The Anatomy of Attention Required by Kids
The Anatomy of Attention Required by Kids
As parents, we have to go through the scrutiny of people around us and face the ordeal of being judged constantly for our parenting skills, or lack thereof.
How many times have you heard these comments for parents?
“They are not paying enough attention to their kids!”
“Did you see how the child misbehaved? The parents must not have taught her any manners!”
“How obnoxious this guy has become! The mother is to be blamed you know. I wonder if she cares about inculcating any good values!”
But you can very well be on the other side of the spectrum. You pay attention, albeit a bit too much of it. And while you continuously are trying to improve as a parent, second-guessing yourself all the time, you might end up being discussed by the well-meaning observers for the potent mistakes you are making and the highly probable consequences.
“Oh, she is quite the helicopter mom! She wants to properly define everything the poor child does! Why doesn’t she understand? He is a child after all!”
“So many activities! Doesn’t he care his child will burn out? He really needs to slow down.”
“Such a packed schedule! I am sure this poor kid must not even be able to breathe! Free play is too important you know.”
And it’s needless to say that these observers will never miss an opportunity to tell you in person how they feel about your parenting techniques.
Such observations and remarks are generally futile and of course not welcome by struggling young parents, and yet, the scale of two extremes of not paying enough attention and being just too attentive for kids’ welfare continues to daunt us. After all, we all do understand that kids in different age (& maturity) brackets would seek various quantity and quality of attention of their parents.
So, while the perfect center of the above-mentioned scale is always an illusion, we could try and be away from the extremes, and also try to understand the concept of the Genre of Attention needed, and wanted by kids.
Ensure You Meet their Qualification
Kids demand our time. A lot of it indeed, but what gets qualified by them as the time that we have spent with them, time which actually fulfills their thirst for attention could be completely different from our understanding. They might not express it in an articulate manner, or might not even consciously be able to understand it, their behavior, their moods, even their psychological development gets impacted with this need for parents’ attention.
You can relate this need and consequences of not fulfilling it to their tantrums which they throw after they are tired or hungry, although they don’t understand the reason themselves.
For parents who help their kids with their homework, or teach them at home, sorry people! While a huge chunk of our time does get spend on these chores, kids generally don’t find this fulfilling.
So how can we attempt at giving them time which is of high quality from their perspective? Something fun (fun for them), something where they feel exclusive owners of your time.
Remember Who’s the Boss
Well, of course, you are in charge, but the activity time is for kids — which means that the activity should be such that kids should be able to enjoy, even if you can’t. However, that doesn’t mean it should be a boring time slot for you. After all, we are in it for the long haul. So, choose something which both parties find fun to do.
An eight-year-old's mom tells us:
I am fortunate that there is a whole set of activities that both of us enjoy. We share many similar interests, but there’s a catch. I tend to be a perfectionist at things I am good at. So sometimes I feel, maybe we would have enjoyed it more if I could be more generous to faults maybe?
So no one’s got it easy. Everyone has their own set of struggles. The key is to figure out something which your child would immensely enjoy and you would find it at least tolerable. Who knows, maybe you would develop interest with time in this newly discovered activity.
Another mom tells us:
As a child, I enjoyed so many activities. But with time life got so busy, that I completely forgot about them. With my little girl, I can rediscover my forgotten passions.
See? Parenting is no cake-walk, but it doesn’t always have to be a bed of thorns either. You could find a middle way out if you venture in the right direction.
Divide and Conquer
You and your partner could divide the activities. Each could choose the ones you could enjoy at best and find tolerable at worst. Of course, the child should not be told if you are just finding the activity tolerable. You have to be perfect at pretending.
So what all can come in this enjoyable, fulfilling category? Reading stories to kids, talking to them, playing with them are some obvious ones. But you could find joy in Music, painting or even Calligraphy. You could check our list of 5 recommended activities for the holiday season here. Maybe some of them would be interesting enough to stay with you and your children even after the holidays.
Towards Independence Day
Let’s face it, after being parents, you would never be free of the sense of responsibility. Even after your kids grow up. But the more your kids are independent and capable of taking their own responsibility, the happier and more relaxed you would be.
To top that, when we know that sitting with them for the homework is not going to earn us any brownie points anyway, why shouldn’t we move towards Independent Homework Completion? No, seriously, it’s not impossible. Just take baby steps in beginning — may be copying a line without you instead of word to word, letter to letter dictation could be the first step. But keep trying that they reach that stage when while doing homework, they only come to you for help at places where they are stuck. It would be a hell of a help.
In fact, after some time, who knows, they will start taking pride in finishing their work by themselves. And you would be left with just the one-on-one time, which if you have chosen wisely, would be a treat for you too.
The long term impact on kids’ behavior, their willpower, their easy and comfortable rapport with you will be astounding. So go ahead. Take these first steps towards your future bright independent
Hail Sanity, Happy Parenting.
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