Yes. This week I’d like to deal with the issue of attention. I’m not sure I understand exactly why it seems to be such a problem for us adults.
How many times have you heard a grown-up explain away, or dismiss, a child’s behaviour on the grounds that they are, “just doing it for attention” and have you ever stopped to think about what underpins that dismissal?
There’s no denying that we have a tendency to regard anything a child has to share with us as less important than our own adult concerns. In an awful lot of situations they encounter, children become used to being shooed away, shut up or shushed. Several of the children who have taken part in the How to Speak Child interviews bemoan the fact that they find it difficult to be heard, to feel they have a voice, or to get an adult to properly acknowledge them.
So my big question is, if a child is doing something that we judge as being merely a tactic to get our attention, why are so resistant to giving it to them?
What is so wrong with our children needing us to respond to their emotional need, to praise their achievements or to just join in with their lives a little? Perhaps we are afraid that once we have broken the seal, they’ll be expecting us to show a heightened level of interest in them all the time? But I don’t think so. Any self respecting child needs their own privacy, wants their own interests and is happy to be left alone to live their own life every now and again. They would be mortified to have parents, teachers, or any grown-ups constantly focussed on them and putting them under scrutiny. After all, we all have times when we need to withdraw from others.
Perhaps, then, we need to relax a little more, trust their judgement a little more and also to remind ourselves that we are supposed to like our children. We don’t think it’s weird if our friends expect us to offer them some compassionate consideration whenever they’re feeling needy, so it seems unfair that we can be quite brutal to our children in this regard. If we are more generous with our children's need for our attention, they may become less desperate for it; when a thing is commonplace, it can become less desirable. It also makes it easier for them to accept your refusals due to circumstance - "Mummy's talking" etc. - if they feel secure in the knowledge that you will get back to them as soon as is reasonably possible.
So the next time a child you’re with does something that could be interpreted as being “just for attention” - try giving it to them. There’s nothing wrong with answering that basic need for human interaction, validation and acknowledgement.
If you live or work with small children, how often do you actually get down and view the world from their perspective?
It can be, quite literally, an eye opener.
It’s not just the psychological effect of endlessly looking upwards at your designated figures of authority, it’s also the horrible damage to the cervical spine that makes this an undesirable state of affairs.
I’m sure you’re aware of all the continuing discussion around children and gender stereotyping, in the papers, on television and also within social media. Some time ago, I posted this quote on the 'How to Speak Child' Facebook page and it prompted a slew of comments, mostly expressing frustration at how engrained in common language those stereotypes can be.
Recently I had to write out some simple breathing exercises for teachers, and it suddenly struck me - why aren’t these more readily taught to young children?
Whilst I was writing and noting how most of us maintain a fairly shallow breathing pattern that takes place in the upper part of the ribcage and that fails to utilise full capacity, I realised that no-one had ever taught me how to breathe.