Perhaps this status symbol is trickling down to our children. It seems that there are more and more classes and events for kids. Weekends, which were once down time, are now just a series of activities – off to the pool or sport ball, birthday party, hockey game, skating session or lesson.
Many parents tell us that they feel frazzled, spending so much time doing things with their kids that there isn’t time to get everything else done.
Today’s question is:
Is it your job to entertain your child?
The answer is: NO.
Does that mean we just hand off the iPad, turn on the TV or the computer and let technology entertain our kids? Again – NO.
All children 2 and over need to learn independent play.
Do you need to be watching them if they are toddlers or preschoolers? Yes.
Do you need to be playing with them or showing them how to use a toy? Not all the time. It is perfectly acceptable and in fact, responsible to teach our kids how to entertain themselves without technology.
If your child is older, and still seems to need you every moment of the day, it is never too late to teach that independence. Be aware that as you distance yourself from your child, there may be an increase in attention-getting misbehaviours to bring you right back.
That’s why it can help to teach independent play in steps – setting everyone up for success. Start with small increments of time (really small- something you know that they can handle) – providing something for your child to do while you chop veggies or fold laundry. Return to the child before she fusses and notice, “I knew that you could entertain yourself – you are capable.”Gradually increase the duration of time when you are not entertaining your little-one. Ideally, the child will begin to choose his own entertainment.
If you’ve got older children, set aside some non-technology time and get your kids to make a list of what they can do that isn’t electronic. This is a great thing to do with Spring Break around the corner.
This week: Make time to sit and read a book or the newspaper in a space in your home. You can invite your kids to join you or just be present around them. There is a lot of value of just being present with your kids rather than doing things with them.
PS. Being present with your kids does not mean being on technology around them. Screens are so distracting that we can easily miss something we need to attend to as parents when we ‘just check the phone for a second.’