One of the things I hear parents talk about a lot is that children become really reliant on them to entertain them. Would you like your child to be more independent? Do you find your child is desperate for your attention? Do you feel guilty and frustrated by this? Read on for some great Parenting Tips to help overcome some of these challenges.
Ah… the entertainment trap. It is such an easy one for good parents to fall into, especially with the first born child. As parents we often feel we have to entertain our children all the time, assuming it’s our duty to occupy and engage them while they remain mostly passive, waiting for us to entertain them.
Give your child the gift of boredom: The good news is that Your kids don’t need to be entertained all the time. In fact, the most important thing you can do for your children is to give them free, unstructured and unplugged playtime and let them figure out what to do…using their own imagination! So, put up with some nagging and let your child enjoy the pleasures of being unscheduled – soon exciting things will happen.
Letting your children be bored can be terrifying the first time you do it, but it’s a lot easier than it seems. They’ll complain at first. Just wait a few minutes and they’ll find something to do on their own. That’s more than just okay, it’s an essential skill they’ll need for the rest of their lives.
Boredom is something we fear, but it’s a major part of our lives. And making our kids handle it head-on just might be one of the best things we can do for them.
Kids are more creative when they’re bored! When their minds are bored, they start to daydream, and that daydreaming sparks creative thought.
When our kids have nothing to do, they use their imaginations , the most important skill they can develop.
Boredom help finding meaning in life; When our kids are bored, it helps them find value in their own experiences and develop their own unique worldview, which makes them psychologically stronger for the future.
Only boring people get bored. That’s one of the most important life skills a child can learn. When we spend all of our time entertaining our children, they never have to learn how to entertain themselves.
Start early: Babies can be left alone for short periods of time on their back and soon they will start lifting their head, look around and start observing. Enjoy witnessing the physical, cognitive, creative and therapeutic benefits of your baby’s ‘play’ development.
Toddlers: Trust your toddler to be capable, active learners and allow them some time to just “be”, gaining independence and discovering their power in a safe environment.
Steps to freeing children from play and entertainment dependencies:
1. Learn a less intrusive way to play together
When adults play with children in the conventional sense, we almost always end up directing, dominating or at least altering the course of action in some way. We also tend to “hook” children on our involvement, which makes their transition to solo play a more difficult, almost foreign, concept.
Learning to be a play “supporter” rather than playmate takes practice, entails sensitive observation, open-mindedness, acceptance and, most of all, restraint (especially for those more inclined to do than watch). But once we work out how to do this, it is an incredibly relaxing, satisfying and zen-like experience.
Little-known fact: when we sit quietly and are passive, yet receptive and attentive to our children while they play, they feel just as nurtured by our companionship (if not more so) than they do when we are actively involved. It is a profoundly validating experience for children to be able to hold our interest without having to ask or work for it. Without a word of our praise, our appreciation is palpable.
Simply take cues from your child, trusting them to request your input, which they usually do by looking at us or expressing themselves verbally. Then we can respond by narrating or “sports casting” succinctly. Simply describe what you see, hear and feel, “I see that you tried to put the red block on the top, the green and blue ones fell down.”
What if my child asks for help? Never say no to a request for help, but ask lots of questions, assist as minimally as possible, encourage effort and patience. Usually this type of support is all the help children need.
2. Set limits with confidence, honesty and respect
If it were even possible to force independent play, that would defeat the entire purpose. Play isn’t play unless it’s a choice. But it IS up to us to quit our job as entertainment director, get our personal work done etc., and I certainly don’t see this as “tough love”. The child who whines, “play with me, when can you play” is only doing his job, seeking a straight answer from us about our limits. In return, our role is to:
Be clear — project confidence: “I am going to do some things in the kitchen.” (Remember, our children can’t possibly feel comfortable separating unless we are).
Offer a choice, if possible: “Would you like to help me with the vegetables or will you play in your room?”
Acknowledge feelings and desires: “Oh, I know you want me to keep playing with you. I see how upset you are. We can do that again after dinner. “
Develop routine times for independent play so that separation is easier for your child to accept.
3. Encourage play that is as mind-active as possible
Provide your child with a safe space and open-ended toys or objects to engage with. The more time children spend in passive-receptive mode, the less adept and comfortable they will be playing independently. So…
- Don’t use a screen as a ‘babysitter’ (all the time) – avoid screen use or keep it to a minimum.
- Offer simple toys and objects that make for more active, creative play (Lego, craft basket, books etc).
- You don’t need to offer specific play activities all the time, wait for children to invent their own.
- Have no fear of boredom.
- Let whatever children choose to do (or not do) be “enough”.
Remember these golden rules of parenting:
The more we do (or screens do) . . . . .
- the less our children do
- the more our child thinks she needs us (or toys)
- the less confident, capable, creative and fulfilled she feels