A few pointers for parents
|It was around 11 am on a Sunday morning. My older one who is nearly 6, had just finished her breakfast. She was about to scurry off to play with her younger brother, who is nearly one, so technically a baby!
Being on the table manners duty, I called out to her "Don't forget to keep your plate in the sink." She hurried back, picked up her plate and started walking to the kitchen. All of a sudden, she turned around, looked at me and said with a smile "I love you", and ran off. Needless to say that melted my heart right away, considering how completely out of context her statement was. It was also said with a sweet and genuine smile that only a child can have.
It made me retrospect on the things me and my wife have done in the first 6 years of her upbringing to have her say something like this out of the blue. We must have done something right as parents, for her to feel that she could express her love for us, only as kids can so directly. It was also without any prompting from me, nor was it in response to something I said or did like giving her a present or treat. Children are naturally incapable of deceit or falsehoods. Therefore, I thought, her mind must have genuinely made her feel in her heart to express her feelings so succinctly.
When I asked her matter-of-factly why she said that, her response was “Cos I just do!”
The only explanation I could think of was that our daughter truly feels that she is genuinely loved and cared for in our house. After all, only when a child receives such affection, would she feel like giving it back to others, right?
That experience led me to write down some of the things we as parents do from a child’s birth that co-relate to their behaviour concerning love and affection.
Always listen to your children completely, before giving them suggestions or answers
Right from the time children are babies, they start to speak in the “baby language”, before any real words get into their vocabulary. I remember my older one must have been around 5 or 6 months when she started conversing with us. I remember her speaking uninterrupted in babytalk for a good 2-3 minutes, whenever we said anything to her.
The more we talked to her, the more she used to respond until she got tired and moved on to other things like crying for a feed or a nappy change.
Eventually this habit of conversing with her extended to longer periods of time as she grew older.
This gives children a belief that they can tell anything to their parents, without the fear of getting cut off abruptly. What you will find over time as the kids grow is that their conversations will get longer and more insightful.
Share stories with them
Obviously the conversations work both ways. There will come a time when kids will want to know all about us. How our day at work was? Where is our office? What does our office building look like? What can we do on the weekend?
The more stories we tell them, the more it will be encouraging them to feel that they are a big part of our lives.
Eventually, there will come a time when they will tell us all about their day at the daycare, with the grandparents or play dates with friends.
Our daughter must have been around two and a half when one fine day I got back home from work and she recounted her entire day with mummy at home. Again, there was no prompting or even a question asked about how her day was.
The constant sharing of stories makes the child also feel they need to tell us how their day was, if something special or troublesome occurred that had them elated or worried. It’s their way of showing to us early on as toddlers that they need to talk to us and actually want to do that too.
This further is evidence of a child that feels loved and cared enough to want to engage with the people closest to him in such an endearing and simple way.
Involve children in the day to day activities
Children are instilled with a natural curiosity of the real world. They look at mundane tasks like doing the laundry or washing the dishes as something out of the ordinary that is done by the grown ups in the house.
Then comes a day when they want to explore these things themselves. “Can I turn the tap on while you do the dishes?”, “Can I fold the dry laundry?”, “Can I hold the mop?”. These will be some of the questions they ask.
It’s easy to shun them away in the worry that their involvement might spoil from being done right. But always remember that for the child, this task is completely new and perhaps baffling to their brain.
You can get them to do a small share of the work. For example, get them to fold the easy clothes, give them a small area of the living room to mop, while you mop the majority of the space, let them help you put the mulch in the disposing bag after you have mowed the lawn.
These activities will help them feel that they are an important part of your life. That their help was important to complete a task. This will only enhance their feelings of being an important cog in the family wheel.
Surprise your child when they least expect it
No one knows your child better than you. Stating the obvious, but bear with me.
As parents, we will know what they like and don’t like. Surprise them every now and then to bring joy to their little lives. This doesn't have to involve purchasing a toy like the latest Barbie doll or letting them have their favourite chocolate every time.
You could organise a “sleep-over” with their best friend’s parents. Or suddenly plan to bake their favourite chocolate cake with their help to make it an even more involved activity.
This will encourage the child to think outside the box and throw her own surprises at you. She might offer help in bathing the younger sibling, reading them a book or just patting them in bed to help them sleep. She could offer to help clean the house.
All these activities show that your child feels loved and cared enough to want to be involved in your life too. After all you are the only parents they have!
In conclusion, it’s not just the act of telling them constantly that you love them (of course that doesn't harm), but more so these little things that touch their heart consciously or unconsciously.
Children are way smarter than adults sometimes give them credit for. If we just tell them that we love them, but never encourage them to talk to us freely, share their stories or give them space to explore the world on their own, those words may not mean as much as we want them to.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
What kind of activities do you engage in with your child? Do you ask them how their day was or how they are feeling? Do you share with them how your day was or why you are feeling sad or happy?
What are ways you find your child engages with you more eagerly?
Does your child ever come and say to you “I have a great idea…” and goes on to explain what they are thinking?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Make a conscious effort to listen to everything your child has to say. It may be tempting to jump in with an opinion or to shut them down quickly when you don't agree with their idea or have had a long and hard day at work and just want to have some peace and quiet in the evening. Make a conscious effort not to put them down abruptly.
Always remember that things that are very obvious to us, won't be so to your child.
Consider how often you have a chat with your child that extends beyond the mundane yes or no answers.
Consider how often your child asks your help to solve a problem, may be a puzzle they are working on or something that occurred with their friend at kinder or school they didn’t agree with.
Always probe them with open ended questions to make sure you hear their true point of view and not just a random reasoning. Remember that the child won’t always know how to explain things to the parents, which makes it even more important that we encourage them to talk and share their feelings with us.