I read an article somewhere recently about the importance of giving your child 10 minutes of undivided attention each day. My first thought was that 10 minutes does’t seem like much! I’m at home with my two boys during the day (except when my older son is in preschool part-time), so that means that I must give them my undivided attention all day, every day, right? Upon closer examination. this could not be further from the truth.
Here’s a peek into my day and you will see how my attention becomes diverted from its intended course:
5:30 AM- My little babe wakes up for his morning feeding. I’m groggy from staying up late watching Netflix so I scroll Facebook to stay awake while nursing. Not off to a great start with the undivided attention! It’s early, though, so plenty of time to be a super attentive mom later.
7 AM- My preschooler comes into my room to wake me up, as I have fallen asleep again after feeding my little babe. Darn. I meant to get up after the early-morning feeding to exercise and throw in a load of laundry. No more late Netflix nights for me! My preschooler drags a huge tub of cars onto my bed and starts jumping up and down. “Will you play with me?” I yawn and tell him yes, but I need to get coffee first. I wander off to make coffee. Strike two with the undivided attention!
7:30 AM- Caffeine is kicking in and I make breakfast for my older son. He asks to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood while he is eating. I know I should turn off the TV and sit down with him at the table to talk about his upcoming day, but I keep thinking about the overflowing laundry that I should tackle and the dishes I need to put away. My phone buzzes. Could that be an email indicating my zulily package is on the way?? Attention derailed yet again.
I realized that by failing to fully connect with my boys, I was failing to be an effective parent. That was tough to admit, but I knew it was true. The increased tantrums and whining from my 3-year-old were proof that he was feeling disconnected from me. I made a commitment to spend a minimum of 10 uninterrupted, consecutive minutes playing with my older son each day while the baby was napping. The first day, my little babe went down for his nap and I saw my preschooler playing cars. This was my chance. I sat down on the floor with him and did my best Mater voice while he raced around with his Lighting McQueen car. He had a huge smile on his face and I forgot about my messy kitchen and unwashed towels.
To clarify, I am in no way saying that you should only spend 10 minutes each day connecting with your children or that learning to play independently isn’t important. I’m simply advocating for making a more conscious effort to engage and connect with them one-on-one daily. In our house, that could mean sitting down on the floor to play cars, reading a few favorite books together, or simply talking about the events of the day while tucking him into bed. Most of the time I let my son take the lead as I participate in the activity of his choosing, within reason. I’ve noticed my preschooler often seems more content and less prone to tantrums when I ensure that we have some distraction-free playtime each day.
While it’s true that our days become hectic with preschool, play dates, music class, messy kitchens, t-ball, strange objects found in the dryer, lost hot wheels cars, and potty accidents, I know that giving my preschooler (and my younger son as he grows) at least 10 minutes of my undivided attention each day will help us reconnect and form a closer relationship.