By Jamie Hose
I see you! At the core of a child’s developmental needs is the desire to be seen. This is evident through their constant requests. “Watch me swing. Watch me jump. Look at my flip. Look at what I drew.” They are showing you their need to be seen and known. Unless they are sneaking a cookie before dinner, kids want you to watch them.
Have you ever watched a child while giving them your full, undivided attention? You will have noticed that the child fully engages in the activities while looking up from time to time to see if the adult is still paying attention, and if they are, they will give their full attention back to the task. You will see the focus, peace, stillness and creativity. A child reveals more about their thoughts and who they are when a parent pays attention. These are rare sweet moments when they are explaining their world to you.
However, we live in a world of distraction with something always to interrupt. When I am out, I notice families together, but I often see the parents’ eyes on their phones and not on their children.I have a phone, and I check it frequently as well, But that’s the point, how easy it is to pay attention to things instead of people. But we don’t want distractions to make us miss out on those sweet moments.
I remember watching a family at a mall food court. The child was trying to get his mom’s attention. He called for his mom a few times, but she did not respond. The child then started dancing around and stood on the chair. His mom then turned her attention towards him and said, “Get down from there. You know better than that.” He probably did know better, but he also knew what would get his mom’s focus. The child chose the behavior that would get his mom’s attention. Children will always choose attention as it is a developmental need.
So this brings us back to the title of “I See You.” Does your child know that you see them? What ways do you intentionally show them that you see them? If your child is unsure, they will create ways for you to see them, and that doesn’t always result in the best outcome.
And thus may begin a slippery slope of negative reinforcement. A child will soon realize that negative behaviors can generate the attention they crave. Therefore, it is best to build upon positive focus before intentions get mixed up.
I encourage you to find moments where you intentionally “see” your child in such a way that they know you are seeing them. Watch him/her color and ask them questions as they do. Join them for play and watch with curiosity. Five minutes of full, uninterrupted attention will go a long way and will help them to feel seen, known, loved, and safe. And then we can check our Instagram.
Jamie Hose is a School Counselor who has worked in the Elementary, High School and College setting. Her background in working with youth in various settings, has created a unique perspective and focus on the family as well as a desire to take what is known to professionals, and give that to families.