Ever find that your child needs something from you “urgently” when you are either on the phone, preparing dinner or some other crunch-time moment? They seem to pick the moments of the day when you are the least available to them. Some part of you thinks, “Oh, geez, they are just doing that to get attention.” And, you’re right. Children do need our attention. In fact, authentic presence and connection is a universal need – just like air, food and water. We all need focused, empathic attention.
Sincere, loving eye contact is like food for our being. Notice how grumpy you get if no one pays direct and positive attention to you all day long. Children are the same as us. A child’s “acting out” behavior is the way they communicate, “I have a need that is not getting met.” It is up to us adults to figure out what that need is then fulfill it as best we can.
“If they just didn’t pick such inconvenient, stressful times,” you think to yourself. Well, that’s true too. Stressing out in that moment does a number on a parent’s blood pressure. Scrunching up your face and growling at your child is bittersweet too, for both of you. Even though you do everything, all day long, for your children’s benefit (go to work, cook, feed, bathe, read stories, etc) they also need one-on-one nourishing connection. Feeling overwhelmed just hearing that?
Here’s a quick and easy remedy. It’s called “The 30-second Burst of Attention” and it goes like this: The next time your child interrupts you during one of those time-crunched moments, like a phone call for example, try the following:
• Ask the person on the other end of the line if they can hold on for 30 seconds.
• Set the phone aside.
• Take a breath.
• Kneel down to get eye-to-eye with your child.
• Look into those amazing eyes of theirs, letting your heart be touched by your child’s very being.
• Say to your child some variation of: “I know you have something you want to tell me that’s really important to you. We’ve got 30 seconds now and you can tell me more during dinner. Got it?”
• *Tip: Do not say, “OK?” You are not asking for your child’s permission to set this limit. You are aking if your child understands the limit you are communicating.
• Then say, “OK, let me hear it.”
• Once your child is finished say, “Thank you for letting me know what’s important to you. I want to hear more later.” Kiss or hug your child. Make loving eye contact once again. Then go back to your phone call.
See what happens when you try this 30-second experiment. I would love to hear your results.
If you would like to learn more ways to:
• Strengthen the bond with your children
• Address the root causes of “acting out” behaviors
• Enjoy parenting more
Here’s what Colorado parents have been saying about Christine’s class:
“I would recommend this class to other parents. It creates incredible improvements in parenting skills in a very short period of time. It is much more effective than any other parenting class, book or talk therapy I’ve taken or done.” (Parent, class participant)
“The biggest benefit I’ve gotten from this class is seeing how I can change the dynamic and the relationship I have with my children and be better prepared to deal with the struggles that inevitably arise in parenthood.” (J. H., Lafayette, CO)
Christine Horn is a psychotherapist in Denver specializing in individual and couple therapy. She assists individuals, couples and parents in harmonizing relationship bonds. Christine offers a free half-hour consultation for clients to decide whether the connection and the work feel like a good fit. She can be reached at 720.220.4788 or DenverHorn@gmail.com.