Why are your kids acting up? Acting out? Why are they getting into trouble? In a bad mood? Why did they suddenly start doing the thing you specifically asked them not to do?
Because they can tell. They can tell you’re not paying attention.
They can see you on the phone…again. They can see you working…still. They can tell you’re talking about something interesting…that doesn’t involve them. They know you’re ‘not just going to be a second.’ They can sense you’ve stopped listening. They can feel your absence even though you’re in the same room*.*
Kids know this intuitively…and they act accordingly. They respond to the disrespect with disrespect. They react to the lack of regard with disregard for rules, seizing the opportunity to do whatever they think they can get away with.
Conversely, they can tell when you’re present. They can feel that you’re here. That you’re laying in the bed beside them and it’s safe for them to fall asleep. That you’re connected and engaged with the game you’re playing together. That your hands are firmly on the handle of the stroller. That your attention is locked on the thing they’re trying to show you.
As we’ve talked about before, presence is the key to good parenting. Everything stems from this. The house runs smoother. The interactions are happier. The kids are better behaved. In a way, your kids are a barometer of how present you are. When things aren’t working, it’s probably because you are checked out, checking your inbox again, scrolling Twitter again. Your kids know it…and they’re pissed about it. They might not be able to put words to those emotions, but they definitely know how to put actions to them.
Be present. Your kids can tell when you are…and aren’t.
P.S. We created the Tempus Fugit medallion to help us parents be more present with our kids. The front of the coin features two hourglasses—the essential symbol of the essential aspect of life: time—one to represent you and one to represent your children. On the back are the two reminders we parents need every day: “They grow up so fast” surrounded by, “All time is quality time.” In a world of constant distractions and unlimited obligations competing for our time and attention, this medallion is the perfect reminder to hold the present tight, to embrace the people you love as much as humanly possible for as long as humanly possible.