If you are checking this out for the first time, make sure you read my initial post about listening, being, and instructing. Also, Landon got so great tips from his kids on how to be present. Being is one of the most simple of all fields, yet the most elusive. Think about how many things call for your attention throughout one day: billboards, bosses, email, social media, commercials, shows, books, food, friends, wife, kids, etc. So many things call for our attention that our children can receive the least amount of it at times. Honestly, being present can be the most tedious aspect of parenting for me. But my son and daughter need me understand them and engage with them.
Being is more than physically being there, although that can be a big part of it. I can think of many times as a Dad that I have been there physically yet not truly present! I get on my phone, watch TV, read a book, dream of other things, etc. I’m not saying I can’t ever do any of those things; sometimes my kids are doing their own thing and I can take some time for myself while being physically present with them. I am talking about the struggle of checking out. We know Dads get a bad rep for this; just watch a TV show with a Dad. You probably experienced from your own Dad too.
But if I want to become the Dad I want to be then I must regularly give my children my Being. Being and listening go hand in hand. When I am present with my children they see their value and I am more aware of their needs. Let me give you an example of how Being can help. One of my struggles is often this: my kids are playing in another room and things begin to escalate. I realize it and I know what is going to happen. However, I stay distracted by whatever it is I am doing. They then are full out screaming and crying. I then yell at them to come see me. I am unwilling to go to them, often not on purpose but out of habit. Then I get mad and things go downhill. What might have happened if I just got up in the beginning and helped them work it out? That is the power of Being. They need my presence.
In The Whole-Brain Child, Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson hit early on how the right brain (emotions) and left brain (logic/words) effect a child in typical tantrums and conflicts between siblings. The right brain dominates our younger children. One of the things they advocate for us to do as parents is to integrate both sides of the brain to help our children during conflicts and tantrums. “Simply being present with your children so you can help them become better integrated” is how Dr. Siegal and Dr. Bryson describe Being. (Check out this Facebook video for more on the right left brain idea.)
One way this could play out is when your son or daughter is overcome by their emotions over something that seems illogical (not this would ever happen to your kids). You are trying to be present and listen, but nothing is changing and your words seems to agitate them. Maybe you should leave; sometimes space is what they need. But often our Being is needed. What I mean is that we need to engage our whole brain too. Connect to your right brain (emotions). Change your body language and try to feel their anger, sadness, frustration, or whatever it is they are experiencing. They probably have a reason to feel the way they do, and they need you to connect to that emotion in that moment so they can calm down. Then we can bring in our instructing or correction for that moment but not until they see they have are whole being and that we are listening and connecting to them.
Here are some tips for giving your kids your Being:
1. Physically show up. Get up and go to where they are. Get on their eye level and really listen to them.
2. Emotionally connect to them. Remember their age and how far behind their logic growth (left brain) is from their emotional growth (right brain). Tap into your emotions and affirm them.
3. All of this requires awareness as well. What has gone on in that day or week? You know your kid, and when they have your Being they know you are in it with them. Then it easier to connect to you!
This week fully give your Being to your kids. See what you become aware of and how you connect to them. Let us know how it goes!