More Momma, Less Drama – Engage


photoENGAGE

I remember my parents telling me to turn off the television and Atari (age related jokes totally appropriate at this point) and go outside. I’d obey, but once outside I’d think, “What now?”. Nothing was flashing, making music or entertaining me – nature was just sitting there.

I began enjoying nature when I made the effort to go out and connect with it. I’ve discovered it works the same way with children. When they’re younger children are eager to share their daydreams and ideas. If I’m being honest, I have had moments where my child’s “sharing” became more of an annoyance than an inspiration.

Sitting on the floor and playing with our kids all day isn’t a realistic option, and I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. The old saying, “quality not quantity” applies here. It’s about quality time. It’s about making the effort to get away from our own world full of adult issues and distractions and truly engage in our children’s thoughts, feelings and imagination.

Let’s look at this idea from two different sides. First, what does being engaged with our children look, sound and feel like. Secondly, how drama can take over when the element of being engaged with our children is missing.

ENGAGEMENT LOOKS LIKE…

People look each other in the eye and actively listen. When possible I try to kneel down or sit so I’m at eye-level with my kids. Phones are put down, the television is paused or turned off and I am truly engaged in what is happening in the room. Texts and Facebook alerts are ignored. These events can’t happen all day, every day – but having the intention of actively engaging in a 2 minute conversation can sometimes be a real challenge concerning all the other things crying out for our attention.

ENGAGEMENT SOUNDS LIKE…

People asking questions of each other and responding the first time a question is posed. Engagements sounds like a coffee shop where conversation and activities are intentional and enjoyed. Our level of engagement can determine how effective our discipline techniques will be. If our tone of voice is controlled, our message becomes clear and is sometimes received on a deeper level. Engaged families are in tune with the tone of voice they are using and actively work to make sure that tone is respectful and appropriate. Nothing slips through the attention of people engaged in each other’s life and responses.

ENGAGEMENT FEELS LIKE…

People who belong. Members are wanted, their presence is anticipated and they are missed when they are gone. Engagement brings validation and merit to a person’s value in a relationship. Anyone who has recently become engaged to be married is like a glowing torch of expectation. Their entire life revolves around planning the impending wedding and marriage to their love. Sharing my time, energy and life with my family shows them how valuable and necessary they are to me.

REALITY…

Now we’ll take reality into account. I cannot always look, sound and feel engaged with my kids – it would be impossible. There are times when I’m on an important phone call, when I’m talking with another adult or I’m working. In these moments I have a choice. Either I’ve created some sort of plan to help my kids deal with the situation or I allow the children to come up with a plan.

I’ve been talking with a friend at the park and I can hear her daughter screaming her name over and over again. Instead of answering or asking me to wait a moment while she looks to see what her daughter needs, my friend simply allowed the screaming to grow in pitch and volume until the entire park was looking around to see whose child was in need. Her daughter was left with only one option – to leave her swing, march over to us {can you sense the resentment and anger rising in this little girl?}, place her hand on her hip and scream “mommy” one more time. My friend very calmly responded with a , “What?” and the daughter had nothing to share or say. She had forgotten why she needed her mother.

I couldn’t help myself – I asked my friend to please stop talking with me and help her little girl – I didn’t mind at all. Was this mother being neglectful or selfish? Nope. But she was engaged in a conversation with me and her daughter knew that without extreme drama and sound she would never get her mother’s attention. If our children continually display dramatic responses and tactics we need to ask ourselves if we’re truly engaged with them.

When I’m on the phone, talking with another adult or working I need my children to understand that I’m engaged in an activity that can’t be stopped immediately. When my kids were very young (around 2 years old) I taught them the touch and wait signals and to this day my children (including my 5th grader) employ these techniques when I’m busy but they need me (see 7 Ways To Be A S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Mom to learn more techniques like these). I wanted to give my kids a plan so they wouldn’t feel as though they had to shout, throw a fit or say my name multiple times to get my attention.

When I’m not working or dealing with a phone sales person, I try my best to truly listen and be fully present when I’m interacting with my children. It is NOT easy and it is NOT natural for me.

SCRIPTURE…

That’s when I turn to scripture and remember I’m a follower of Christ and therefore I’m called to live beyond my human limitations. I can do this because I’m not alone.  Jesus became engaged with our world in the most intimate way possible. He left everything behind in order to spend time with us and allow us to engage with Him. Philippians 2 says that Christ, “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”.

I’m not suggesting we become like servants to our children, but I think we can model our life after Christ by doing what we can to be engaged with our kids and be more “family-like” instead of only “self-like”.

Philippians 2:1-3…”Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

APPLICATION…

How do you engage with your kids?

What activities bring your family together for quality time?

When it comes to engaging with your children, how do you accomplish this without losing yourself at the same time?

Do you find it easier to engage with your children when you’ve had time away from them?

Thank you for being honest and sharing your thoughts – your insights can help others – please leave a comment below!

Kasey

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