I have never been a kid person. I don’t have an imagination, I am terrible at coming up with creative ways to play, and I just plain old don’t know what to do with the little humans.
When I had my first child, that didn’t change. I still am not a kid person. Sure, I think he’s the most precious and delightful human being to grace this planet! But I don’t know what to do with him.
Honestly, from day one, I’ve just let him do his own thing. I love snuggling and all things teaching (reading books together, practicing language skills, singing songs, using daily life to teach), but I was never one to want to hang out with my kid 24/7. I have encouraged independent play from the beginning.
Buuuut… I’m a stay at home mom? How does that work? If I’m not playing with my kid, what am I doing all day? That’s another topic for another blog post. But the reality of life is that if I play with my son all the time, I will have no time for the practical needs of my home and family.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be attentive to the needs of your child. My son and I have a very intimate relationship. He trusts me fully and always comes to me when something is wrong. But in daily life, when everything is going well, we both mind our own business and then thoroughly enjoy the time we do spend together doing activities.
They understand that you are a separate human being with a life of your own
A dear mentor of mine, who is now a grandmother, advised me to not give my child constant attention and that it was okay to sometimes tell them you can’t play, or that you can’t give them attention yet. Although I did already abide by this to some extent naturally because of my personality, I noticed that as my baby had grown into a toddler and had become more whiny/tantrum-y/demanding of me, I had succumbed a bit to his clingy habits. At that point I made a conscious effort to continue encouraging my child in his independence.
Now, I understand that there will just be times in my child’s life where he needs me more and is going through some developmental milestones (read more about those milestones here). I try to be attentive and sensitive to those needs. But most normal days he doesn’t need me at his beck and call at all times and I think it’s good for kids to know that I have my own life that I am taking care of and he just gets to be part of it (he isn’t the main reason for it).
They don’t need screens to occupy them when you’re busy
My child can sit through my hour long doctor’s appointment without a screen in front of his face. He is 2.5 years old. I can tell you right now, that is one of the things about my son that makes me the proudest. I see little ones with screens ALL THE TIME and it drives me bonkers. Of course, my kid watches TV. I’m not out of my mind. I love some good old Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to keep him occupied when I AM losing my mind. But I will be darned if my child is going to expect a little screen to occupy him every time he’s even a little bit bored. It’s just not going to happen. He is so used to using what’s around him to create imaginary worlds that a doctor’s office, car ride, or grocery trip are no different.
They learn to use their imagination
I will say that this is definitely a skill that children have to learn. But the only way to help them grow that imagination is to let them play without interference! I heard someone say that children’s “job” is to play. It’s what their little brains are meant to do. If we allow them to veg in front of the screen, or if we create all the projects and imagination for them, we are not allowing their little brains to work and create for themselves. I believe this is doing our children a huge disservice.
So much of letting their brain mature the way it needs to is by helping to foster an atmosphere where they have to use their imagination. The only way that can happen is if they are bored. If they don’t learn to do it, they will have a frustrating existence. Even though I do have a social media addiction as an adult, I had a great farm life childhood with only VHS tapes. I knew how to use my imagination and have a good time all by myself, and I definitely think it has served me in so many ways. I want my children to have that same gift.
They learn independence + confidence
My child knows exactly who he is. He’s only 2, but I see so much confidence in him. He is happy by himself or with friends, with his parents or with others. He just knows who he is already and that brings me so much joy. And what better way for a child to learn who he is than to be with himself? A child cannot learn his personality and interests if someone else is constantly telling him what or how he should be playing. If you want your child to be an independent and confident adult, you have to give them a shot at it now.
They don’t expect you to entertain them
The huge downside to being great at playing with kids is that they will expect that of you all the time. There are some wonderful people in my son’s life that are incredible at play. The second he sees them he runs to them in delight and will not let them go until he is
I love that he has these relationships in his life, but I don’t want to be one of those people. I am his mother, not his constant playmate. If he always expects me to play with him I will either make him
They learn contentment
Ever met a whiny, tantrum throwing kid that constantly needs attention? That was the kind of child I did not want. Now, I have no proof that this method of parenting is what made my child content and happy, but I have a feeling that it has something to do with it.
He doesn’t challenge me very often, considering his age. He definitely shares his opinion when he disagrees but it does not take much discussion for him to realize that I’m the boss and we are doing what I said. He is content with the decisions that we make and trusts us fully, and I definitely think that that state of boredom and learning how to cope with that helps kids to be more content and make the best of every situation, even if they don’t like that situation.
They will be more interested in helping out with chores + family life
Now, I’m not sure if this is the case for all kids, but if I do offer to do something with my son he is ecstatic! Even if that’s just picking up the living room, running errands, or helping fold laundry. He loves the special times he gets to be with me and he isn’t picky about what those “adventures” (in his words) are.
They learn problem solving + when to ask for help
Instead of you just being there to solve every little issue for them, they realize that you won’t always be there to fix things and that they sometimes need to work things out for themselves. This is one of my all time favorite things about my child is that he doesn’t call for me at every cause of alarm. He always tries to fix his playtime woes by himself first, then comes to get me if he can’t figure it out for himself. I love that he actually has to decide to come ask for help and doesn’t just expect me to do it automatically for him. I feel like this is a really good skill to have as a human.
They learn that they are not the center of the world
This is one of the most important points. I feel like millennial parenting has failed in one big area: this generation of children thinks that they are in charge of their parents. I know, not all families are like this, but it’s definitely not uncommon. If your children are running your household you are going to be one miserable and out of control adult.
When you expect your children to play and entertain themselves independently, it effects every area of their lives. One of the biggest things I have noticed in my child is that he is obedient. Yes, he is 2… so he whines a lot and occasionally throws a nice big tantrum for me. But, in the end, he realizes that I am the mother and he needs to do what I say.
We don’t have daily fights to do regular things. Naps and bedtimes, meal times, bath time, going out, getting dressed… all of these events are not stressful. Partially because he is independent and all I have to do is tell him it’s time and he hops right to it knowing just how the routine goes, but also because he knows that life doesn’t revolve around him. Our family is a unit that works together and I’ve seen that worldview effect his obedience and respect for others in an amazing way.
There are so many ways to parent, and some moms are just really into playing with their kids! If you’re a crafty, kid-friendly mama, I think that’s amazing! If you’re like me and just don’t really know how to play creatively, that’s fine too.
The most important thing to remember as a parent is to keep a healthy balance. Love your child fiercely and meet their emotional needs, but make sure they know that your life doesn’t revolve around them and that they need to respect you as well. Healthy families are rooted in this way of living and no matter how young your child is, it’s never too early to start!