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TO THE POINT: PAY ATTENTION
April 20, 2022
This is a topic a friend and I discussed about parenting and the challenges associated with it. We talked about mistakes we think we have already made or is in the process of making, and how to prevent it if possible....and she said she thinks good parenting boils down to these two words:
To care is to pay attention to your children’s needs. Paying attention includes being aware of others, on multiple levels....being close enough to ‘listen’ and ‘hear’ their hearts.
Paying attention is an active verb indicating purposeful intention.
• It is not helicopter parenting. • It is not being overprotective by keeping them safe all the time, and thus preventing them from gaining valuable experience. • It is not just surviving every day.
It means you are ‘there’, not just physically present but also emotionally attuned so you can pick up where they are in their journey of life, and what their real needs are.
With young ones, it seems to be easier to pay attention, as they are constantly around, and making their needs vocal....when they are hungry, they let us know, when they are uncomfortable they will complain. Little ones have a lot of physical needs to care for, which makes it physically demanding, but in a way they are much easier to pay attention to than older children, since they demand attention – usually ‘now’!
With older children we need to pay attention on other levels; we need to be tuned in to their emotions, and listening to their hearts! And that is much more difficult than just physical needs. This requires being available for them, spending time with them, waiting for those ‘windows of opportunity’ when they actually want to chat about something.
I find that older children actually require more emotional energy than when they were younger, and the issues to think about and help with are way more complex than with little ones. They don’t demand attention now like when they were little...
But even when they are older, we can still be intentional in our parenting efforts. We can pay attention to them – look, listen closely and hear their needs. We owe them our parenting energy as they will be grateful for it in years to come, even when they don’t seem to appreciate our efforts now. As Gregg Harris from Raising Kids to Do Hard Things states: They may not like what I tell them now, but they most probably will do so when they are 30!
The challenge with paying attention is that it requires energyand time – both of which we as parents so often feel lacking in our lives. The season we have with children in our homes is a full one, and by adding home education to the equation, it often feels as if our days overflow. We need to remember that this privilege of having children in our homes is temporary, so we can (and should) give our time and energy now.
After all, there is only now to give our TIME and ENERGY to.
Time because we need to be around our children often enough so we can pay attention to what they are busy with in their lives, so we can know what is going on in their lives.
Energy because we need to figure out what their real needs are, to help them grow up healthy – on different levels including physical, emotional, social and spiritual.
Children may verbalise wants, and this can include all sorts of things, but it is often not what they really need. We need to allow ourselves to think deeper and sense what they really ask. It also requires us to be aware of issues, trends and situations they face in their daily lives. Again this is easier with young children. Usually the situations young children face are small issues in the bigger scheme of life, compared to issues older children are facing in today’s world.
Older children (or rather Young Adults) have struggles with friends, and family, and all sorts of relationships they are involved in. They have to enter the world of tough decision making, when navigating career choices or just thinking about the serious business of: What do you want to do with your life? (Young children never even had that thought!) They usually have a higher academic load, more time needed for sports or their hobbies if done seriously, some even have real businesses they manage. However, they are usually still part of the household, and so we can still pay attention and support their needs.
Our involvement in our children’s lives does not imply that our children cannot have a life of their own – of course they do, and they should have a life apart! – but are you paying attention to your child’s health? Are they healthy and growing physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually? Or are they just growing up?
Let us give time and energy to our children now, while they need us, while they are near enough to us, for us to be able to pay attention. Let us not be so busy with ‘our things’ – whether hobbies, friends or business/ministry – that we miss our children’s hearts. Let us choose to be alert, be there, be available – paying attention!
“Sometimes the greatest barrier to one’s destination is the journey itself.”
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