Shifting Focus – 9 ways to stay more engaged with your kids

We’ve all been there. We just need to answer one more email, or look at one more document, or we want that moment of silence and relaxation on the couch before we tackle dinner and the daily chores. What we often forget, is that our children just spent the day away from us and they want our attention too.

In our family, we try to all take a mandatory timeout from electronics and spend some time focusing on each other, but even that can fail to happen if we aren’t vigilant. We found this blog, offering 9 tips for staying engaged with your kids and we use the regularly. We hope at least one of these tips will resonate with your family too.

1) Say yes way more often than you say no.

Lately, I’ve been trying to say yes as much as possible to these little requests I hear all day. This simple concept really does help me because I know there are times when I really, really must say no. And so when I do have to say no, I’m comforted by the fact that I did say yes the other 9 times.

Yes, I will play with you in your water table.
Yes, I can having a staring contest.
Yes, I want to see you do your new gymnastics trick.

2) Think of creative alternatives for the “no” moments.

If you are busy, maybe you can invite them into what you are doing or come up with a time later when you can intentionally spend time with them. A key example? Folding laundry and letting them help. Now, you are teaching them an important lesson and spending time with them.

3) Put down the phone and look them in the eyes.

This one convicts me. So often this multi-tasking busy mom wants to do three things at once.

And while I probably can physically text, make dinner, hold a child and hear about that big accomplishment at gymnastics class, I often ask myself, “How do I feel when someone else is multi-tasking and I really want their attention?” Not good – I feel hurt… and so do our children. We need to look in their eyes.

4) Teach kids to ask for your attention appropriately.

Yes, our kids need our full attention and love, but they do need to understand the difference between being there for them and being at their beck-and-call. They need to understand that we are busy as mothers and we do have things that need to be done.

If they need me while I am talking to someone, I ask them to gently place their hand on my arm or on my leg to signal that they need me. I respond by placing my hand on their hand to let them know I’ll be right there. Then, when I can finish my thought, I stop what I’m doing, look in their eyes and answer their request.

5) Soften your heart to the request.

There are many moments where I need to give myself a pep talk. Am I trying to do it all? Can that text wait? Can I look up that information later? The answer usually is yes, it can wait and that my job as a mother, teacher, nurturer is far more important.

I often think of these requests as dividends into the child’s “soul/worth” bank account. If I tell myself, “I have the incredible opportunity to add to their bank account right now!”

6) It only takes a few minutes.

These little requests for time often take (at the most) five minutes… and that focused attention on my child can pay in spades for the rest of our day in terms of overall behavior. For example, one thing I’ve noticed is that we all have an easier day when I can take the time to first give my focused attention to my preschooler before I work with the older kids.

7) Pay attention to the cues.

What are they really asking for? What is the real need that they’re trying to fulfill? And how can I best meet that need for them? Sometimes I’ve found that it’s not doing that thing they’re asking me to do. Sometimes I can see that I can best meet that need in another way. As I watch my kids get older, I realize the immeasurably great factor of relationship.
As my boys are starting to flex their independence muscles, I know that they crave my listening ear and time more than ever. And if I want to keep that door open, I need to constantly respond with open arms to their cues that they need me and are wanting to feel loved. I think the biggest trick in parenting is finding out what those cues are for each of our kids, and staying on top of those cues as our children mature through different stages.

There are helpful resources like The 5 Love Languages of Children and others that give us hints into how our kids are wired and how they may be asking to be loved.

However, I think time is the best teacher—time spent together, getting to know each other in every season of life. And speaking of time…

8) Regularly create open pockets of time in your schedule.

Of course this is harder than it sounds. There is just so much to do, and the more kids you have (I have four), the more there is to do! But what I’m suggesting (and constantly aiming to do myself) is that we deliberately leave margin in our family’s schedule so that it really is easier to say yes because we have less places to be.

That may mean saying no to a really great sports activity or outside learning opportunity, and I think that’s OK because we have to remember our ultimate goal: To connect deeply with our kids and to treasure the moments together. Period.

9) Remember that it is a privilege and this opportunity won’t always be there.

The window is short, mamas. It’s hard to believe, but these wonderful children we’re entrusted with won’t always be scurrying near us. And, right now, we have the opportunity in these everyday moments to give our children the solid foundation and confidence that they are loved and valued. That is something that will serve them the rest of their lives!!

Think about your parents… they no longer have you in their home, asking for advice. One day your children will be in the same situation, so spend the time teaching them now.

So let’s stand strong in this battle, fellow busy moms! Let’s pledge to re-focus our priorities and to discover the greater purposes of our mothering. I’ll be right there beside you, figuring it all out moment-by-moment too.