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Undivided Attention

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January 14, 2015 by Arwen McGilvra

A mother spending face time with her daughter.

By Arwen McGilvra-

I hope you had the chance to read these two blog posts If you feed it… and the recommended reading Four Major Causes of Misbehavior. Both talk about attention seeking misbehavior.

Not giving into that behavior when it happens is only half of the solution. Prevention of the attention seeking behavior is the second part of the solution.

I’ve struggled to write this post because it’s so simple and yet so hard at the same time. The key is to give your children plenty of…

Undivided Attention

I feel like shouting this from the rooftops, because this is so needed in this current age of distractions.

Consider this article from a pediatrician which appeared in the Washington Post.

Parents today are probably the most informed and involved generation in history. And, yet, in the company of their children, they often act as though they’d rather be someplace else. That’s what they’re saying when they break eye contact to glance at their push notifications or check Facebook when they think their child’s distracted. The parents are present, their attention is not. Read the full article.

And then there is this article from NPR on some recent research in parental use of mobile technology. For The Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone

In research for her book, Steiner-Adair interviewed 1,000 children between the ages of 4 and 18, asking them about their parents’ use of mobile devices. The language that came up over and over and over again, she says, was “sad, mad, angry and lonely.” One 4-year-old called his dad’s smartphone a “stupid phone.” Others recalled joyfully throwing their parent’s phone into the toilet, putting it in the oven or hiding it. Read the full article.

Parents, adults, teens, adolescents… we are all constantly distracted and children are suffering for it. Some studies have suggested that modern children only receive 3 1/2 mins of their parents undivided attention a day. Suggestions range from 10-20 mins a day, being the amount of undivided attention parents should be giving each child.

How to give undivided attention:

  1. Get down to your child’s level. Undivided attention is face-to-face. For infants this may mean holding them and looking into their face while talking to them (which also builds language skills.) If they’re small this may mean playing on the floor with them. It may mean participating in a hobby or craft together.
  2. Set a timer and put the phone/computer away during that time. Start with 5 mins. set the timer and let them see you put the phone away so they know that during this time your attention will be all theirs. And its okay if the timer goes off and you decide to play a little longer.
  3. Talk with them but don’t quiz. Spending time with your children while you are constantly asking questions, even learning type questions, can cause them to think they need to preform for you in order to get this one-on-one time. Instead let them guide the conversation and the play. It’s okay if its all imaginary talk.
  4. Do it together. Going to the park or library is not spending undivided attention on your child if you are sitting on a bench watching them play. (Same with watching a movie, or playing a video game. Those are not activities where your attention is solely on your child.) Instead go down the slide together, chase them around, let them make you dinner at the play kitchen while you sit at the uncomfortable child sized table waiting for your order. Whatever you decide to do you must do it together. This doesn’t just mean physical proximity, it means interaction where your attention is centered on your child and they know it.

Besides playing together we spend undivided attention with our goddaughter by having family style dinners where we talk, and laugh, and joke. She and I also brush our teeth together. When we go grocery shopping we play games, and joke and I’m often down at her eye level talking with her. I’m sure the other shopper think we’re crazy, but that doesn’t matter because when I’m focused on her SHE MATTERS.

What kind of creative ways do you spend undivided attention on your child? Let me know in the comment below.


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