Guest post by Miranda Hodge of Smart Mama Smart Kids Parenting
Want some practical tips to help your child feel valued as they are?
Many parents want their child to feel valued and many do this well. However, anyone (and all of us at some point) can get into a ‘rut’ with the daily tasks of parenting and life. This can lead to overwhelm and a feeling of being unable to ‘get out of it’.
Through this post I’m sharing 4 ways to help your child feel valued, and what that means for parents and children both practically and intentionally.
When we parent our child from a newborn, we are often used to listening. However, once they start to talk we get used to them talking and often feel the need to start making sure we are heard, too!
Listening to your child-and helping them understand that you are willing to listen-can be a delicate process.
Every parent has to walk this line themselves-but listening to your child when they really want or need to talk, usually means they will start listening to you a little better overall.
To small kids, their ‘little things’ they want to show you, are in fact big things to them.
This is the key to helping your child feel safe with coming to you and sharing something. If you try your best to listen, be enthusiastic with them and appreciate what they say (even if you don’t agree), you will only help your child develop respect and an ability to listen to others.
Remember to listen for the sake of understanding and connection, rather than listening to rebut or prove your child wrong! This type of listening is not really listening, but just waiting for your turn.
Listening for the sake of understanding is the #1 way to help your child feel valued both consistently and effectively.
2: Eye Contact
Making a consistent effort to share eye contact with your child is crucial.
One significant way we connect truly in my opinion, is through eye contact while we are speaking, listening, asking and sharing.
Consider this example:
Billy was trying to get his mum’s attention, but she was on the phone. She kept waving at him while she was talking, trying (in vain) to get him to go away for just 5 minutes so she could finish this important call.
Billy decided he would try getting her attention another way-and used the crayons to draw on the wall. When mum saw this, she sighed loudly, cut short her phone call and started dealing with the crayon mess, angrily telling Billy off as she did so.
Consider the difference in this same example:
Billy kept asking his mum things, and while she was annoyed with him asking, she asked the person on the line to wait two seconds, called Billy over, dropped to his level and looked at him in a caring way. ‘Billy, I know it’s hard to wait. I really want to see what you want to show me. But I need you to go and play with your trains for 5 minutes, so I can finish this important phone call. I just know you’re going to be able to do that-even if it’s a bit tricky for you. Can you do that for me? Then I can come and see that amazing thing you made.’
Billy might still choose to draw on the walls, but the way his Mum interacted with him gave him a little of the attention he was wanting, in a constructive way.
His mother showed she valued him by not dismissing him, but looking into his eyes and having a calm reply. Even if she had looked at him with eye contact, and what Dr Justin Coulson calls ‘soft eyes’ (meaning caring and smiling-type of eyes) and given him a quick ‘I’ll be done in a minute’, Billy is much more likely to wait (even unhappily) than try to get her attention by drawing on the walls.
Eye contact makes people feel like you are acknowledging them as a person. Kids are the same.
If you’re anything like most mamas, it can be easy for the housework or immediate tasks to get in the way of communicating or spending time with your child.
This can be healthy in some respects-while children are the most important work, they also need to learn patience and that parents cannot always race to them the instant the child needs them.
However, the ability to drop what you’re doing when you can, in order to help or spend spontaneous time and connection with your child, is essential for them to feel like you really value them more than the dishes, washing, or other immediate (and constant) tasks.
It really is true-the child will not be at the age they are, or stage they are, for long. The dishes need to be washed but they will still be ‘there’ in ten years!
Putting your child first when you can will reap rewards for both you and them, create a connection and help your child feel valued.
4: Take responsibility yourself.
Don’t expect your child to take responsibility for what isn’t their responsibility.
As the parent, your small child is not responsible for making sure they are on time, for instance. Kids can’t understand time (at least not how manage spend it effectively) in the early years (or often, in the later years!) as this is a learned skill and a higher executive function.
Teaching children how to start taking responsibility for their belongings and their actions, is a major part of what they need to be learning, but keeping Mum or Dad happy is not.
What children DO need to learn to be responsible for:
· Their emotions (as they learn)
· Their own actions (as they develop and are taught how to act)
· Learning how to care for their own body and prepare for upcoming events (ie: shoes on for daycare)
What children should NOT be responsible for:
· Other people’s actions or reactions
· Mum and Dad’s (or anyone’s) ability to cope- ‘Having you here or going well at school makes me feel like I can keep going’ is not helpful
· Their own safety and wellbeing (this is the parent’s or guardian’s department)
· Worrying about or managing household duties or remembering things for their parents.
Children should be free to experience childhood and all it’s fun, learning, mistakes and play, without having adult-age expectations put on them.
These 4 ideas are was you can help your child feel valued in a consistent, caring way.
It is so worthwhile teaching your child that they are important to you.
Even important enough to mean you help them and teach them that to be the best person they can be, they need to learn to see their own value and that of the others around them, too.
The child who is valued by others in an authentic way and taught to value others the same, grows in empathy and understanding.
How do you show your child they are important to you? Do they understand?
Miranda Hodge is an online parenting/mum coach and teacher, with 3 children of her own and a number of parenting masterclasses and courses at Smart Mama Smart Kids Parenting. She helps mums with their kids’ emotions and behaviour, and their own ability to manage and connect with their children.