By Nikki Bush, creative parenting expert, speaker and author
In today’s rushed and hurried world, characterised by the use of more screens than ever before, parents should remember the importance of making eye contact with their children.
Face-to-face contact is diminishing daily as we:
- spend more time on our cellphones when we are with our children
- multi-task continuously e.g. working on our computers or sending and receiving sms’s while playing with our children
- talk or shout through walls instead of walking to the room where our child is busy
- spend more time in our cars due to traffic congestion so we are often side- by-side, or our child is behind us in the back seat
- spend less time playing with our children
- allow our children to spend more time watching TV or playing some on-screen activity (computer game, Playstation etc)
Why is making eye contact important for your pre-schooler?
- It means you take him / her seriously enough to make time to focus on him which builds his self esteem
- Conveys a non-verbal message of “I want to be with you right now”, and “You are important to me.”
- By watching your mouth movements, children are better able to copy how you say and form words.
- By using both the visual and auditory senses a child can tell if you really mean what you say. Is what you are saying congruent with the expression on your face?
- We role model good listening by being good listeners ourselves. We do this by paying attention and not doing two things at once.
- When discipline issues arise, a child will take you much more seriously if you make eye contact while using a firm voice.
- It teaches respect with regard to relationships
For maximum effect you should get down to your child’s level when making eye contact. When my eldest son was three years old one of my closest friends told me she was battling to connect with him. Ryan was very reserved at the time although he was a good communicator. I told her to try physically getting down to his level when communicating with him because I had noticed that she always spoke to him while in a standing position. She took my advice and it was all she needed to do to gain his respect, trust and interest. Today they have a very good relationship and my friend says it was one of the most useful parenting tips she has ever received. Give it a try!
And don’t forget: either leave your cellphone in the car or switch it to silent, when you are collecting your child from school, or when walking into the house from your day at work. It will make your moment of connection with your child focused and meaningful. Your child will know that you are really pleased to seem him / her. Keep on connecting with your child through the noise and clutter. It’s your choice!