I’d almost slogged my way through this morning’s flurry of activity. I’d made breakfast and lunches and we were ready to leave for school. I asked the boys three times to put on their socks and shoes. PSA: mommy asking you to put on your socks and shoes can be really annoying when you are pretending to be dogs protecting the world from evil. I tripped over a Magnatile police station that was protecting the dogs from said “evil,” asked again for socks and shoes, and discovered that my oldest forgot to brush his teeth.
When we were finally in the car, it was my turn to exhale. Next on the agenda, the boys will ask me to put on an audiobook and then we go blissfully on our way. But before the routine request for a story, my youngest asked, “Mommy, why are you lazy?” As my coffee almost spewed from my lips, I collected myself to respond.
My gut reaction was “Lazy??? You have got to be kidding!!!!”
Instead, I considered more appropriate parental options.
Asking children to elaborate on something they’ve said is sure to provide an answer that can help you form your answer to a potentially tough question. I thought that might help shed some light on what he was getting at.
I proceeded pleasantly, “Do you know what lazy means?”
“You sleep a lot,” he answered. I giggled to myself and smiled. So maybe my son didn’t think I was a horrible mother after all!
Then my older son asked, “Can we listen to a story now?”
As they listened to “The Best Christmas Pagent Ever,” the deeper meaning of my son’s question became clear to me. He wanted me. He needed to connect with me more deeply. He wasn’t getting enough of me.
And, in his mind, I was spending my time doing ridiculous things like sleeping. He didn’t intend “lazy” as a criticism; it was just his observation that he wasn’t getting enough time with me.
Children Need Connection: Name It For Them
Children don’t come up to you and say “Mommy, I’m feeling disconnected from you today. You are my tether to love, my family, and safety in this world, but right now you feel too far away from me.”
And yet, they tell you in so many ways if you can hear them. Younger children may throw things or act out to get your attention. Tweens may become more withdrawn or sullen than usual. And teens, well, teens might display a need for connection in many ways: becoming more sullen, more withdrawn, spending less time at home, engaging in risky behaviors, and so many more.
So once you figure out that your child is wanting connection with you, name that for them. I try something like, “Hey, I’m wondering if you are angry or frustrated because you would really like to spend some time with just me?” Every time I ask that question, the response is yes. Moms have great instincts, so make sure to follow yours.
I think it’s also important to validate their feelings. So I’ll offer up something like “You know what? When I miss spending time with somebody, I start to feel angry or frustrated too! I think some special time with just you is exactly what I’ve been missing!”
As children mature, they may be less willing to admit that they want your attention. Trust me. Older children need your love to shine directly on them just as much as younger ones! The way you connect may be different, but the need for connection doesn’t change.
Think of it this way. Before riding a roller coaster, you test your lap bar. You push and pull and tug to make sure it holds. Well, tweens and teens do that too with parents and boundries. They push and pull at you and your boundaries, and they are hoping that you will not budge. They really want you to hold them safely and securely.
Give Children the Connection They Need
Children need connection “cups” filled on a regular basis. Daily is best. If you don’t have your own yet, there are great ideas for connecting out there! This list of 40 Ways to Connect with Your Child is filled with super simple and fun ideas of things you can do with your child! And here are my favorite Ten Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect with Your Child.
I’m Grateful I Had A Chance To Realize Our Disconnection
This is just one of the many things that I’m grateful to be learning from my son. If you can hear the call, children are there to pull us into love and connection. Our children see connection with us as both natural and necessary.
Later that day, after he told me that I slept a lot, I asked my son if he said that because he wanted me to spend time with him in the early mornings when he wakes up before me. He said, “Yes!” I was so grateful that I took used that opportunity to ask him more about what he meant. It definitely helped us figure out the meaning behind the behavior.
It’s not likely that I’ll always get up as early as he does, but we’ll keep up with our special time together. We both need it!
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