If you're a parent you have undoubtedly had those moments when you're doing something such as answering emails, housework, reading, studying or [insert your own activity here]. Your child then comes over to ask you something, wants you to do something or is just plain unhappy about you doing whatever you're doing. Am I right?
From this moment most of us respond with "Not now," "I'm busy" "I'll be a minute," "I need to finish this and then I will be with you" or something along those lines. What happens next quite likely gets you riled up when your child does not accept any of these "excuses" they begin to feel angry, upset, neglected and frustrated at our inability to offer them what they need in that moment. As a result we start to feel the same way. Then the cycle, struggle and resistance begins as you explain to your child that what you are doing is important or that you won't be much longer so if they could just wait you will be right with them, Well now, this is just not acceptable...for my son anyway. Can you relate to this?
Well I, for starters will admit this has happened to me on numerous occasions. I could be replying to an email, reading or studying and my son comes along. I have then brushed him off, he has gotten defensive and had a little tantrum. We both feel angry as if our needs haven't been met. It can become a vicious cycle. The great news is that there is one main need that your child needs from you in that moment and you have the power to choose this option. This need is CONNECTION.
When a child acts out, it really means they are disconnected from you and themselves. They are not manipulative, they are not "needy" and they are not demanding. If they are they have probably learnt this from you. Instead of giving them a time out which further disconnects them, inside do the opposite and really connect with them. The best way to achieve this is through play. In all honesty I could write an entire book on this topic, but for now I will give smaller servings on my blog. So if you would like more information, etc please let me know.
My Seven Tips for Connection
- Evaluate the importance of what you are doing - whether you are checking emails, studying or on Facebook, weigh the importance of whether it can wait 5-10 minutes while you meet your child's need for connection. These material things will always be there; your child's childhood and the connection you build with them will not.
- Connect for 5-10 minutes (or longer if you wish) - let your child direct what play s/he wants you to do. Most of the time all it takes is this little amount of time in your day to really connect with your child and fill up this need for them. Then you can go back to what you were doing or continuing playing with your child.
- Laugh - laughter is the best form of connection. Be silly. Be childlike. Let your inner child shine through. The relationship with your child will only grow.
- Present time - if you know you need to get some work done, play with your children first. This will help meet their need for connection with you so they will be less likely to interrupt you while you work.
- Respect your child - respect is a two way street. If you are not demonstrating respect towards your child's needs they will learn from this. Meaning when you need them to respect your boundaries to do other things they will not respect you. Explain to them what you are doing, and let them be involved in the conversation to compromise.
- Breathe - if you find yourself getting worked up and feeling angry with the "disturbance" from your child; just breathe. Remember to evaluate what is more important in that moment.
- Choose again - if you find that you have directed your anger at your child; choose again. Apologise for how you reacted, breathe and move forward.
If you find you're getting angry and too worked up. You can try taking a few minutes to realign yourself, yell into a pillow or stomp your feet to release the anger in a safe way without projecting it onto your child. If this becomes frequent please seek support from someone your trust or a health professional. The health and safety of yourself and your child is of the utmost importance.
I know sometimes it can be difficult to get into this new mindset. Often we feel we must punish our child when they are acting out or interrupting us. It seems counter-intuitive to instead offer your child connection, fun and games. However, this is what children thrive on and it is a genuine need. In time you will find your child becomes more cooperative and understanding.
I invite you to give my tips a go next time your child interrupts your busy time and let me know how it goes.
Love & Gratitude xx