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Toddler Talk: Communicating Full Attention

As a stay-at-home mom, I recognize the challenge of communicating complete interest and attention to my son throughout the day. What with the errands, chores, meals and scheduled activities, it can be difficult to express how much I truly do care about what my son wants to show me, tell me and ask me.

As always, I turn to play therapy principles to offer insight into my parenting, and once again it does not disappoint. As children grow, their most significant relationships are with their parents. This relationship teaches them about the world, healthy interaction, reciprocal expression of feelings, and more. Further, young kids need to know that they are important and valued, and that what matters to them matters to someone else. This occurs during child-parent play times, making it a crucial item on the weekly agenda!

So, how do I make sure that I communicate and demonstrate those values consistently to my son? Here are two simple play therapy based tips that are extremely effective, from the training by Landreth & Bratton:

Toes Follow Your Nose

When only our eyes or head are engaged in a moment with our child, and the rest of our body is facing a different direction, we are communicating that our focus is elsewhere. During play times, as your child moves about the room or play area, it is important to make sure that you don’t just turn your head to watch, but your whole body. A good rule of thumb is that wherever your nose is pointing, your toes need to shift to the same direction, so that your “toes follow your nose.” This will clearly communicate through your body language that your child is the most important thing and worthy of your full attention. After all, research out of UCLA by Albert Mehrabian reports that upwards of 93% of communication is nonverbal.

30 Second Burst of Attention

Most often it is when we are busy on the phone, having a conversation or writing bills that our children need our attention most urgently. They will call for us or bother us incessantly until we finally stop our activity long enough to appease them, which usually only takes eight seconds! The 30 second technique helps us train ourselves to offer our children 30 seconds of our time, no matter what we are doing. This communicates that they are worthy of our time and attention, and doesn’t cost us more than half of a minute. When the 30 seconds are up, even though it usually takes far less than that, let them know that you must finish what you were doing. This teaches boundaries and expectations, as well as how important they are to you.

It is really quite simple to communicate full and undivided attention to your kids once you know a few tips and techniques. These two can be go-to tools in your parenting tool box to show your child how much he matters to you!

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