Parenting In Focus: The importance of paying attention

Every parent recognizes that it is important to pay attention to their children. We know babies need to spend time with us and learn from us with each word we speak to them. Giving our children attention takes some effort.

You need to remember that there are several kinds of attention. All of them are important.

Quick loving attention

Be sure to include this kind of attention. This includes giving a hug. These don’t take a long time, but they make a huge difference. Blowing a kiss or a big smile, or even a ruffle of the hair, are also quick ways to send a message. You can stroke your child’s arm or sprinkle “love dust” on her head. All of these send strong messages to your child that are important messages even though they are quick ones.

Quick help attention

These quick ways to pay attention are also important. They all involve helping your child. Helping your child by taking the time to tie a shoe or pinning back your child’s hair. Singing a song together is a fun time for the two or three of you. Just watching your little one for a moment helps make a love bond.

Taking your child’s hand as you cross the street is a great help in keeping your child safe. Helping your little one sound out a word or shuffling cards when he or she is playing a game of cards all help.

Short activities attention

These activities take a brief period of time, but they are very important. Reading a book should be a daily act of love because it is so important. Activities like giving a child a bath or making a special snack for your child also don’t take a lot of time, but make a difference. Playing “Go Fish” or other card games are key minutes together. Helping your child call a friend or kicking the ball to him or her are other ways to give your child attention.

Involved activities attention

Some activities take more time, such as baking cookies, planting flowers, going fishing or going to the park. These are fun things to do together. Painting together can really be enjoyable, as can having a tea party together and inviting a friend. Some people feel that activities such as these should be included: going to the art museum, to band concerts, to pet shops or any place that can be a learning place.

No matter how you spend your time with your child, these times are ways you build a special bond between you and your child. Whether it is a drive in the park or a trip to the mall, the words and the sights you see together are the foundations of your relationship. Build this as strongly as possible.

These are all of the many thousands of ways that what you do together says “I love you” to your child.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.