[How To Observe and Support]
One way I like to look at parenting, is as observing and supporting.
We watch our child,
See where they need help,
Then watch some more as they navigate the new adventure,
And we redirect them as we grow.
But this all starts with the observing,
So how can we do that easily?
Constant communication is going to be our best bet.
By making communication a constant thing early, we will have a better chance of it lasting as our child grows. Talk about anything, everything, nothing… do it all, just spend a good chunk of time with them!
The only way to truly communicate with someone is to spend time with them.
To get the most out of the time, make sure the focus is quality time.
No distractions, no phones, no interruptions. This is your child’s time.
For some more ideas around time, check out these posts:
5LoveLanguages, UsingLoveLanguages, Openness, StayClose, Change.
Spending time is the easiest and fastest way to build relationship, and it can be an accelerator!
The more time we spend with someone, the more we get to know them. Knowing someone generally leads to understanding others more, and understanding others more typically leads to caring and enjoying people more.
Another advantage of spending time is inside jokes, and fun little stories. These recurring themes bond us together, and bring an easy laugh. If you don’t have anything like this in your family give it a try! Any lighthearted back and forth, a funny story where no one lost face, that time everyone had a laughing fit… anything.
Being around each other just brings more opportunity, more chances to laugh and cry!
This goes for our adult relationships as well, but how much more with our children? We live in completely different worlds. For us, working all day, and school most of the day for them. Making a point to schedule these times becomes more and more important as they grow. We can add in friends, assignments, jobs, study, practice, and who knows what else!
Again, doing this early, making it a family tradition is invaluable to healthy relationships in our families. The time spent, focused and intentional, comes back in a million ways when we are consistent.
All of the focused time is really just building our connections.
Our children are figuring us out, we are showing different sides of ourselves, every one is learning and growing. Sharing activities, teaching each other things, talking about our days, watching things together (and discussing them afterwards to get even more out of the time).
Each chunk of time we spend giving to our children, making it all about them, is like another rope keeping us together as we all drift through life. Another connection to call back on when they have lost their way. More memories, more good times to remind them about when they are down. Yet another adventure, experience, personal joke, tv shows watched together.
Every moment we have spare, is a moment we can share.
A space to make a memory.
That’s what counts.
Spending time with our children allows us to truly see how they generally act (at least around us)!
Over time we can start to watch patterns emerge, hear things repeated, find out what their fears are… We can almost look directly into their character and their souls!
It all begins with behaviour. The best indicator of what’s going on inside of someone is what they actually do. Let’s dive in to observing some behaviours.
– Stable mood, typical behaviour
First things first. Watching how our children act is going to help us establish a baseline, the standard we can expect majority of the time. The advantage, to doing what just sounded super creepy, is that when this changes we can watch a little closely and see if there is a legitimate issue. Instead of reacting once a real problem arises we will have more opportunity to coach them through it, growing their competence.
– Be-ware of changes
Thinking outside of the box we can look at music, the shows they are watching, what kind of things they are searching for online, different moods, changing how they dress… loads of things. Anything that differs drastically will almost instantly draw our attention. From there we just need to figure out if this is a new (or temporary) normal, or an actually cry for help.
If our children need help, we are there ready and waiting, we saw this coming. If not, at least we know we are ready for that situation if it arises in the future.
– Look for connections
Being aware of changes starts us on a journey looking for connections, with time we can begin to predict where behaviour comes from, or is going. Like a parenting super power!
Starting out with communication (time), moving in to watching behaviour, now we can play connect the dots a bit. We could do this carefully and ask our children about what we notice, or we can make assumptions and try to help them.
I usually go more with making assumptions. Bringing probability *****LIIIINK *****into play, factoring in all that I know about the child, I will then imagine what could be motivating the actions, and then projecting forward, imagining where those actions and attitudes may lead the child if nothing changes. Then I sit back and watch, giving little bits of advice when I am concerned. From here it is easy to give the extra support, or to sit back and cheer them on as they win
One of the largest determining factors when it comes to if we win in life or not, is our patterns. What we do, how we do it, when we do it, why we do it. Patterns make up our decisions, and decisions make up our lives, and we only get one of those.
The patterns that we go through life acting out ultimately determine our opportunities. They control a lot of where we go, what we decide to do, how we do things and when we do them. Patterns make things predictable. Clocks are patterns, music is patterns, life is patterns for most people.
When we lock in to these patterns in our children, we can being to predict behaviour!
Predicting behaviour is taking the things we know about someone, and guessing what they might do or think. Really, it’s just a probability game. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong. That’s why we have to be careful, and look at it from a different perspective.
Instead of diving straight in and deciding why our children are the way they are, we can look for over arching themes. Things that keep coming back up, different behaviours that begin to group together. For instance, instead of having a list of scenarios our child lies in, we can have one mental folder for dishonesty. Filling this folder with all of the lying, manipulating, coercing, and the like, we can look at this as more of an opportunity to grow character. Now we begin to teach our child the importance of their word, and how that effects us in life. We explain that we ask silly questions and don’t believe everything sometimes, because of the lies in the past. This is just an example, think of something bothering you right now and expanding it out to a “mental folder.”
Another great way to use themes, is to trouble shoot their viewing habits.
It’s no secret that children are watching screens more and more and more.
We already lose them for around 8 hours a day with school, factor in dinner, bathing, life, and relaxing… there really isn’t much time left. With 8 hours for sleep that’s 8 hours. Of those 8 hours how many are we busy or focused on something else?
This leaves our children open to other influences.
Be it teachers, friends, musicians, social media, whatever.
These other influencers can have a much great impact on our children than us, if we aren’t careful!
Spending time knowing our children, and noticing the changes in them, will show us where something entertaining is becoming a large influence on them.
We can teach our children to think for themselves, to understand the angle and agenda these companies have. They want to sell things, and share their world views.
We want children that can think for themselves and make their own choices.
Too many children these days have been influence by tiktok, because it aligns with the teen angst…for me it was just music.
The louder the music felt, the better.
Unfortunately in life, our relationships can function the same way.
I remember going to Sydney, and staying with people I didn’t know. It was interesting being in someone’s home while getting to know them. I found myself watching the interactions, feeling the frustrations as a third wheel, and noticing people say things in harsher and harsher ways.
At first, it would be an implication…
Then a whimper…
Eventually a whisper…
Then the issue would be mumbled…
Until eventually it was being yelled.
In this situation, it lead to booby-trapping brand new speakers with a bee…
What I learnt was this.
“If we listen closely the first time, we can avoid everyone’s pain.”
If we truly listen, if we listen closely, we can avoid everybody’s pain.
We save ourselves from the crescendo.
We save the other person the frustration.
Relationships grow and move on.
If there is still a problem, or what the person is complaining about is unfair, we can figure it out with less emotions involved, as the subject has been broached quickly. We can catch the frustration early, before it becomes anger and ultimately resentment.
As people move closer to resentment, they typically weaponize their interactions, especially teenagers.
Silence is a quiet hammer, wielded to smash down all order and calm.
Weaknesses are poked at in an attempt to exploit them.
Punishments (including hitting) are used in an attempt to re-balance the relationship in the child’s favour.
When I was first establishing boundaries with our daughter this was painfully obvious.
Consequence or boundary = I get hit. Somehow, someway.
She might flick me on the way past,
A little nudge in the hallway,
Even a straight slap or punch.
Now, all of this was played off as playful, but because I was looking for patterns it was an obvious one. This extended to her mother as soon as her boundaries were consistent.
Another favourite tool was digging for insecurities. With my partner this was easy, find almost anything and get a bite. When it came to me, I had worked on my poker-face and enjoyed the challenge. One day our daughter was throwing things that could have been insecurities at me, but I had worked on them, so nothing was landing. She must have said 5 or 6 fairly personal or emotional things to me that day, all trying to find a place to poke that hurt. I watched her do this for a while, and then asked her about it. Turned out it was a tactic she used at school as well, and something that at times she couldn’t control. Now we can help her with it.
Instead of picking at EVERY SINGLE instance of lying, we can start ‘The Game’ with lying. The Game is simple, every time something is bothering us, we try to ignore and not react as much as possible. Watching it closely we talk with our child about it, and set our expectations. From there we simply remind them of our expectations every few times the behaviour happens, and reward the positive behaviours that replace them randomly. This quickly turns around teen behaviour, and supports them when they need extra help. It’s like turning our annoyances into objectives!
A word on Resilience…
Adding support in this way allows our child to grow and explore, to meet challenges in their own way. This grows their resilience, their ability to spring back, to recover when life throws it’s worst. By doing everything FOR our children, they are robbed of the chances to learn, to grow, to mature.
If we are accommodating for them, excusing bad behaviours, doing too much for them, and cleaning up their messes… the real world is going to kick them in the face.
We have to make room for struggle, for growth, for mistakes. This is where they learn, where they grow, and the situations can pass us by!
When our daughter was a little younger, we bought a little chia pet for her. One of those stockings that looks like a dog, the entire thing came in pieces to paste together and fill. At first everything was fine, she was working away sticking things together, but then it came to the seeds. After asking for help, my partner stepped in and basically took over. When it happened I wondered how well the pet would be taken care of, any guesses? I think it got watered three time, counting the first watering.
Talking about it later this was a fairly common occurrence, and our daughter was suffering from some social anxiety. She needed some wins, and she needed them fast.
Exactly what empowerment is all about, stacking wins!
Manufacturing little wins, and then guiding our children to more difficult tasks can bring fast improvements in a lot of different areas.
With school work, stacking wins can get our children on to harder work.
While learning a new skill, stacking wins will help to keep practice more engaging.
When we are working on character traits, stacking wins will grow confidence and keep focus when it’s difficult.
Even with gaming we can help our children stack wins!
If you have a gamer on your hands, know the games they play the most.
Ask about their KD if they play shooters, whatever the game find out how the scoring works.
Get excited when they show you clips or want you to watch for a while!
Help them feel like a champion, just balance it with self-discipline.
– Strictly Necessary
Another way to look at self discipline, is as self imposed boundaries. When raising a human it follows that boundaries are needed to teach us how to respond to limits. Boundaries work really well, when they move. If the boundary is just there for the sake of it, the desired effect isn’t ever going to happen. Our children will just find a way around it.
When the boundaries move and grow with our child, they can express themselves and find out who they are in relative safety, growing their competence, learning to make good choices, and being who they want to be. It’s their life at the end of the day.
When these boundaries move as they mature, we can pull the boundaries back when they need consequences in this area. Let’s say we have a mature 13-year-old, we have given them a phone, and not put any limits on it because they have been good with tech in the past. After a few days we notice 357 messages in the afternoon, within about an hour. That doesn’t sound balanced, and we have already set an afternoon routine, there should have been homework completed.
Now, because we have left the boundary wide open, we can pull it back.
Perhaps we could limit the times on the phone with an app like MM Guardian.
Maybe we could do phone checks, keeping it for a day if there are more than X number of messages.
We could even have a cheaper back up phone that gets switched out when the expensive phone isn’t treated properly.
Whatever we do, just make sure the boundaries extend as your child matures in those areas.
There it is, my plan for observing and supporting children!
Let me know what you try, and how it works.
I’m always happy to troubleshoot with you in the comments
You Got This!