Parents: Think You Know What Your Kid Sees? Think Again.

Children model and copy the behaviour of their friends, parents and family members. But sometimes we are too busy to slow ourselves down and think: “What am I communicating here?”

Perhaps we allow ourselves too often the get-out clause of “They didn’t notice”, or “Oh they are too busy to see”, or even try and believe “It doesn’t matter; they’re too young to realise”.

“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” Catherine M. Wallace

We Get Busy

I am guilty of forgetting that my children see far more of my actions, expressions and language than I realise. Yes, I have been on the iPhone while my daughter was talking about her friends and her day at school. Yes, I’ve checked my phone when it went bing halfway through a bedtime story. And yes, I’ve also not paid enough attention to something my son wanted desperately to show me.

Becoming Aware

It took one very brief moment with my son to fully appreciate the depth with which our children are capturing the ‘data’ they receive from our voice tone, body positioning, language use; even down to the slightest of micro-muscle movements. Therefore I wanted to write this post as much as a reminder to myself as well as something of interest for other parents, guardians or carers to consider. I need to remind myself how true it is that our children notice every little thing we do.

I saw how fast his eyes were flicking around my face ravenous for any nuance or signal to indicate a solution

Sitting at the kitchen table, my son and I were working through some math homework. I wouldn’t say there wasn’t anything difficult about the homework nonetheless occasionally he was asking me what the answer was and I’d guide him back to the method he’d used successfully in the past.

 

There’s a lot in the detail

What caught my attention was when he said what he thought might be the answer. He’d say an answer and look at me for some indication whether he was right or wrong. My usual reaction was to say to him to work it out as best he could but on one occasion I didn’t.

When he next asked me, I remained as poker faced as I possible could; not leaking any expression or movement from either my face or body posture. What I noticed was incredible and wondrous.

I saw how fast his eyes were flicking around my face ravenous for any nuance or signal to indicate a solution. I could see his eyes seeking any muscle movement from my eyes, mouth, basically anything he could read. It was fascinating to see what he was trying to do.

It was at that point I fully recognised and appreciated how much children are scanning. No matter how little it may seem to us, it can be massive to them.

Last thoughts

When I do stop and get fully engrossed in what they are doing. I treasure that moment where I’m fully present and involve myself at their level. No, I don’t get it right all the time, but, for me, that’s good enough.


 

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