You know the days: They won’t get out of bed, put their shoes on, eat dinner, tidy up, get in the bath, out the bath, or go to sleep.
The days when it felt like all you did was bribe/threaten/coax them to complete the task you’ve set.
That pull of what they want to do against the push of what you want them to do? Most of this can be boiled down to one simple sentence:
Adults go fast and children go slow.
The adult world is busy. We are expert multi-taskers. We cook and plan and get ready while doing 10 other things. We think not only of the now but of tomorrow and the day after and next week and next year. A series of endless tasks to do, places to go to, and people to meet.
The child world is simpler. Their interest is focused from moment to moment. They have vague notions of later and tomorrow and how long until their birthday but they live in the now.
You could even argue that children are mindful while we are mindless.
There’s even science behind this. Adults have brains designed to manage complex flows of information, sifting through what they need to do and prioritizing. This ability to logically plan with a complex notion of time is a higher-level thinking function, developed in the frontal lobe – one of the last parts of the brain to mature.
Children’s brains haven’t developed these skills yet. A human brain is shaped by experience. A child needs to repeat a behavior many hundreds of times before they master it. This single-minded learning is what helps them crawl and then walk against overwhelming odds. If they applied the more complex adult form of learning they might never be able to focus so singularly on what they need to do.
So when you whip off the covers, rush them out the door, or ask them to tidy up mid-game, they often respond in an unfavorable manner. Cue tears, stamping, and threats. Your adult needs at odds with their child needs make disconnection inevitable.
Remember: Adults go fast and children go slow.
So should you never get your child out of bed? That would be a little impractical. The question is more: How shall I get my child out of bed?
Is it possible to be more mindful, to slow down, and find a new pace? One that feels less rushed, more playful, more in tune with the natural developmental rhythms of children?
5 ways to go slower
1 | Bring balance to your time
Be mindful of the sensory overload that can follow a big exciting event. Too much, too loud, and too many people often paves the way for a behavior meltdown. Introduce a balance of activity – the bigger, noisier, and more exciting the activity, the more you need to provide pools of calm time around that activity.
Have a big party to go to? Have a quiet morning before. Had a hectic busy week of school and play dates? Schedule a quiet Saturday for a walk in the woods, some baking, and movie snuggles.
2 | Provide support for transition points in the day
These are often the sore points of family life – getting up, out the door, or in the bath. We require that children drop what they’re doing and obey – even though we’d be pretty furious if someone turned our television show off half way through! That can mean telling how long they have left of an activity or even better for young children, providing a visual cue for when they need to transition activity.
Perhaps even make the next activity seem more enticing by presenting it in a playful way. Let them choose something different to take in the bath – cooking equipment usually works well. Sing a song, let them chase you up the stairs – anything that engages rather than disconnects.
3 | Plan for extra time
When you can allow more time for a task, do so! Stop focusing on the end goal. If they want to stop and look at everything on the way to the park, that’s fine. The point is fun, right? Not just to make it to the swings.
We know as adult that we need to plan in extra time for activities with kids but we rarely actually account for this often continuing at adult speed dragging (sometimes literally) our children behind us.
4 | Protect the bedtime calm down
This is especially relevant if you’re a family who struggles with bedtimes and winding down. Screens need to go away an hour before bed. The blue light in all screens sends similar signals to the brain as natural light. It’s telling the brain it’s time to stay up.
But the most important thing is to be present during the bedtime routine. Make time to chat about the day and cuddle. Don’t rush in and out of the bathroom while you cook dinner and hang the washing up. Spend 30 minutes focused on being connected and present. This slowing the pace of your actions allows your child to fill up on you before they go to sleep.
5 | Say no
That’s it. Learn to say no. No to three parties on one day. No to doing the big shop with the kids. No to the PTA meeting that you really don’t have time for. No to the endless drama on emails at work after 5 p.m.
Now, it’s understandable that you aren’t always going to be able to slow down but this is not an all-or-nothing scenario. Identify the most common stress points in your house and develop your slow-down plan for then. If it’s general rather than specific just do it when you can.
Every little bit helps. This is your family, your space and your time. Sometimes it’s not just okay to protect it. It’s essential.
Try going child pace for a couple of hours. You might find out that you like it.
This article was originally published on Mellownest.com.