This is the key to reflective parenting, yet connecting with children can feel hard, time consuming and sometimes stressful. As parents, we often want to give our children all of our time and, because of this, we end up feeling unable to give any time.

The great thing is that connecting with children doesn’t have to take hours. This post aims to outline some simple ways that you can fill your child’s need for connection with minimal effort. Not because you are a lazy parent, but because that’s all they need.

First, commit the time

You choose how much time. It can be one minute, five minutes, half an hour, half a day (although I suggest that’s quite a lot for full on being present).

It doesn’t matter how much (or how little) time you commit, as long as you can fully commit to it. So, much better to offer 5 minutes of full on connection and presence than a day of being there but not really there. Make it manageable for you.

Second, dump your baggage.

This is both metaphorical and real. Turn your phone on silent, put it in another room. Phones are so helpful to us, yet they are also big time thieves. During these five minutes, your child needs your undivided attention. If you can’t be away from your phone for that long, explain why to your child (“I’m putting my phone here but I need to leave it on loud in case Gran calls from hospital. I will ignore all other notifications”).

The other baggage to dump is your expectations. We are here to observe only. Your child is here to show us what they’ve got, right now, in this moment. If you are expecting to see something, then you run the risk of missing what they are showing.

This means dropping both the ‘shoulds’ (my child should be able to do X by now) and the ‘always’s’ (they always do Y).

Third, observe

It sounds simple. It isn’t. Those pesky expectations and thoughts come in and distract us. That’s OK. It’s normal and happens to everyone. Just notice them and get back to observing what your child is doing in that moment.

Fourth, notice out loud

  • “You put the green block on the red block”
  • “It looks like you’re enjoying making that train track”
  • “Those cars look like they’re very angry with each other”
  • “It looks like you think that cake is delicious”
  • “You’re watching the squirrel”
  • “It’s really difficult to get that jigsaw piece to fit”

Notice what isn’t here:

  • Judgment
  • Criticism
  • Advice
  • Praise

What comes up for you as you read these?

  • Isn’t it cruel not to offer advice if I can see a solution?
  • Don’t praise? What? I thought that was the positive attention my children need?!
  • How are my children ever going to learn if I don’t do these things?

Take a look at my posts ‘why I often avoid praise‘ and ‘why offering advice is not always the best solution‘.

Five, let your child know this is coming to an end

“Thank you for letting me be with you. I really enjoyed [insert a meaningful observation if you have a genuine one]. I’m going to do X now”

If your child wants to keep spending time with you, they’re welcome to and they need to know that you are going to be engaged in something else why they are there.

This is also a perfect opportunity to name and acknowledge their feelings. “You really enjoyed spending that time with me and now I have to leave. That’s so upsetting.”

You can also tell them when the next opportunity for more of the same is while acknowledging that that is not as good as having it right now. “We can spend more time together when I’ve done X or at 3pm, and I know that’s not the same as doing it right now.”

Reflective Parenting

  • What comes up for you as you read this?
  • What bits seem easy?
  • Which ones seem hard?
  • Which expectations do you struggle to let go of?
  • What behaviour brings out feelings in you that are too strong to avoid criticism, advice or praise?
  • How do you feel about avoiding each of criticism, advice and praise?
  • What would you like to take from reading this?