A good friend and I were hanging out together recently, and I was bombarding her with my struggles as a mother. “My toddler doesn’t listen. She throws tantrums, and purposely disobeys. Why is she doing this? What am I doing wrong?” Obviously, I had reached a small breaking point as a parent, and wanted some help or advice. The best person I could think of to go to in this situation, was someone who would be completely blunt and honest with me. Someone not afraid to hurt my feelings, or tell me how it is. And this friend didn’t disappoint. She asked me one simple question: Do you spend time with her?
WHAT? Do I spend time with my daughter? What kind of question is that? Of course I do. I am with her every single day. All day. If I spent anymore time with her, she’d be back inside my belly. Truthfully, I was pretty taken aback by the question. Even a little defensive. But my friend clarified for me, explaining that time with someone isn’t just about the time, but the attention. The quality. And this might seem like common sense, but for me it obviously wasn’t. Because after I thought about it, I had to answer no. No, I don’t spend time with my daughter.
Sure, we will bake, and clean, run errands and walk. But my mind will be elsewhere. My attention will not be with her. Instead, I will think about all the things I need to do. Stuff I want to accomplish. Chores. Errands. Cooking. Anything. Just not the present moment with her.
I know this sounds harsh, but it’s true. This is not because I don’t love my daughter, or don’t want to be with her. I just didn’t know how. So, I started to think about ways to change this. How could I be more present, engaged, and attentive with my daughter? How could I give her the full attention that she deserves? Not to spoil her. Not to teach her that she gets everything she wants. But for her to know she is important. Valued. Loved. That she is worth my full attention. And my time.
I purposely worked on this for weeks. Making sure to spend “time” with my daughter. Quality time. Giving her my full attention. Engaging and interacting with her, one-on-one. Of course, this was difficult at first. I had become accustomed to distractions. Anything to occupy me. Keep me busy. Fill my time.
However, after some practice, it got easier. I began to actually enjoy the time with my daughter. We laughed. Motherhood became less stressful, and less difficult. I learned my own boundaries. And surprisingly, the tantrums lessened, listening improved, and we both started to understand each other a little more. All she wanted was a little bit of my undivided attention. Which she undoubtedly deserved in the first place.
Now obviously each child is different. I am by no means suggesting that every kid, needs more attention from their parents. Some children already receive too much one-on-one attention, and could benefit from independence. Either way, it’s something to think about. Ask yourself if you actually spend quality time with your child? One-on-one, with your undivided attention? If not, read the ideas below. These are things that have helped me to spend more “time” with my daughter.
Find Things To Do That Are Fun for Both of You
Singing nursery rhymes, and reading the same book over and over again isn’t fun for me. In fact, its maddening. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t do it. I just think it’s important and beneficial, to find activities that both of us enjoy. That way we can both be attentive, engaged, and present. And we can interact with one another more willfully. Here are some activities I’ve found, that both my daughter and I have fun with:
- Going on walks
- Being outside
Know Your Boundaries
As I’ve stated already, I can only sing nursery songs for so long. I can only pay attention to my child so much. And I can only reread the same book a certain number of times. Then I go crazy. So, I’ve started to learn those boundaries. We will sing songs, and reread her favorite books. But not all day. Or all the time. Only as much as I can handle. Everyday is different. And everyone’s boundaries are different. So, listen and learn yours.
Quality Over Quantity
Just like almost everything else in life, quality matters more than quantity. Realistically, we can’t give our children our full attention all day. All the time. I don’t think we would want to either. So, I’ve decided to focus on quality. I’d rather have 5 minutes of quality time together. Fun bursts of undivided attention. As opposed to hours of time where I am not really there. We play hard, have fun, and nothing else matters. But then we are onto the next thing.
There’s Nothing Wrong with You or Your Child
This whole thing started because I was struggling with my child’s behavior. I thought maybe there was something wrong with her, or with me as a parent. But truthfully, there isn’t anything wrong with either of us. We are both trying. Both learning. And both growing. We are figuring things out as we go. Complete with stumbling, falling, and failing. But, that’s the point. Mistakes, hardships, and struggles, don’t necessarily mean there is something wrong. Life is full of difficulties, they help us grow.
So, even though I believe this recent struggle has improved, there will be many more to come. All I can do is try new things, spend “time” with my child, and remember that there is nothing wrong with either of us. Or you.
Do you find you spend enough time with your child?
Do you believe your time together is high quality?
As always, it is never too late to start the monthly challenge: Reading!