I am so excited to have Mrs. K (Mindy) guest posting for me today! She was my high school theatre teacher and she is pretty awesome! If you have some time please check out her blog Joyful Collapse.
A few weeks ago, in a discussion about role models, my 19 year-old son shocked me. He said, “Well, you’re my role model for a parent.”
“What do you need money for?” I asked, suspicious of this relatively unknown zone of praise.
“You were just, there, when I was a little kid, you know?” he clarified, making a gesture that indicated a connection between us.
I floated on that compliment for a few days, and found myself returning to it as I witnessed a mother dealing with her five year-old son in The Dollar Store. Oh, yes. You can imagine that high-pitched scream. The Exorcist had nothing on this kid. I couldn’t resist; I had to see what this mother would do.
What I noticed was that she did a lot of talking (negotiating, rather), but she didn’t make a lot of eye contact with him. She was fearfully looking around to see if anyone was paying attention, talking very low, but she wasn’t talking with him, fully. Her responses to his repeated requests for a Transformer (which as you know, The Dollar Store has naught of) were generic and just not…there.
“Tommy, they don’t have Transformers, here. Let’s look for a dinosaur.”
(Inaudible banshee shriek.)
“Well, do you want an army man?”
(Army man goes Navy, sailing into Aisle Three.)
I had to wonder. What would happen if she had actually connected with him? Granted, she’d have to forge some new ground, here. She’d have to take him outside, probably. But how much of his tantrum is really the result of feeling ignored? Yes, she’s talking to him, but not really.
How often do we find ourselves on the phone or computer, giving our kids half of our attention? What about when we’re doing chores or something that we “really” have to get done? How much of our children’s misbehavior, particularly in public places, might be attributed to our unintentional inattentiveness?
And then, when we do give full attention, is it always for negative behavior? Like the infamous “face-grab”, where you grab your child’s chin and get up close and personal with how angry you are?
Think about not being afraid to stop what you’re doing, no matter what it is, to give your child your full attention. That might mean leaving stores (with full carts and ice-cream), not reading or going on the computer when they are awake, not worrying whether your laundry will get done, right then and there.
It means stopping, making positive, loving eye contact.
It means connecting.
Mindy, along with several former students (including Ms. Tori!), is the author of Transparent Teaching of Adolescents. Come join the conversation at Joyful Collapse blogspot! ☺