Presence. Your presence. It's the greatest gift you can give your child. Most parents spend a lifetime managing their children, scheduling events, grooming, and educating them, yet few actually enter their child's heart. Being fully present is the key to entering your child's heart.
So what does being fully present mean? It means that we stop the constant chatter in our minds that keeps us mulling over past events and scheduling, fearing and anticipating future events. It means that we stop judging our child's behavior and trying to shape him into who we think he should be, and become curious about who his is, right here and now, in this moment. It means we pay attention to how we feel on the inside and allow ourselves to feel that deep connection with our child. Instead of unconsciously pushing his little arms and legs into his sleeper, while reviewing the day's schedule in our minds, we bring our love and attention to the little person in front of us, talk to him, fill him with love, and treat him with the utmost respect.
It's important to maintain this habit of being present and connecting with our children as they grow older. Instead of rushing by them in the hallway, take a moment to stop, look them lovingly in the eyes and acknowledge their presence.
It's easy to get so busy managing our child that we forget to treat her like a real person. Children long to be treated with the same kind of love and respect we show our friends. At a seminar I gave on "Communicating with Children," a woman shared the following story with me: *** One day as I was bustling about doing my housework, the doorbell rang. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the front door to see my four-year-old son standing there. "Jonathon, get in here!" I said automatically. But Jonathon acted like he had not heard me and said, "Hello, Ruth! How are you? I've come for tea." "Jonathon," I started to protest and he interrupted me again. "I've come for tea, Ruth," he repeated insistently.
Suddenly it was like I was hit with a lightening bolt and I understood what he was up to. He just wanted to be treated like one of my friends and this was his way of telling me that. So I changed my tune and invited him in respectfully. The two of us went up to the kitchen, beloved ourselves some tea (although I do believe he opted for hot chocolate) and had a short little chat – person to person, friend to friend. The chat did not take very long, but the lesson he taught me has lasted a lifetime. That was near 15 years ago, and even today we are more than mother and son – we're good friends, too. " Quality time with our child means being present in body mind and spirit and connecting with that child in the things we do with him. It will not take any longer to do those things. In fact, we can save ourselves and our children a lot of irritation and frustration when we take advantage of every day moments to deepen our bond together.
How much time do you spend trying to get your child to listen? "How do I get my child to listen to me?" is the theme song for so many an exasperated parents. The truth of the matter is that the only real authority you have in your child's life is that which she is willing to give you. That willingness is based on her attachment and connection to you. Building that attachment means being consciously present with your child in the many things that you do.
Instead of yelling from the next room and telling your child to stop running … and then yelling again … and again … while your child continues to run and ignore, try connecting with your child physically and lovingly. Literally stop her in her tracks, kneel down to her level, and let her know she can run outside or play quietly in. Connect with her and wait until she makes her decision and then lovingly escort her outdoors or to a quiet activity indoors.
If we think about it, it is our own irritability and frustration that weakens our attachment with our child and encourages her to tune us out. That irritability, impatience and frustration are a result of our own resistance to this moment. It is because we are not present, and our irritability and resistance to the moment keeps us frustrated and disconnected from our child. We try to change our child's behavior; thinking then our irritability will go away. However, our children simply reflect our irritability or ignore it in self defense and we end up more frustrated than before!
The key is to remind ourselves we have the power to shift our own inner environment by becoming fully conscious of how we are feeling right now. As Ekhardt Tolle so aptly points out in his marvelous book, The Power of Now , our power lies only in this moment. We choose how to respond to every situation we encounter. Most of us unconsciously resist the present moment in hopes of getting on to something better.
"But what if the current moment is filled with the piercing wails of a child screaming in my ear?" you ask. As nerve racking as that can be, it is possible to remain calm on the inside and simply send love. Children feel our vibration more than they hear our words or threats. So focus on remaining calm and present. Breathe deeply and notice how long it takes for you to feel calmer. The Heartmath Solution studies show that breathing as if through the heart significantly calms the entire system. Your attention to your own inner world will bring you into the moment and help you to connect with and calm your child.
It is easy to get so lost in the roles, rules and obligations of parenthood that we forget to really enjoy our children. We get so busy instructing them in proper manners, and in trying to manage their behavior, that we miss out on really connecting with them.
Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that our job was to control our children. So instead of taking the time to just be with them, to really getting to know who they are and what makes them tick, we embarked on a crusade to manage their behavior and shape them into who we think they should be. (Or maybe who we think we should have been?)
One of the greatest insights that I have ever received came from a participant in my 9 Ways to Bring Out the Best in You & Your Child parenting course. I will leave it with you now as I believe that it reveals the key to entering your child's heart. She said, "I finally realized why I was having so much trouble with Jeremy … no strategies really seemed to work … you see, I thought that correcting was more important than connecting, but now I know – connecting is more important than correcting! "