Connecting warmly and appreciatively daily doesn’t need to take much time, and has big relational payoffs. Try this - every day.
Sit, or if more comfortable, stand, near your child. When both of you are comfortable, look into your child’s eyes, and hold it for a second or three. Try not to stare but relax and just look. See if you naturally smile when you and your child’s eyes connect. Do this for no reason, or, if you need one, say or think “because I read about and want to try it.” This eye-to-eye connecting will not make you a better parent or change your child’s behavior - it is only about connecting, something we may not have or take much time to do.
Don’t force it. It’s okay to look away and then come back. Observe your child’s response each time you do it, as well as your own (including how you feel), but don’t ask your child what he or she thinks or feels. The only point is connecting and raising awareness for both you and your child. When you stop doing it, or your child stops doing it, say, “thank you!” Look for an opportunity to do this once or twice a day.
If your child asks you why you did it, say, “no reason, I just love being with you just the way you are.” If that feels inauthentic (that is, you didn’t enjoy or feel good about making the connection, or didn’t make the connection, just say, “I just wanted to look at you - you know, when we are not doing anything.”)
If your child resists making eye contact, do not push it in any way. Notice if you think that means something, and notice what you think that means. Whatever you think it means, that is not likely what it really means. See if you can let go of “that IS what it means.” Note: I do not mean to say there are not reasons your child may resist making eye contact. If there are, let them remain private. Your acceptance (see footnote) of your child’s responses gives them greater freedom to talk with you.
Do this a one or two or three times a day if it feels good to you. See if you both become more comfortable and tend to keep looking into each other’s eyes a little longer each time, and if this eye-to-eye connection is present whenever you are talking together.
For Teachers: You have an incredible opportunity every day for this. You can do this with every child for 2-3 seconds at least once a day (and that is likely only a minimum). Be intentional. Opportunities will arise frequently. A quick hint of a smile when the connection is made is enough to make the connection make a difference. Don’t worry about what they think it means - stay on your track if appropriate. The goal: Make sure that each one of your students knows that you know that they are there (and valued).
Look for Short and Sweet #2 soon! Please leave a comment.