Being 100% There for Our Children: Being Attentive to Needs Promptly Pays Off
by Beverley Paine, Nov 2013
One of the things I've discovered about the unschooling lifestyle is that no matter how much it looks unstructured it really isn't! Some of us are more spontaneous than others but we find that to do all the things we want to do - and are lives tend to be led by that - we need an underlying structure to support that level of activity. It's just that this structure doesn't look anything like the structure used by the majority of people in their lives!
There are a heap of things us parents have to do every day. These provide a framework for the structure and routine of our days and weeks. Including our children while we do these things adds extra time but is essential - we are, after all, talking about the most important things humans have to do - the provision of clean nutritious food, water, safe and appropriate shelter, companionship and love. These chores provide the bulk of the natural learning curriculum!
The biggest parenting lesson I learned arrived when my eldest was six, her brothers four and just born. The house was a mess of toys and stuff, the four and six year old bickering and clamouring for my attention. Of course, I was preoccupied! Definitely no time for me with a bubs on the breast and a house to maintain... One day, after a particularly nasty fight in the play room, I sat down and played with the children (bubs on breast, I think he lived there for years). Really played with them. It was so hard to pretend to be a character in their game of dolls. I was out of practice. But they didn't want me to pretend to play while I actually tidied the toys around where I sat. They wanted me to be in the game with them, give them my total attention and, because bubs needs were already met, I could actually do that. About twenty minutes later I noticed they weren't really playing with me any more, I'd slipped into the background, so I got up and left them to it. They played for another hour or so without yelling for me or needing me at all.
Next time I heard them getting fractious, I took notice of what was going on, intervened, attended to the need being expressed promptly. As I got practiced at this something awesome happened. At first it felt like I was running around after them a lot more, but because I was prompt and sometimes jumping in ahead of their clamouring for attention, meeting what I often guessed rather than knew was their need, they grew to once again trust that I really was there, looking after them, helping them, guiding them, etc the way I did when they were tiny babies, the way I was their younger brother. And I felt less nagged and consequently less frustrated by this aspect of being a parent.
As our children grow into toddlerhood we assume that they can get by without our help and intervention - we force independence on them - because we're busy and we really do enjoy those increasing moments of time we miss from before they were born. I honestly think we start grabbing them too soon and we break that trust we were careful to nurture when they were babies. Hence the urgent clamouring tone to their requests for our attention when they are toddlers and beyond!
For every minute of undivided attention - actually really truly focusing on the child's needs, tuning in when listening, not thinking about what we want and need from this moment, but what the child is expressing and needs - pays us back tenfold. I got more time to myself because I was 100% there for my children.
The only time I needed 100% time for me was when I was writing creatively - my brain goes somewhere else when that is happening. I chose not to do that while my children were very young, knowing there would be time later. When my youngest was six I started writing a novel - but before then I was producing a homeschooling newsletter which they helped illustrate and put into envelopes.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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