People often ask me how to teach their children to calm themselves, be better listeners, sleep better and pay attention. They want to know programs, books, websites and apps that I recommend. Often they are surprised to hear my first recommendation: be truly present with your child! Give your child the greatest human gift, your attention and full presence. Yes, I know it is hard, we are parents and multitasking is the name of the game. Now is never the right time. But to your child present moment is the only time that matters. Kids are egocentric and for them now not later is important. So the next time your child needs you and you are tempted to just send this text or finish cleaning dishes try giving your child your full attention and presence. Trust me that text and those dishes won't go anywhere, but your child will feel appreciated and become a better listener.
Here are 7 steps in how to become more present with your child:
1. Stop what you are doing- Really just stop. Stall and lower yourself to your child's level, engage in eye contact and get ready to listen.
2. Listen, really listen- Don't assume you know what your child is going to tell you. Do not finish their sentence. Listen to what they have to say.
3. Tell them what you think you heard them say and verify that with them- It sounds like..... It seems to me..... You are telling me...Is that right? Am I on a right track? Did I understand that right?
4. Check with yourself-Be aware of what is happening inside your head and body while you are listening to your child. Are you still stuck on that text or think about what you will need to do in few minutes? Bring yourself to the present moment and listen.
5. Special, undivided time-Make a bedtime, dinnertime or have another special time during the day when you give your child the undivided attention. Leave the cell phone in another room. It is you and your child.
6. Be a model-If you are upset with your child, take a few deep breaths, and tell them you are upset with them. Do not yell that you are upset. The way we as parents deal with unpleasant emotions is how our children will learn to deal with them. They do as we do not as we tell them to do.
7. Enjoy your children-Join them in play, read with or beside them, take walks, tell jokes, watch clouds, dance, jump in puddles, etc. Your children will be happier and calmer and so will you!