It’s Sunday and the new work week is about to begin. Looking back on the last 7 days, how many times did you say to your child (or something to a similar effect), “I enjoy being with you” or “Hey, that was a lot of fun, let’s do that again together!” Big ups to those parents who did–keep up the great parenting! I’ll be honest, I don’t think I said anything like that at all to my kids last week. As parents we all get caught up in the whirlwind of busy days and crammed evenings that sometimes it’s easy to forget to voice the joy we feel with our children to our children. For those of you also forgot like myself, let’s challenge ourselves this coming week! Better yet, turn this challenge into becoming part of our natural parenting practice.
Expressing the love and excitement you feel about your children doesn’t have to be over-the-top or sound cheesy. Just keep it matter-of-fact, in the moment, and genuine. It’s not about going out of our way to find opportunities to praise our children. On the contrary, it’s comes rather easy when you just play with them. Play with them? Yes, play with them! Spend time with your children following their lead (to the extent where safety isn’t jeopardized, of course). Let them dictate the natural evolution of play. For example, refrain from wanting to tell them that Firefighters don’t wear tutus if they choose to put one on you. Hold your tongue if your child tells you that the family cat is the daddy you have to be the baby when playing house. Cheerfully accept the 8th time of going up and down the escalators at the mall. The bottom line is…let them lead. When you acknowledge and show value to your child’s ideas for play, you are validating their creativity and engaging in play that they truly enjoy. It’s actually a gift for us parents when children invite us to play with them. A gift that they see us worthy of their heart’s imagination and that they want to share it with us. After play has ended, let them know that you enjoyed the time you spent together. Tell them, “Thank you for letting me play with you. Let’s do it again.” I mean, isn’t that what we are always drilling them on when in public, “What do you say to (fill in the blank)?” We should be modeling just that! Model to them that we appreciate them and love spending time with them.
Oh, Rachelle…but I don’t have time to play with my kid after a busy day. Reality check, we do. It’s a matter of making the time. We all have 1,440 minutes in each day. Do we dare stand in front our kids and say, “Sorry, I just can’t allocate 15-20 of my 1,440 minutes to play with you”? Even if you truly can’t exhaust the effort to physically play with your child (which I do understand, parenting wears out every muscle in my body, too), surely we can share kind words with them in everyday moments. As we are riding in the car to buy groceries, we can take 20 seconds to tell them, “I’m glad you’re here with me. I get to go shopping with you!” Or, as we are sitting down sipping coffee, “I see you over my warm cup, can you seem winking at you?” It’s these small moments throughout the day that reinforces our love and attention to our children and we make sure they know it.
So here is our (yours and mine!) challenge for the upcoming week: Play follow the leader with your child. Follow their imagination. Don’t hinder their creativity but instead provide support to enhance it without monopolizing the play. Do it for 15 minutes, non-stop. This may sound easy-peasy but if you’re used to “making all the decisions” it will be a true challenge to relinquish the lead to your little one. It will be hard and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable if you’re only used to “caring” for your child and not “playing with” your child. Parenting is hard, challenge accepted!
The Parenting Hub would love to hear our your “Follow the Leader” playdate turned out. Please send your stories to: firstname.lastname@example.org