One of the most important skills we teach in Whanau Marama Parenting is the skill of being able to stop what we are doing, turn towards our child or teen and then and focus 100% on what they are either asking us, showing us or telling us. This could be as simple as them asking us if they can open the new cereal box, showing us something their friend has given them or telling us what happened at school. Focusing on them may only take us a few seconds or a few minutes. Because of the 100% focus, the quality of attention during these seconds or minutes is extremely high and allows our child or teen to feel they are important and valued in our eyes and that we want to hear what they want to communicate with us.
For some of us when we realize the value of consistently giving this short amount of attention soon discover moving from focusing on making the lunches to briefly turning and giving our child or teen our attention is relatively easy to learn to do. At the start it maybe just a question of remembering to do it if it is new to us.
However, it may come as a surprise for us, if we fit into the above category, that some parents find this skill quite difficult to learn and it has nothing to do with them not wanting to give their children attention. Many wonderful parents can become so absorbed with what they are doing that when their child or teen approaches them, they are in that moment, totally unaware that their child is even standing there or that a voice is saying something to them.
My children’s dad was like that. When our children were little they would frequently try and get their dad’s attention when he was busy reading or doing something else. I used to count the number of times they would say “Dad, Dad, Dad”, each time getting louder and louder and more in his face. Usually it was around the seven times mark before he was able to successfully draw himself away from what he was doing to focus on them for a few minutes. I must admit it was all very frustrating for me to witness but more so for our children.
Now that our children are parents themselves I have been very interested to note that one of them also seems to have the same difficulty, perhaps even in a greater measure than his dad. I now realize this is a certain characteristic that many of us have and may have inherited from out forbearers. In the world of personality theories, it tends to be called the trait of adaptability.
Some of us can adapt or transition from one thing to another quite quickly, some take more time. The trait theory tells us that it is neither good nor bad to be able to quickly transition or slowly transition; both have their pluses and minuses. To be at one end of the trait line or the other, or in fact anywhere in the middle, all have their positive characteristics and their more negative characteristics.
My husband, for example, can fully focus on reading a book even if all the grandchildren are playing in the room, the television is on and adults are talking close by. But for me any noise or activity and also trying to concentrate on reading I may as well forget about it. However, I also find it easy to stop, turn, and focus on anyone one when they start talking to me.
So for those parents who seem to be good at shutting out all distractions and are able to concentrate deeply on what they are doing, the question is what can they do when their child or teen is just trying to ask them a quick question or show them something that will only take a few seconds? This is a question for which I don’t fully know the answer.
It would seem to me that for them it would take a good deal of effort to learn the skill of ‘Stopping, turning and focusing’ but it must be able to be done as most parents while attending our courses tell us they have learnt to consistently practice this skill at home with their family and clearly are able explain the positive difference it has made between themselves and the child or teen.
I would love to hear your experience and any of your thoughts in answer to the above question.