Children have two main needs in their life, attention and importance. They want to know they are important enough to make their own decisions and feel as if their say matters, while at the same time still desperately needing attention from the adults in their life.
They want to be seen and heard.
Most children can’t even begin to understand that these two needs drive 99% of all their actions, so it’s our job as the parent to read the cues in their behavior to try to get to the real root of the issue.
Now I want you to understand that when I say they want to feel important enough to make their own decisions I’m talking about age appropriate decisions that the parent doesn’t necessarily need to control. Like letting my kids pick out their clothes each day. Yes, I still pick out the clothes for pictures or big events but for day to day life I let them have free rein on whatever they want to wear.
You can even warn them of something that could happen and then let them make the final decision for themselves. For example; “If you wear your brand-new shoes out in the mud and get them dirty you could ruin them and if that happens, we aren’t buying you a new pair.” If the child makes the wrong decision, then they will learn a valuable lesson on consequences.
Another great way to let your kids feel like they have the control is to give them choices.
“Do you want a banana, an orange, or an apple?”
“Do you want to go ride your bike, play in the sandbox, or jump on the trampoline?”
“Do you want to read a book or listen to a book on audio?”
“Do you want to brush your teeth or wash your face first?”
It’s easy to give children choices in such a way that no matter what they pick the end result is still what you want. They still have to go outside but they get to choose what activity they want to do out there. They still have to brush their teeth and wash their face, but they get to choose which one they do first.
Giving them choices helps them feel like they are in control which makes them feel important.
Children also desperately need attention. This makes them feel loved and cared for. Many times, they will act out because they aren’t getting adequate attention from the adults in their lives. Most of the time the child doesn’t realize this is why they’re misbehaving.
A great way to help fill both these needs for your child is by doing daily 1 on 1 time with each of them.
Here are the rules…
- It only has to be 10 minutes. 15 -20 minutes is ideal but if time is hard to come by then you can only do 10 minutes, but no less.
- The child gets to pick the activity and you have to do it. (Within reason.) Keep it safe and try to help guide them to pick an activity that can be done within the time frame of your 1 on 1 time with them.
- UNPLUG! Put your phone away, far, far away. If you need to just put it on silent and put it in the other room. It’s only 10 minutes. You can give your child your undivided attention for 10 minutes.
- Set a Timer! When you set a timer, it gives your child an audible signal that the time is over and will prepare them for the regular routine on 1 on 1 time.
- 1 parent and 1 child at a time ONLY! This can be hard with younger kids but try to stick with it. At the beginning they will have a hard time sharing you but over time they will adapt to it.
The other day my oldest daughter was having a bad day. You know what kind I’m talking about. Emotional at the drop of a pen, complaining about everything around her, and her voice never left that high pitch whiny tone.
I was at my wits end.
As I stood at the sink doing dishes and listening to her cry in her room, I took a few deep breaths and began to pray.
“God, how can I help her?”
As if God was standing right beside me, I heard him say, “When was the last time you had 1 on 1 time with her?”
Ouch! Que the mom guilt.
I set the dishes down, walked to her room, gave her the biggest hug and asked her what she wanted to do for 1 on 1 time. She sat up with a HUGE smile on her face and went straight to our game shelf to pick her activity. I set the timer and we began to play. When the timer went off my husband and I switched. She got a total of 20 minutes of 1 on 1 time and by the end of it she was a completely different kid.
She was laughing, playing with her sister, she stopped complaining, and never whined again the whole night. Talk about a complete 180.
It was a much needed reminder for me on why 1 on 1 time is so important for our children and how it can change the outlook on their day, improve their behavior, and help us adults take a minute to pause in our busy day and focus on our children.
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We may think we spend time with our kids regularly but honestly when was the last time you spent a solid uninterrupted 10 minutes or more with your child on a activity that they got to choose? Also, is it something you are doing on a regular basis?
Our kids need our attention, but we can get so wrapped up in our day to day lives that spending regular 1 on 1 time with them gets pushed to the back burner. I challenge you to start implementing this with each of your kids and you will be amazed how much it good it does for them as well as yourself.