Many people think they are listening, really listening to their kids. Others think that paying attention to their kids is simply making a few minutes a night to read them a story. This may seem like enough until something goes wrong and parents wonder where they messed up.
Step One: The more kids you have, the harder it is, but the first step is simple. You need to make one on one time for each child. It does not have to be an hour a day, but as long as they seem to need at that moment. It can be as simple as the two of you riding to the gas station for milk. They fact that it is just you two will mean a lot.
When you can, try to make a date day with each child once a month. It doesn’t have to be a huge expensive thing. It does have to be something you two can share. You do have to make it about being with the child. You do have to follow rule number two very carefully.
Use that time to listen to your child. If they have trouble talking, start light. Ask questions to help them get started. Show them that you are with them by responding back. It may take a few times for both of you to learn to pay attention to each other, but keep at it.
Step Two: Reading to them or taking them places is great but to really be paying attention to them you have to be interacting with them, on their level, and not be thinking of several bills waiting for you. The second step is to turn off the rest of the world for just a little while.
No phone calls when you are talking about the school bully. Shut off the TV while you play that board game with them. Limit the amount of outside interference while you are connecting with your child.
Step Three: Look them in the eye. Practice the good listening skills that we often say our kids’ lack. Nod and comment as they talk. Pause to think about what they said before you reply. Repeat back to them what you heard. That lets them know you are really with them.
Step Four: Get on their level often. Not just when you are trying to reach out and give them attention, but also when they are just telling you about lunch. This will help you remember that they are kids. It will bring you into a zone with in their comfort zone. It will help both you automatically connect when you need to.
Step Five: Look into the mirror. Take a look at who you are and why you may have trouble giving your child the attention you are now learning about. Is there something from your past that you need to address? Maybe you are too busy balancing work and home. Can you cut out something or include the kids in some of it?
It is never easy taking a peek in the mirror to find fault with in ourselves but it may be necessary to connect with the kids. In order to give them your attention, you have to be able to focus on them and not some itch created by the report due in a few days, or how your ex-husband is behind on the support again.
Step Six: Trust in you is the one gift your kids should be granted from day one without question. If they trust you then they are more likely to be open to your attentions. Make sure you react to what they tell you with respect, love, and tolerance. That does not mean you let your friendship out do your parenting role. You must balance the two.
Step Seven: Practice, Practice, and Practice
No one can be great all the time but even a few minutes a day of your one on one attention will bring you and the child closer. Being close to your kids may keep them safe because you will be more aware of whom their friends are, where they go, and what is on their minds. Being close to your kids may help you because if your time with them is shortened, you will have quality moments to remember.