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Present parenting – what does it mean? It’s not so much a gift to one person – but a gift you give to the family by making time to really engage, communicate and help deter bad behaviors. How? Being present as a parent does not mean that you are meeting your child’s every need, or their wants and desires at a moment’s notice. What it means is that you are being mindful and engaged with your child for set periods of time, which over time will help reduce attention-seeking behavior and create a better overall relationship.

By providing them with your presence, you are able to avoid attention-seeking, negative behavior. Children desire our attention – and will go to any length to get it – whether it be throwing a tantrum, crying, hurting their siblings, making loud noises, or any other “bad” behavior in order to get your focus on them. It may not seem this way, but they are very smart – and in reflection, it often works. We are often left screaming at them, punishing them, or talking to them.

But what if we turn it around? What if as parents we schedule in increments of time where we are available for our children, and ignore them or redirect them when things are more negative?

It is difficult to do this, especially in moments like a global, economic health crisis we face in 2021 – but it does not take a lot.

Try to make eye contact and ask your children questions about their day. Talk to them about what they read, did, or played. Put your phone down, look at them, show interest. This level of nonverbal connection will allow them to feel your attention, and how to get it in a more positive light.

I personally schedule time where I consciously put my phone away on the days I can. I try to make this time “work-free”; where I am only focusing on one thing. I have to say, it feels like a vacation. Sure, the work crisis happen, and I need to make time for those, but when I am scattered and doing it all at one time, that doesn’t work as I am not giving 100 percent to anyone. The power of scheduling, and making time for everything on your to-do list, can help your mental health as much as the mental health of your child.

A funny thing happens when you start to be more present as a parent: the stress starts to lessen. Your children may respond to you more often with what you need as help. They become more connected and aware of you, and your family may begin to operate more as a team, and less like a chaotic war zone.

Parenting is challenging, and certainly not rewarding all the time. We expect that we are going to give our children our time and they are going to jump for joy, but it doesn’t always work that way. A lot of times, they are so programmed to get our attention negatively that it really takes time to change the day-to-day battles. However, by connecting, using eye contact, asking questions and even engaging in an activity that they enjoy, you are able to ward off some attention seeking behavior and possibly reset a negative cycle that you both have been engaging in.

To try to have more family time, I encourage you to play some conversation games such as this one: “Kids Table Topics”, which you can purchase on Amazon, or this one called “Letz Talk”.

I have loved using scheduling and time management apps, which can really be a game-changer in making the commitment to keep yourself and the family both on a schedule and more organized. Here are my favorite ones:

COZI: https://www.cozi.com

TRELLO: https://trello.com

GOOGLE family share: https://families.google.com/families