Our kids need our attention, approval and acceptance in a few different ways.
Touch – “Hug me Mummy”
Touch is lacking in our society. People need to be touched. Some kids don’t like full tight hugs but they will still need some form of touch. It might be sitting side by side, just touching arms, holding hands, or a little stroke of their hair.
Attention – “Look at me Mummy!”
It builds relationship when you share an experience. When your child says “Look at the train!” it’s because they want you to enjoy what they are enjoying. They want to share it with you. They want you to know what they find interesting, exciting, or even upsetting. Even if you don’t feel the same interest as they do (not everyone can get excited about trains), if you acknowledge their interest you’re telling them they are important to you. “Wow, it’s a cargo train! I know you love those.”
So the aim for us as parents then is not to exhaust ourselves responding to every single bid our kids make for attention, but just to try and catch as many as we possibly can.
Learning together – “But why?”
I don’t know about you but I have incredibly curious kids. They seem to be constantly wanting to know about everything. “Why?” is a common question in our household and sometimes I’m just too tired to answer.
I’ve found a little trick though! When I still want to encourage their bid to learn with me but I’m too tired to answer it myself I say, “Why do you think it might be like that?” If they say they don’t know I either say “Why don’t you find out and then tell me what you learn,” or “If you did know what do you think it would be?” They come up with some amazing theories! Whether they are right isn’t really important, they’ll find out over time, but the learning and thinking together is another way to build relationship.
Playing together – “Play with me!”
Recently, Lula and I realised my eight year old was making a lot of “play with me” bids that both of us were ignoring. (When you’re over the age of 10, playing can be pretty boring!). We decided that we needed to make more of an effort to respond to Little’s emotional bids and give her some attention. We set aside 30 minutes a day to play whatever Little wants to play. The first day she picked a board-game called Blokus (which is great because it’s easier then using my dusty imagination to play My Little Ponies!) It made a huge difference for her because she felt she was worth spending time with. That half hour had a huge pay off for our relationship.
It’s still something I’m working on. I definitely need to catch more of those tiny moments when my kids are asking for my attention, acceptance and approval. It takes practice to become more aware of those bids. To stop and turn towards them. Emotional bids can be so easy to miss! But if it makes my relationship with my lovely girls stronger then it’s 100% worth the effort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too. What ways do your kids make emotional bids? If you are following my series on communication and emotional intelligence I’ll be posting one more next week. If you haven’t already, check out the last two posts on this topic too:
Non-violent communication for mums (and dads too obviously!).
Looking forward to next week and hearing how you went with your parenting journey.
References (I recommend these awesome sites if you want to learn more about this topic and other communication tips)
Originally published HERE.
Kelly Eden-Calcott is a solo mum of three lovely daughters, living on the beautiful West Coast of New Zealand. She has a teaching background and specialises in Childhood disorders and intervention. As a parenting writer for national magazines in New Zealand for many years, Kelly loves helping parents feel empowered with skills and knowledge to parent more purposefully. For more practical and thought-provoking parenting ideas check out her blog at lifewithlittleandlula.com