“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
The other morning while driving in our car, Carly and I were listening to Cape Talk and its listeners discussing how to parent when your children are young so that you can weather the teenage storms! Concerns regarding addictions, drugs, difficult behaviour and strained relationships are a worry for all parents. I for one, worry about the teenage years, and constantly wonder if I am doing enough now, while my children are young, to ensure that those years are peaceful, safe and meaningful. These days our children have to face many different challenges that our parents probably didn’t have to take time to consider! With this in mind, we have to be purposeful parents, thinking about and preparing for the years ahead, rather than reacting to the drama that unfolds!
How are our top tips to being a sensitive and purposeful parent:
- Respond rather than react: When dreaming of being a great parent to your baby, aspiring to sensitive parenting should be at the top of your list. This means responding to, rather than stimulating your baby. It may be easy to read your baby when he is niggling or crying, but there are many other subtle cues that you can look out for. Snuggling in to you, looking at you or sighing contentedly are positive cues. Whereas scrunching his nose, arching his back, giving you a small frown, crunching his shoulders, looking away from you or flickering his eyes are stress signals. These cues often go unnoticed, especially if you are out and about or even busy at home. Take time to focus all your attention on your precious baby in the beginning and you will get to know one another quickly. If you can pick up on these signs, you are well on your way to mastering the developmental target for this stage of development, namely, Trust vs. Mistrust. This is the start of building a meaningful relationship with your child which will allow you to weather the teenage years. As your baby grows and becomes a busy toddler you can look out for subtle cues which will show you he has had enough. If he starts running furiously, spinning around, hanging on you or furniture, throwing toys, whining and generally being disagreeable, it may be time to find a quiet space for you and your toddler to get back in sync! Children who start school and extra murals can easily be overlooked in today’s rushed society. Watch out for sudden flushing of the cheeks or a drain in his colour, hiccups, mouthing non-food objects (e.g. chewing his collar, sleeve or a toy/pencil), leaning or propping himself up against tables, walls or people and becoming overly quiet or overly loud and excitable. These can all indicate a very tired child who needs some down time! If you respond to these early cues appropriately, you can avoid the reactive parenting that often accompanies meltdowns!
- Focussed 5 Minutes: Whatever stage your baby/toddler or child is in, he needs at least 5 minutes of your focussed attention every day, which is uninterrupted! Sounds easy?! Not so much! When you fetch your little one from creche/school or get home from work, try to turn off your cell phone, TV, radio, iPad, computer etc. and don’t even answer the landline! Get down onto the floor with your baby or toddler or sit with your child and do something they want to do. It may be rolling around on the floor, hide n seek, reading a book, chatting about their day etc. for 5 uninterrupted minutes. Checking on the supper in the oven is cheating, as are non-committal “mmm’s”and “really’s”, absent minded stacking of blocks or folding washing…..NO MULTITASKING!!! Use this time to Watch, Wait and Wonder about your baby/child! If you are able to give them more than 5 minutes, by all means keep playing! This shows them that they are more important to you than your screen, the supper or the chores you need to get done!
- Over Scheduling: This is a trap we all fall into! We are spoilt for choice with stimulation programmes and extra murals and would love to expose our children to all life has to offer…BUT…there are only so many hours in a day! Babies and children need time to just play, this is their primary occupation! They need to feel bored as this will spark creativity and help them discover their hidden talents, interests and preferences!
Fill up your baby/toddler’s bank of love now while he is little and the interest should carry you through the more turbulent teenage years to come!
Lourdes and Carly xoxo