“Children need us to be present.” I’ve read it in a hundred books and articles. I’ve probably written it myself.
When my children urgently, intensely need me, I can be present. When they are hurt physically or emotionally, I am 100% there. When they hug me, I’m there. During choir concerts, band performances, and karate tests, I watch and feel my heart swell with joy.
But when it comes to helping with homework or playing a game, watching karate practice or swimming lessons, my attention wanes. No matter how actively I try to give the activity my full attention, half of my brain disengages.
Noticing What Works for Me
When I am talking on the phone, I iron or fold laundry. If I am listening to a lecture, I take notes or scribble something unrelated. When I drive, I listen to books on tape. My best ideas often show up when I’m not thinking.
For a long time, I tried to make myself pay attention to just one thing: smell and taste the food when I’m eating; focus on clothing while I iron; listen when people talk.
I was certain that was the right way to do things. Everyone said so.
But that kind of presence didn’t work for me. I gobbled food to finish eating as quickly as possible. I left baskets of clothes unfolded. My attention wandered when people talked.
One day, I acknowledged what I had known for years: I listen better when I’m doing something else.
Allowing My Children to Determine What Works for Them
An article in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua titled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior stirred up an avalanche of responses. The most egregious aspect of the article was that Chua’s daughters had to do what she demanded, when and how she required.
I do not believe in parenting by total non-interference. Parents are parents because children need guidance. When parents teach and support in a gentle, loving manner, children may benefit from our accumulated wisdom. We show them how to navigate life on Earth.
Children also benefit from figuring out how to do things their own way. We can help our children to notice things about themselves by telling them what we observe.
- “I see that your eyes are starting to close.”
- “Sometimes you get cranky when you’re hungry. Have you noticed any signs that you need to eat soon?”
- “You seem so excited about drama!”
- “Tying your shoes is frustrating. Would you like me to show you a different way to tie?”
Let’s encourage our children to discover what works for them.
Let them discover their own how. Allow them to trust their own experience and knowing.
We can learn from our children how to support them and how to honor our own needs.
Need helping shifting your ideas about how things should be? Consider shifting your beliefs with Matrix Reimprinting.