blame herself for her parents not hugging her as much.
I appreciate some parents may find hugging difficult especially if they were not shown affection by their parents as a child. I fell into that category too, however, I made the decision that it would be different for my children.
- GIVE THEM LOVING EYE CONTACT
Give your children eye contact when you are communicating with them. It sounds such a simple thing to do, yet it is so easy to be so busy whilst talking to your children that you focus on what you are busy doing that you don’t realise that you are not making eye contact. I’ve done it too. What do we say to our children when we are talking to them and they are looking every where else but at us? That’s right! ‘Look at me when I am talking to you’. And where do they get that behaviour from? That’s right, probably you.
Additionally, give your children loving eye contact generally and not just give
them eye contact when you are telling them off.
- LOVING DISCIPLINE
All children need boundaries and discipline which, as responsible parents, we provide them with for a healthy, balanced and positive childhood.
Boundaries are necessary guidelines to help your children to manage and self regulate themselves and their environment. Children and young people who are not given boundaries lose self control and look to their peers to plug the gap and fill that need. Even young people who argue vehemently about boundaries and restrictions, need boundaries and in the long run, will be grateful for them being in place and enforced.
I recently heard of a young person who was in tears because her parents didn’t give her any boundaries to guide her growth and development. She is wishing they had. And yes, it is a fine line between giving children and young people too much latitude and being too restrictive.
Having sound values that you are clear about as a parent and shared with the family, in line with your goals for your family, will help you to identify where you stand regarding boundaries. I appreciate that for some people whose own childhood experiences may prove to be challenging and perhaps cast doubts on their ability to identify clear values and therefore healthy boundaries. To them I would say simply make them up! Having some boundaries is better than having none at all. As time goes on, monitor, review and adjust them to what feels or looks just right for you.
Sometimes our parents’ values don’t always serve our purpose as adults and parents in our own right. So take control of your life and do your own thing. Do what feels right for your family.
Loving discipline helps children and young people to learn about what is right or wrong and to develop responsibility and accountability for their actions. This is in the form of natural consequences of their behaviour and not necessarily punishment for their behaviour. I have to say that it took me a while to get clear about the difference between consequences and punishment, I guess because I only ever had punishment as a child. So an example of a natural consequence is when one of my sons left his blazer at school because it had a rip in it and expecting that it would just be replaced. He had a shock when I told him that he had to replace the blazer using his own money. As apposed to punishing him by maybe grounding him say for a week. There is no direct correlation here with what he has done, and potentially the punishment could cause confusion.
Other healthy options of consequences can take many forms e.g. applying restrictions to teenager’s movements, whether this means being sent to their room or prevented from going out for days or a week. Clearly the discipline needs to be age related.
Whilst being a parent can be a thankless ‘job’ at the best of times, we owe it to our children to do everything possible to create secure relationships with them. That could well involve doing what we need to do to develop ourselves to make it happen.
Go and enjoy hugging your children, giving them loving eye contact and loving discipline.