My friend, Nichole, and her husband both work full-time. Their 2-year-old daughter spends the day with a childcare provider who has cared for her during work days since she was 6 weeks old. Nichole's husband picks up their daughter from the childcare center.
Oftentimes, Nichole comes home after a 45-minute commute tired, wanting to relax and spend time playing happily with her daughter.
When her daughter was younger, Nichole would breastfeed to reconnect in the evenings. As her daughter grew into a toddler and weaned, the challenge of creating a peaceful evening has mounted.
Her daughter, hungry for her mother's attention, seems to push the limits constantly, often bringing home acting-out behaviors she has learned from older children at daycare.
While Nichole believes that discipline is important, she doesn't want to ruin everything so she tends to discipline inconsistently, choosing not to discipline when it appears her child is starting to tantrum.
Discipline is an important part of parenting, according to the Attached at the Heart Parenting Education Program. A key part of discipline is that it is focused on teaching the child, not by reacting to the child's behavior, but by proactively meeting the child's needs.
Reconnecting after being apart, whether for an hour or during the workday, is essential for families. Children may act out if they feel they aren't receiving enough undivided attention from their parents.
To help ease the transition, include some of these simple activities into your transition times to fill your child with the loving attention they need and help them go more calmly into the next phase of the day:
- Give a hug - Don't underestimate the power of nurturing touch in changing attitudes, your child's and yours.
- Involve your child in setting rules - Children are generally more enthusiastic about following rules that they've had a part in setting.
- Include your child in your chores - Your child will feel empowered when you ask him for help instead of lecturing or scolding. Instead of getting angry that there are toys all over the floor of the family room, ask your child to help you clean them up.
- Regularly schedule special time with your child - Set aside some one-on-one time together with each of your children. Try 10-15 minutes a day and then build up. You could play a board game, play hide-and-seek, draw a picture together, turn on music and dance together, etc. Actually putting this one-on-one time in your calendar means you're making it a priority even when an evening is hectic.
- Take time to listen and share - Ask your child to share her happiest and saddest moments of the day. Perhaps you do this during your special time together, at bedtime, or some other set time every evening. Listen without trying to solve your child's problems, and then take your turn to tell your own happy and sad moments.
- Write a note to your child - Put a handwritten note in your child's lunch box, on his pillow, or tape it to the bathroom mirror. The notes, like hugs, give your child a boost during the day.
- Take advantage of errands - Whether you're going grocery shopping, to the bank, or dropping off mail at the post office, the drive time during these errands provides additional one-on-one time for your child. If you have several children, have them take turns. Take this time to listen to whatever your child wants to talk about, and share special stories from your life such as when you were younger.
By taking the time to reconnect with our children, we are not only fulfilling their child's needs but also giving ourselves exactly what we need: children who feel right with themselves and with their families, and who are less likely to act out.
If a child does have a tantrum or otherwise acts out, it's important to remember that this is something all children (and adults) do sometimes. What they need most from us is sensitive responsiveness and guidance on their behavior from a place of empathy.
In what ways do you reconnect with your child after time away?