So my quote this week centered around tuning into your kids and listening to them with your whole body so they would learn their voice is worth hearing.
Did you read that and think “are you kidding, my kids never shut up, I have no choice but listen?”
If you did, I get it. I did not mean that the world stops each time your child opens their mouth, that would be an unrealistic expectation of you, as a parent, but also a false ideal for the broader world your child will experience.
There were two take away messages I was endeavouring to convey.
Firstly, as women and mothers we can often take pride in our multitasking ability, we say we can do many things at once and we often criticise men for not doing the same. Many a joke is made at a male partner’s expense that they can only do one thing at a time, for women we may have gotten away with that attitude for many years, but unfortunately, we have been living under a delusion.
Our brain really is laser beam focussed and can only focus on one thing at a time, if you have many things on the go at once, you are merely switching between them. If the former were true and I could really do multiple things at a time with great accuracy and efficiency, I would never have rice burned to the bottom of the pan while I was busy multitasking, probably the reason rice cookers have become an essential!
Our children also know this, they hear it from birth, “one thing at a time” “put those toys away before you pull out any more” Hmm sound familiar??
So when you are doing some exciting job, like ironing, chopping veggies and telling your kids, “yes I’m listening”, they know the truth. The proof… Have you caught yourself, when they are chatting away, you keep doing what you are doing, then you hear a trigger word, “biting, hitting or when they are a little older…sexting, drinking, drugs, nudes” and suddenly you put the iron or knife down, you stop everything and say, “what was that?”. Now they have your interest, now your are really listening!
So what to do, I added to my quote, it only takes a few minutes a day. This is true, take 5-10 minutes each day to connect, really connect. Give your child your undivided attention, watch their body language, tune into their words and their silence and let them know they are important.
By giving them your full attention, they will get the message, that what they have to say is interesting, their voice is important, which is the second point.
Take it a step further and engage in deep conversation about it, ask meaningful questions (not interrogation and don’t take over), ask how they are feeling, what do they think about this or that, what would they do in that situation. They will hear, that their opinion matters and you really want to understand them and their perspectives on things in their world.
Being listened to; what an amazingly simple way to build connection with your children and for them to know, they matter!