Children ask this question ALL THE TIME.
Am I worth being heard?
You may not actually hear that question, but it will be on display throughout the day, every day.
Let me explain.
My office is located in the lower level of our home.
That works out well most of the time. Short commute. Cheap lunches.
At other times, it can be a challenge. Childcare upstairs. Sandwiches for lunch. Childcare upstairs. More sandwiches. Childcare. OK, so you understand what I’m trying to say here. (My wife is going to kill me!)
Almost every day I work from home, I hear the all-too-familiar call of “Daddy, daddy, daddy, look, look at me!” from upstairs. There is a door full of windows that separates my office from the upstairs area. It provides a peek in (for kids) and a peek out (for me). It is a blessing and a curse.
To my wife’s credit, she does a great job protecting my work time. But, my kids are smart and take advantage of any little crack in the system (i.e. – mom was distracted, changing diaper, or putting little one down for nap).
You just can’t stop a child’s need for attention.
My kids try to contain it. They are pretty well-behaved. But, every now and then, they get besides themselves and need some immediate confirmation from their dad. It’s kind of like the passion that Dorothy displayed in the Wizard of Oz – there is someone who can help her in her journey and she is not leaving Oz until she gets acknowledged by the man behind the curtain (and in my case, behind the door)!
Children need to be heard. It is an important part of their overall development. Think about how it feels when you are at work and you try to talk to someone when they are ignoring you. It makes you angry doesn’t it? It produces so many emotions inside of you and you have to then decide how you are going to handle it and respond.
I know how I react when that happens. Then, why do I put on a cold display of “I’m too busy too look” when my children try to grab for my attention? To send a clear signal that I am a busy working dad? Attention grabs can be annoying to me. They derail my thoughts and often times make me forget what I was just doing.
But this is the reality that I have come to understand and embrace: My simple smile and acknowledgement of them through the office window will help bring my children confirmation, self esteem, encouragement and a large list of important developmental issues that will help bring about healthy attitudes, emotions and coping skills. This is, of course, in addition to engaging with them daily in a way where they can see and read my face and KNOW that they are loved, accepted and heard.
Take a look at an interesting excerpt from a Psychology Today article:How important is the day-to-day presence of a father to children’s later educational attainment, economic success, and ability to successfully form and maintain intimate relationships? It turns out that both father presence and father behavior both have longstanding influence on kid’s lives across multiple domains. A research study of school-aged children found children with good relationships with their fathers had lower incidence of depression, disruptive behavior, and lying. This study also found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls with such fathers had higher self-esteem. Children who live with their fathers have better physical and emotional health, better academic achievement, and lower incidence of drug use and delinquency. http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201205/fathers-day/without-you-dad-i-wouldnt-be-the-person-i-am-today
My response to my children is always critical.
So is yours.
Maybe you feel like you missed your chance. Well, there has never been a perfect parent, so take a step back and see what you CAN do. We all need guidance and encouragement, even when we are older. Asking God for help is the first place to start.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
Maybe you need some good resources and practical guidance to help you out in your current situation.
Here are a few that may be helpful to you:
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual_growth_for_kids.aspx (Focus on the Family)
http://empoweredtoconnect.org/ (Empowered to Connect, Dr. Karyn Purvis)
Is it worth it to take time to acknowledge children even if it gets tiresome? You bet.
It’s never too late to start listening and leading by example.Steve Gillis Founder | Exec. Director www.patchourplanet.org