The number one reason for disconnection in your family
You know the days - they won’t get out of bed, put their shoes on or eat the dinner you've cooked.
At bath time first they won't get in and then they won't get out.
And that's before the bedtime fun even starts.
The days when it felt like all you did was bribe, threaten and coax them to complete the task you’ve set.
The pull of what they want against the push of what you want.
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Most of this can be boiled down to one simple sentence:
Adults go fast and children go slow.
The adult world is busy; we are expert multi-taskers. We cook and plan and get ready while doing ten other things. We think not only of the now but of tomorrow and the day after and next week and next year.
A series of endless tasks to do, places to go to and people to meet.
The child world is simpler.
Their notions of time are fuzzy and flexible. They struggle to understand what we mean when we say ‘next week’ or as we explain why they can't do something 'right now'.
Activities and interests are focused from moment to moment. When they're playing cars, they are ONLY playing cars. Engrossed in their activity, there are no troubling thoughts of what comes next or ruminations of what went before.
You could even argue that children are mindful while we are mindless.
Interested in learning how to simplify your family life?
The mindful families I know are choosing to educate themselves about how to bring a more comfortable pace and simplicity to their lives. A great place to start is Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. With a focus on how to introduce simple routines, cut the toy clutter and connect more it's a great handbook for getting started on the simple life.
There is a scientific explanation for the significant difference in thinking styles between adults and children.
Adults have brains that are designed to manage complex flows of information, sifting through what they need to do and prioritising. This ability to logically plan with a complex notion of time is a higher-level thinking function, developed in the frontal lobe - one of the last parts of the brain to fully mature.
Children’s brains simply haven’t developed these skills yet - and with good reason.
A human brain is shaped by experience.
A child needs to repeat a behaviour many hundreds of times before they master it. This single-minded learning is what helps them to master essential skills like crawling or developing speech against overwhelming odds. If they applied the more complex adult form of learning they might never be able to focus so singularly on what they need to do.
Undeterred by setbacks, they simply keep on trying until a skill is mastered.
So, when you whip off the covers, rush them out the door or ask them to tidy up mid-game they often respond in an unfavourable manner. Cue tears, stamping and threats.
When your adult needs are so grindingly at odd with theirs, disconnection is inevitable.
Adults go fast and children go slow.
So, should you never get your child out of bed? That would be a little impractical. The question is more:
How shall I get my child out of bed?
Is it possible to be more mindful, to slow down and find a new pace?
One that feels less rushed, more playful, more in tune with the natural developmental rhythms of childhood.
Five ways to slow down
Bring balance to your time
Be mindful of the sensory overload that can follow a big exciting event. Too much, too loud and too many people often paves the way for a behaviour meltdown. Introduce a balance of activity – the bigger, noisier and more exciting the activity, the more you need to provide pools of calm around that activity.
Have a big party to go to? Have a quiet morning before.
Had a hectic busy week of school and playdates? Schedule a quiet Saturday for a walk in the woods and some baking before hitting the sofa for movie cuddles.
This is when knowing your child and their temperament is key; some children will need more downtime than others. Finding a way to balance the needs of everyone in the family can be tricky but a little mindful reflection and planning could go a long way towards a calmer feeling household.
Provide support for transition points in the day
These are often the sore points of family life - moving from one activity to another.
As adults we often require that children drop what they're doing and obey our instructions instantly. This expectation is not only unrealistic, it's disrespectful of their process and of them as a person. After all, we wouldn't appreciate being constantly bundled from one activity to the next.
Simply letting your child know what's coming and what they need to do can help. Framing it as a request rather than a demand, providing cues and empathy can work wonders when they struggle to move onto the next thing.
For younger children, make the next activity seem more enticing by presenting it in a playful way: stop and connect with a tickle, a cuddle or a kiss before letting them know what they need to do. Sit down and play for five minutes before helping them to stop.
Plan for extra time
When you can allow more time for a task, do so!
Abandon the adult focus on the end goal. If they want to play a game or stop and look at everything on the way to the park that's fine The point is fun, right? Not just to make it to the swings. As adults in this world we are so culturally habituated to achieving, completing and DOING all of the time that we often forget how to just BE.
Not sure how to start? Just follow your child’s lead.
Kids are great at just being.
We know as adults that we need to plan in extra time for activities with kids but we rarely actually account for this and continue at adult speed, dragging (sometimes literally) our children behind us.
Protect the bedtime calm down
This is especially relevant if you're a family who struggles with bedtimes and winding down.
Screens need to go away an hour before bed; this is because the blue light used in screens sends signals to the brain that mimic natural light and this means that it keeps kids stimulated and in a false sense of wakefulness. Hello bedtime tantrum party.
Use calmer, dim lights in the lead up to sleep.
But the most important thing you can do at bedtime?
Making time to chat about the day and cuddle, deliberately slowing yourself down sends the message to your kids that it's time for them to do the same.
This isn't the time to rush in and out of the bathroom while you cook dinner and hang the washing and answer your emails. This is the time to fill up on your kids and let them fill up on your before you separate for the night. Separation is a big deal for lots of kids, even if you're only just downstairs.
No to three parties on one day.
No to doing the food shop with two kids in tow.
No to the PTA meeting that you really don't have time for.
No to the endless drama on emails at work after 5pm.
Life these days doesn't lend itself to slow. In fact, most of us are positively shoved in the other direction, always being told that we need to do more, achieve more and have more. Slowing down has to be a mindful decision that we make over and over again.
Slowing down isn't an all or nothing scenario, just doing what you can, when you can makes a difference.
It all helps.
The point is that no-one else is going to do it for you. For most of us there is never going to suddenly be less work, washing up or life admin to do. We simply have to make a choice.
This is your family, your space and your time.
Sometimes it's not just OK to protect it. It's essential.
Adults go fast and children go slow.
It might be that the kids are onto something if we can just slow down long enough to listen.