As a parent, I have been guilty of being there for my kids physically but not being emotionally fully present. I would go on a date with them, sit with them at the dinner table, drive them to school, but to be honest, my mind was elsewhere. I would appear to be listening but I was really thinking about the things I had to do that day: the laundry, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, the phone calls, and the list goes.
My children are not dummies and have caught on to my “duplicity.” There have been times when they literally placed their hands on both sides of my cheeks, looked me straight in the eyes, and said “MOM! Are you listening to me?!” This would always jolt me back into the present moment. It made me realize I was not fully engaged with my children…but only pretending.
This has been a poor habit. In the process, I have discovered 3 keys that have helped me to break out of that “inattentive” cycle.
- Be aware your mind is wandering. Half the battle is recognizing you have a problem. The moment you realize your mind is elsewhere, take a step back into the present moment. Be honest and take ownership. If you need to apologize to your children for getting distracted, then do so. They will respect you more.
- Block out the distractions. Choose to focus on your children and give them your undivided attention. Put your cell phone on silence, turn the television off, put the laptop aside, take a break from the chores. Set aside another time in your day when you can accomplish those things you need to get done. Learn to put your agenda aside so you can focus on what is important at the present moment: your children.
- Choose to be fully engaged. Hear what your child is saying. Cherish the moment and take advantage of the opportunity when your child is sharing his heart with you. This window is open for a short period of time and if you miss it, you will end up in the “land of regret.” Discipline yourself to be a good listener, without interrupting. Maintain eye contact. Show your children you hear them by repeating or affirming what they have just said. This causes children to feel valued and loved.
Never underestimate your power as a mom. Even though we are capable of accomplishing many things at one time, our children need us. They need us to listen, to feel valued and to know what they are saying or doing is important to us. So whenever you are with your children, be fully present. You and your family will reap the benefits!