EASY connection routines for happier kids
Life is busy.
The other day as I answered an email, prepared my three-year-old a snack and got out the ingredients for dinner the house was suspiciously quiet.
I should have mentioned - I had also got out some craft materials ready in an attempt to distract my daughter while I cooked.
But because I was busy multi-tasking I wasn't paying proper attention to well, if I'm honest, anything.
I'll put you out of your suspense: while I was busy organising and muttering to myself, my daughter had carefully cut two large holes in the knees of her tights.
She was actually pretty pleased when she skipped up to me to display her new handiwork.
Honestly, now as I sit to write with a cup of tea in my hand it seems kind of funny, and she must have spent a good few minutes working on it because let me tell you - those holes were neat!
However, the multi-tasking, tired me failed to see the funny side (or take responsibility for the fact that I'd put out scissors when I wasn't really ready to be keeping an eye on them).
You can probably guess the rest, but it involved shouting, tears and binned tights.
And really it's on me, not her. She probably has some idea she shouldn't have done that (although the beam of pride as she came to show me would suggest not). It's not her fault if she gets her hands on things that she shouldn't because I haven’t put them away.
It's the equivalent of leaving chocolate out and expecting me not to eat it - never going to happen!
Life is full of moments like this but I'm trying to work on a more intentional life. One where it doesn't feel like every minute is spent calculating which task I can cross off the list while my daughter busies herself playing.
I want to play too!
So I'm starting an experiment to slow down, connect more and have a bit more fun.
Because really, most of the other stuff can wait.
Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist notes that often one of the most common traps we can fall into as parents is simply focussing on moving our children through the daily routine and in doing so, we miss out on precious connection opportunities. She makes the point that:
'Rituals slow you down and connect you on a visceral level with your child, and if you do them as just "part of the routine" they build security as well as connection and cooperation.'
So not only does it feel good - it often makes the tricky times easier.
Win - Win!
Dr. Laura's book, Calm Parents, Happy Kids, really is a parenting game-changer. It was for me: suddenly so many more behaviours and emotions make sense. If you're looking for a mindful parenting read that's still packed with practical advice then I couldn't recommend this book enough.
When our connection routines happen I can genuinely see the difference in my daughter's behaviour.
The connection routines that work for us?
While I'm a happy early bird, the little one not so much. Any hint of rushing her down to breakfast or onto the daily routine is met with staunch grouchy-ness.
If I hop into her bed as she wakes up and have a cuddle and a giggle it's a whole different story. Starting the day right really does make a difference to her mood - and mine.
I'm trying to leave my phone out of sight at the start and the end of the day as well as at mealtimes. If I want I want my daughter to feel like she's more important than the machine in my pocket, then I have to walk my talk.
Not having it with me just removes the temptation to look at the ever-buzzing notifications.
(I'd like to tell you that I can leave it alone more than that but I'm a work in progress).
I make sure that whenever I've been apart from my daughter, when we’re back together the first thing I focus on is her. I make eye contact, kneel down to her level and engage her before I talk to the adult she's been with.
This is my way of letting her know that I missed her.
Of letting her know I'm glad she's back.
Of making her feel seen.
None of these really take any effort or more than a few minutes but the difference it makes for us and our relationship is amazing.
The key lies in being mindful enough to remember and do it - over and over.
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