Give the #1 Most Desired Gift of Children
With only days to the holidays of giving, consider giving your child the one thing children want more than anything; your attention.
I am not a betting woman, but I will bet on a sure thing. I bet your children, whether they are students or your own, would love the gift of your undivided attention.
As a teacher, I am always curious about what children think about their educational experience. I recently I read a survey of high schoolers memories of their elementary school years. They were asked what they found most important to a positive feeling about those formative years. The number one thing on their list was the connections they developed with the teachers that were empaths. They remembered specific teachers who made them feel heard, who understood them, and who recognized their misbehaviors as cries for help. One student said it all in this sentence, "The teacher I remember the best was ______. She taught me about life, not just math. She helped me find the treasure in a mistake or failure. She celebrated with me when I overcame an obstacle that at one time seemed impossible. She gave up her recess time and many lunches to help me process what I was feeling, so I could concentrate in class. I can't remember much of the academics except the engaging projects we did independently. I must have learned the skills necessary to carry me through college and into graduate school, but it was the connection with a caring adult in my elementary years that I value the most from my early education. When a challenge shows up in my life, I still hear her gentle words telling me to embrace the lesson in the obstacle."
My mentor 47 years ago focused me on what is important, "Children will learn in spite of you and not learn in spite of you, but they will always remember how you made them feel," Adele Cooke 1972
I tried to live by her example. Those minutes shared at recess or lunch are the undivided attention all children deserve.
I am also interested in the conversations related to parent child relationships. I listen to conversations where ever I find myself. I hear children say, "My mom's phone interrupts our talks all the time," while their peers respond in same. "My mom thinks she's listening to me when she is looking at her texts, but I know she isn't." I see children tugging at their texting mom's shirts begging for attention. Even babies and dogs try to divert the texting adults by pushing the phones out of the way.
Being in the moment with our children, whether it is at the store, in the living room, or at the dinner table means more to children than parents know.
Before cell phones, I loved picking up my teenaged children from school. If you have teenagers, you know that it is hard to get time with them. Picking up my children from school allowed me that precious time to hear about their day. They would either enter the car with enthusiasm about something exciting that happened, or signs of a little sadness directly related to the day's events. The short trip home provided them the time to vent about a challenge they had that day. There were a few times when we found ourselves parked in the garage for quite awhile, which allowed my daughters the time to share their experience. The phone was in the house, not in the car, so it was easy to give 100% attention to my daughters at a time that was most important to them. No one was more important at that time, but them. Having the opportunity to process their emotions before we went into the house, made it easier for them to concentrate on their homework. I treasured this uninterrupted time together.
Cell phones have created a challenge today. The developers want 100% of our attention. They employ neuroscientists to assure that their device will hack our attention and retain it. Parents are no different than children, we get hooked and it is up to us to break that hack and give our children all of that attention.
How Do We Do That?
It is simple. When we are in the car with anyone, not just our children, we can turn off the phones. It is safer for all of us. And, it will give your children the attention they deserve.
The stimulation needed by children for healthy brain development is best delivered by face to face interactions.
Be deliberate in showing your attention. Greet your children with a smile and eye contact. Park your car and be 100% in tuned to your child. Fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time with you will give both of you more than can be imagined. It will help them feel loved, heard, and understood.
Put phones in another room when sharing a meal. Sitting together for twenty minutes a night can build a relationship that makes your children want to come back home for family dinners once they move out.
Modeling these behaviors offers the side benefit of teaching effective communication skills that are lacking today. It's a win win when giving the gift of undivided attention.