Past Questions

Need for Constant Attention


Hi. I'm a father of a 3 1/3 year old boy, and I've become a great fan of your books (particularly the simply titled "Positive Discipline"). In the past few weeks, the approach has revolutionized my parenting and I and my son are far happier than before. The one main issue I still find myself struggling with is the fact that my son needs one of us to be playing with at all times. We've always been quite available, as has been his nanny, and it's come to be something he expects. For all of our sakes, I'd like to encourage greater independence, but I'm not sure of what techniques to use under the overall "positive discipline" approach. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks. Steve


Hi Steve, I am one of the Positive Discipline Associates who answers on-line questions. I asked to reply to yours because I have worked many years with preschoolers, early childhood educators, and families with young children. I am also the grandmother of two, and mother of three grown children. Sometimes it helps to know the background of the person behind the words! First of all, I want to congratulate you on your obviously large heart for your family. It is always such a pleasure for me to answer Dad's questions, as my husband has always taken his parenting to heart as well, and the relationships he has with our grown children and grandchildren are very special to me, as I observe him interacting with our family members. I know that many fathers care very much for their fathering, and that many people think it is only the Mom who can parent! How wrong that is! So, thanks for writing! It sounds as though you have a good understanding of the long-term relationship of parenting and are investing a good deal in the emotional bank of your son - great news! I remember when we first started using Positive Discipline with our own kids, and what a difference it has made in our own family! Everyone wins with Positive Discipline (PD) tools! Do you have the "Positive Discipline for Preschoolers" book? It has great understanding about preschool ways of thinking and issues of early childhood - understanding what children are like at each age and stage helps us make wise choices as parents. These are "bonding" years, Steve - and I would bet you know that, but you also need some grown-up time! When we invest time in ourselves FIRST, then we really have something to GIVE - so don't give up LIFE to do just for him! Parenting with love and limits that are firm AND kind (that means taking care of us ALSO!) is what Positive Discipline is all about. So limiting the time you spend with him is a good time too - but not so much that you lose your bonding time. Parenting is such a hard balancing act, isn't it??? Since your son is an only child (right?) one thing I'd like to suggest is that you might enjoy finding some other couples to start a small group of parents with children around your son's age where you come together to discuss your parenting - read the same books, and work on incorporating the PD principles into your family life. This would give you some support - and could give your son some playmates. You don't say if you are involved in any community groups - maybe there is a play group, or a swim lessons group, or a preschool nearby where you could find some playmates for your son. 3 1/2 is a good age to begin looking for a program that meets a couple mornings a week - your nanny or you could take him - be sure to check out wherever you go carefully for quality. A preschool that is accredited (by the National Association for the Education of Young Children) and/or has qualified, trained staff will provide good quality play experiences that your son will enjoy - and he will enjoy telling you about! It may be that your son enjoys the socialness of play with another person - and it sounds like other adults - so he may need some time to adjust playing with someone his age who may not always let things go his way!! Children of this age need to learn how to play - believe it or not, it doesn't come naturally to all of us!! Here is a simple play formula: play with your son and a friend; play with your son and a couple friends, gradually reduce the amount of time you play with them until you find them playing more and more together without your help. Be sure to NOT expect your son to share right away - that takes time and modeling on your part. You can teach him to share by showing him how and telling him "I'm going to give Johnny the book now, because he wants to read it - I'll get it later. " "I'm going to give you some blocks, Johnny some cars, and you can work together to build garages for the cars." These are just some simple examples - when he doesn't want to share, acknowledge his feelings "It's hard to share all your toys, I know. Let's get Johnny the blue truck - here, you can share that with him until you're done with the red one..." and then he'll gradually learn how good it feels to share! Your playing with your son-time shouldn't end, though! If he seems to want your time just when you get home, say, "Come with me while I change clothes - and we'll decide on a game to play." Then play with him for 10-15-20 min. And then get him involved with you in fixing supper by having him set the table, or something, and talk with him while you do this - then AFTER he gets your attention, he will let go - after all, he's been gone from you, and will want to show you he still loves you!

It might help to remember that you don't have to rescue him from every upset it life. Allow him to have his "upset" feelings. You might say, "I know it is hard when we don't always get what we want, but I have faith in you to handle this." Then you might leave the room or jump in the shower so you aren't available and won't be tempted to rescue. If his every want is taken care of by someone else he won't have the opportunity to develop beliefs about his own capability. It's important to encourage his independence - for sure - and you can encourage him to dress himself, help you at bath-time, choose his clothes, etc., even choose how many books you'll read after he brushes his teeth to get ready for bed ("Do you want 1 or 2 stories after teeth are brushed?") but ONLY give him choices YOU can live with! Your nanny, grandparents, etc. will need to be consistent with you in helping him learn to play with other children - you might consider having an older child come over who already knows the basics about "play" and will be a role model but will already have mastered "sharing"! Trust your heart, Steve - you're a great Dad with a generous heart - remember that as you nurture YOU, you also nurture the parent of your son, so he really does benefit! - he'll learn that he can be independent and that you will be proud of who he is becoming. He's wonderfully blessed to have you as his Dad! Hope these few ideas re-encourage you .....




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