Sometimes we get caught up in complaining that our children are not responding to us when we would like them to. We think they are dawdling, or taking their “sweet time,” or “dragging their feet” or just being “selfish.”
Here’s the thing though, how long does it take for us to respond to a request from our children? I know sometimes I am caught up with a sibling or cooking, reading a book or checking something on the computer and my child would like to play a game, read a book, go to the park or make a craft. Sometimes I ask my children to wait a minute or two so I can finish up a task or tend to a sibling’s need that came first.
Do you ever catch yourself saying “just another few minutes sweetie,” or “I’ll be right there,” and the “right there” turns into a five minute wait? I know it happens to me, even if my goal is to respond to my children promptly, we all have different interests and goals throughout the day, and sometimes they don’t align so perfectly.
While infants and babies (and children in distress) should be responded to promptly, I believe it’s alright for us to ask our children to wait a bit for our attention at times. Especially with multiple children, it’s practically inevitable that waiting will be necessary. Waiting is a natural way for children to learn patience and flexibility.
Yet often we expect flexibility from our children, but we forget to give it in return! I know at times, being in a bit of a hurry, I tend to overlook the fact that my children need just a bit more time to transition from what they are doing to what I want them to do.
This became very clear to me one day when my two year old used my words in response to a request to leave the swings so we could continue our errands:
“Mama – please wait, I’m finishing very important school work.”
I realized right away that my daughter just wasn’t ready to stop playing, and so I offered her some flexibility:
“Sure” I replied, “Do you need one or two more minutes for that?”
“SIX please!” she said, excited, and from her smile, thrilled to see I was listening!
“Alright, can we meet in the middle? Three minutes and we will leave?” I offered.
“Deal Mama!” she said excitedly.
What happened next was just wonderful. Although I was more than willing to wait the three minutes, my daughter jumped down and told me she was ready to go. I think all she really wanted was to know she had the option of asking me to wait, too!
Sometimes children don’t respond or get started with a task, not to bug us or because they don’t want to, but moreso because they are not ready – in that moment, what they need is something else. Other times, they may have learned from us about asking for a little bit more time. Offering our children the same flexibility we sometimes ask of them can be a wonderful way to meet everyone’s needs, plus it gives a chance for children to learn some negotiation and time management skills, too.
So have you ever noticed yourself asking your child to wait for you but forgetting to give your child a chance to do the same in return?
Peace & Be Well,