There’s a new trend in parents’ conversations which has come into fashion in recent years. It seeps through the cracks of parents’ resilience to deal with their daily time pressures and children’s fundamental need for attention. It can become their ‘modus operandi’ in response to all requests for attention by their children. It’s the preface ‘just-a-minute’ and I’ll be with you……
The mammalian brain is a finely-tuned, habit-forming instrument. If you give it enough stimulus in one direction, it will happily create neural pathways to support that behaviour or response. This frees it up to create more neural pathways and build complexity. Young children are naturally primed for developing neural complexity. This means that children learn from stimuli that is repetitive, like language and how parents behave/talk with them.
When a child hears the phrase over and over again, ‘I’ll be with you in just-a-minute’ it’s possible and often likely that the child will interpret this in the negative and eventually expect this ‘semi’ rejection. How often does your child say: “You’re always on your phone, you never have time for me.” For most children they become resilient to parents’ attitudes and grow up ‘in spite’ of whatever conditions are not optimum. This forces the child to adapt (and adaptation os a good thing) as well but it can be at the expense of harbouring negative beliefs, like ‘nobody’s listening to me, nobody cares, I’m not important’.
One of the fundamental reasons for children reaching out for their peers and digital devices, is a feeling from the child of lack of a deeply satisfying connection with their parents. Connection is the context in which children mature and learn. Connection needs to be fulfilled and if its not supplied by parents it will be sought out and satiated elsewhere.
Yes we are busy, yes we have more to do than ever before, yes there are many things that have to be prioritised before our children, yes children can be excessively demanding.
The aim here is for parents to find a balance in their lives and prioritise connection time with their children. Daily, quality connection time goes a long way with children to soothe their emotional wounds from the day and feel ‘wanted’ ‘cared for’ and ‘important’. Changing attitudes and language will help a child to ‘feel’ their invitation to exist with a parent.
“It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it, that’s what gets results!”
By Laura Newman MSc