For many, December is a time of reflection and planning for the year ahead. I invite you to set aside a few moments to reflect on your most memorable interactions with your children this past year. Next, celebrate yourself for your role in creating those memories.
It may have been a moment of accomplishment when your young child spoke her first phrase, or a time you offered your undivided attention during bathtime, or perhaps she was able to clearly express her big feelings, and you were there to hear and acknowledge her words.
As parents, it is so easy for us to get swept away by our daily to do lists. And let’s be honest, the majority of those things on the list are likely for the benefit of our children. Yet when we stop doing for them and instead get present with them, this is when we more deeply connect and earn their trust and permission.
This past year, it was a few shared moments with my 3 year old nephew on the beach that were among my most memorable. We had been walking on the boardwalk with his parents when he suddenly ran onto the beach, kicking up huge amounts of sand with each step. The beach was not crowded, but there were people reclining ahead. I considered correcting him but decided instead to join him, imitating his steps, kicking up my own sand. Judging by his smile, he was thrilled to see me imitating him. At that moment I switched up the step to a gentle and deliberate lunge. He instantly copied me, allowing me to take the lead for a moment. Then he jumped up on a log and so did I. He turned to look over his shoulder and smiled. This routine of copying each other went on for only a few more minutes, but it was rich with connection. Connection that existed because I chose to be playful, attend, imitate and take turns rather than correct and direct. I used the tools I knew would yield his interest and attention leaving him receptive to me as his model.
As the poet Rumi said, “Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there” These words inspire me to suspend my own judgement about a child’s rights or wrongs, and release my desire to correct and direct. Instead I ask myself what the child is feeling and needing in that moment and lean in. By just being present with them, we sweeten the connection, and organically increase the joy factor.
Connection, achieved through presence, attention, and turn taking allows children to maximally benefit from us as their speech and language models.
The video below is one of my favourite examples of how using these simple tools deepens connection. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
What strategies have you found that support deep connection with your little ones? Have you similarly noticed that by first establishing this type of connection, you receive their permission to take on the role of speech and language teacher?
It is my hope that you take some time to recall the moments worth celebrating. Interactions characterized by humour, play, eye contact, observing, waiting, listening, turn taking, imitating, delighting and awe.