When our children are difficult or when we are disappointed by their behaviours, we may sometimes seek assistance from our loved ones. We may also read a book on parenting to get some guidance to better understand what we could do to improve the situation. Among the recommendations given, we may be advised to provide a more structured environment for our child or to better understand how we communicate with him or her. A special emphasis may also be given to the importance of formative consequences in shaping responsible behaviours.
Although these recommendations are all valuable, we often forget to mention a very simple activity which is often, I believe, an essential prerequisite to the success of those guidelines. That activity is this: to learn to give your full attention to your child – to learn to simply “be with” your child. In addition to contributing to a more positive relationship with your son or daughter, this period of time spent only with him or her will help you gradually change your own behaviour and will help you rediscover your child. When a child and a parent go through a difficult period, they often have few pleasurable moments of complicity. Spending time together is so simple and there is nothing more precious for our children.
Parents: Pick a 20-minute period everyday during which you will give your total attention to your child. If your child is less than 9 years old, you can introduce this period of time by saying “It is our playtime. What would you like to do?” The child chooses an activity. (Watching television, by the way, is not an appropriate activity here.) If your child is already doing something, you can ask him or her if you can join in on the activity. In both cases, do not take control of the activity and do not try to supervise it. (If your child is older, you can simply participate in his activity when he is playing by himself.)
Parents: Observe what your child does and after a few minutes, describe what you notice to communicate your interest. As much as possible, do not ask questions and do not make requests; this is a playtime spent together, not a time to teach or tell your child what to do. At times, tell him that you like how he plays or what he does during this time. Enjoy!