Some of my favorite memories of spending time with my boys when they were little include flying kites in the park, cuddling on the couch with a stack of books, going fishing as a family, Saturday afternoons at the beach, jumping in raked piles of leaves, building snowmen…the list goes on. But, the main thing is, I loved spending time with them.
1. T-I-M-E While adding pictures to my son’s scrapbook, I found this quote—To a child, love is spelled t-i-m-e. Parents can spend a fortune buying toys, video games, and expensive gadgets for their children, but the best gift they can give is their time. Here are a few ways parents can spend time with their kids: • Have a family game night • Allow your child to help you cook or bake without worrying about the mess—those can be cleaned up. • Give your child a camera, take a walk around the neighborhood and allow him to take photos. You may be surprised by his perspective. • Go to the library, choose books he likes, cuddle together and read those stories.
2. Listen Whether your child is 2 or 22, listening to what she has to say lets her know you feel her words are important and you value her input. If she comes to you with a problem, make time to listen without distractions—turn off the TV, shut down the computer, let the answering machine take those calls. Give her your full attention, maintain eye contact, and hold back negative tones and harsh words. Ask her opinion about how she would handle the situation, and then give her suggestions to make positive choices. Ask open-ended questions—those that require more than a yes or no answer. Spend time each day talking about your child’s day and getting to know what is going on in her life.
3. Get Involved Whether it’s volunteering at his school, participating in scouting activities, cheering him on at sporting events, hosting a holiday classroom party, or baking cookies for that youth bake sale, get involved in your child’s life, his activities, and his friendships. Children need to know their parents care about their interests. The best way to show you care is by showing up!
4. Set Boundaries Despite what they may say, children want boundaries and rules. They need to know you love them enough to set limits. Provide your child with reasonable boundaries. Explain the positive and negative consequences of those boundaries. And stay consistent. Consistency is the key in helping children to develop and grow into responsible adults.
5. Model behavior Children learn by example. What they see and hear impacts their development. If you show impatience, your children may become impatient with others. If you display racism and bigotry, your child may learn to dislike others who are different. If you criticize and put down your child, he may develop a low self-esteem or negative personality.
Model patience, kindness, love, respect, and generosity toward others, including your children and family members. By treating others the way you want to be treated, your child will learn to display those positive values, too.
Children learn on a daily basis. When you ask your child to do something, make sure she understands what you are saying and knows how to do the task.
Today’s parents are consumed with working full-time in order to provide for their children. After working all day, it’s so easy to collapse on the couch and watch TV or play video games. Children go from school to extracurricular activities to the homework table, and then to bed. With busy days and crazy schedules sometimes it’s hard to make quality time together.
Consider scheduling a family night at least one night a week where everyone comes together and connects without the pressures of fast-growing to-do lists. Studies have shown that kids who dine with their families on a regular basis are less prone to get involved in drugs, alcohol, and negative behaviors.
And remember, smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement go a long way in making a child feel loved. Love is more than a word expressed, it’s an action shown.
Lisa Jordan is a family child care provider in Warren. She received her early childhood education degree from Clarion University in May 2009.