Recently I was chatting with a friend about parenting, and off the top of her head she had a moment of inspiration. She said something without thinking twice that was so brilliant, I had to write it down straight away. I asked her for permission and then told myself I’d create a video and write an article based around her comment to share it with others. Watch the video above and read on to find out what my friend said and why it’s so valuable.
What Your Children Want More Than Anything Else
I don’t personally know your children, and of course every child has their own personality, needs and wants. But EVERY child wants this one thing from their parents. Here’s what my friend told me that day:
“A present mum is the best present.”
She said it so matter-of-factly but when you look into that statement on a deeper level you can start to see just how valuable it is. However I would adapt it a little to say:
“A present parent is the best present.”
Of course it doesn’t matter if you’re a mum or a dad; every child wants not just your attention, but your FULL presence. Get this right and you’re a huge step closer to being able to keep them safe online.
How Do You Become A Present Parent?
The beauty of this is that we can all do it – no exceptions. It doesn’t require money and you don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar. It doesn’t require years of training or special skills. It simply requires intention on your part along with a little bit of planning.
A present parent is a parent who is able to focus ALL of their attention on their child. It’s a parent who won’t allow themselves to be distracted by anything else when they’re with their child. This includes messages coming through on their phone, what’s on TV, what else they could or think they should be doing, another child etc. Given how busy most of us are these days and how little time we seem to have, this does take some effort and intention. But it CAN be done and the benefits are enormous.
The Benefits of a Present Parent
There are so many benefits to being a present parent for both you and your child. And you don’t even have to do it for long to start seeing these benefits. You can start with just five minutes a day and go from there.
Benefits for the Child
Your child is smart enough to know if they’re getting your full attention or not. They can see if you’re looking at them and listening to them properly, or if your mind is elsewhere. We all have lots of things running through our minds most (if not all) of the time, so it’s very ‘normal’ to have difficulty focusing 100% on any one thing at a time, even if it’s the thing (or in this case person) who is most important to you at that moment.
When your child can see that they have your full attention you are fulfilling one of their most important needs. Every child craves attention from their parents even if they’re not able to express that in words, and when they get the attention they need they are satisfied. They will start to realise they are valued, that their thoughts are feelings are worthy of being listened to, and how much they are cared for and loved. When you think of it like that, what more could a child want?
When your child knows they’re valued and loved at home, they are free to focus better at school and elsewhere. You may find their grades improve (if need be), they perform better at sport or at any other activities, and that they are just happier overall.
You’ll find that your child doesn’t even need a huge amount of your full attention to feel like a worthy and important member of your family. A small amount of present parenting is worth hours of half-listening time.
Benefits for the Present Parent
The benefits for you in giving the gift of present parenting are significant. Firstly, when your child knows they’re being given enough of your attention regardless of what they do, you may notice their general behaviour will improve. This is because they have no need to behave badly in order to get your attention.
Because they feel more valued and worthy, they may be more willing to contribute to doing jobs around the home to be a part of the family. I’m at the point now where my children help me clean the bathrooms, set the table, help cook dinner, and sometimes tidy up around the home without complaining about it – I think in a way they actually enjoy it! It makes them feel like they’re making a meaningful contribution to how our family functions – and they’re not doing it for pocket money or any other external reward.
When your child knows that you’re fully present with him you’ll probably find he’ll open up to you more. You’ll start to have really enjoyable conversations, and you’ll also have the ability to find out how he genuinely feels about all sorts of things. This is where his online safety comes in.
Most children (up to 90% according to the most common statistics) don’t tell their parents if they’re upset by something they’ve seen or done online. And it’s difficult to help your children through an issue if you don’t know it’s happening. By giving your child your full attention, she will soon realise you’re willing to listen to her properly without jumping to conclusions or judging her. For this reason she’ll be much more likely to confide in you, giving you the opportunity to get involved and help.
On a very basic level, present parenting allows you to get to know your child even better than you know him right now. You may be surprised by what comes out during these conversations when there are no barriers left between the two of you. It’s a beautiful thing.
A Present Parent Is The Best Present
There’s no doubt about it: your children may want toys, i-pads, computer games and any other gadgets they can get their hands on. Hopefully they want lots of books to read, and they may want to play sports or music. They’ll want to spend time with their friends and to watch TV. But what they want most of all is the undivided attention of their parents. They already know that a present parent is the best present of all, and hopefully now they can enjoy this gift and all the benefits it brings.