Being a dad can feel like a full-time job, one without holiday or sick days, especially if you also have a demanding career. After a particularly tough day at work, the last thing you want to do is listen to a chattering toddler or play hide and seek for the tenth time in a week.
However, taking a few minutes to be truly present for your child can make a world of differ-ence to their self-esteem and overall development. Furthermore, a new book suggests that your children know when they are being fobbed off. If this becomes a pattern, they may begin to feel they are less important to you than all those dratted chores you have to get through before bedtime.
Author Elizabeth Pantley suggests that children are much more adept at reading our emotions than we think. In her new book, Hidden Messages: What Our Words and Actions Are Really Telling our Children, she claims that children are extremely skilled at reading our body language and tone of voice. Children also know when they are being ignored or dismissed.
She suggests showing your child that they are a priority by putting aside time in your day to give them your undivided attention. No matter how urgent other mundane tasks may seem, your children are most worthy of your time and energy.
Margaret Paul, a writer and mother, suggests that parents’ failure to do so can lead to atten-tion-seeking behaviour such as nagging, refusing to listen, fighting with their siblings, or deliberately doing things that irritate you.
According to Paul,
for many children, even negative attention feels better than no attention. This may create a very negative vicious circle, in that the more they act out, the less you feel like being with them, but the less you are with them in a loving and attentive way, the more they may act out.
Interestingly, both authors believe that giving your child a small amount of quality time each day, during which you turn off your phone or refuse to be sidelined by distractions, may actually result in less of a drain on your time and energy.
You'll find that it doesn't take hours to fill a child's need for attention.
Sometimes fifteen minutes will fill your child's cup - and then allow you to
tend to your daily rituals without that nagging sense of guilt, or that feeling
that something important is missing
Alternatively, if you really are pushed for time, Pantley recommends trying to include your children in the chores by giving them a small role to play, such as folding the socks when you do the laundry or taking them bike riding instead of going to the gym on your own. Combining these activities offers one way of reconciling the battle of competing demands that many people feel as parents.
Many experts believe that games play a vital role in children’s development, teaching them a variety of cognitive and motor skills. With so much to gain from a little rough and tumble with your child, perhaps next time you will think twice before making your excuses. The chores can wait!