The "Pay Attention" tool card says "Put down whatever you are doing and focus on your child as though he or she is more important than anything else you could do." But what about those times when there really is something that needs your full attention at that moment. The following story from Elly Zhen, a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator in China, is a great example of teaching children that they can find creative ways to occupy their time when mom or dad is busy.
I needed to take my 4-year-old daughter, Serenity, with me to my Postive Discipline parenting class in the morning. There was not a babysitter available. That means she would need to play by herself for three hours. I asked her: "Three hours? Do you think you will be bored?" She nods her head.
"So what can you do when you are bored?"
"I can play with that!" — she pointed to her Dora game.
"Great! Let's write all the ideas down." I'll get a piece of paper. We have done this before -- a revised version of "The Wheel of Choice" -- The Cards of Choices.
She came up with 8 ideas of what she could do in the 3 hours, eg. listening to music with earphone, drawing, playing with her animal toys, learning piano, laying on the couch, sitting with mommy just watching, playing with Dora game, and eating sunflower seeds!
In the morning, with those eight "Cards of Choices", Serenity played by herself for two hours in my class. [Comment from Jane: This is a long time for a 4-year-old.]
She started feeling "bored" when there was about one hour left, "because mommy didn't play with me." I point to the clock on the wall: "When the long arm goes to 12, I will play with you."
After 30 minutes, she comes to me again. I ask if she would like to sit on my lap or on the chair next to me. I can feel all the student moms are looking at me, a bit intense. I keep being calm.
She sits on my lap, but only for one minute. She starts sobbing and covering my mouth with her hand. I ask the moms if we should continue or if I should take care of her first? They all choose the latter.
I hold her tight, put her head on my chest, kissing her, telling her: "I know you are bored and sad, because it's been a long time, and mommy is still not playing with you. You wish I could stop the class right now, and play with you." She nodded her head.
"I can play rock paper scissors game with you, two or three times?"
"Hmmmm, how about not three, not five, but four times!"
"After the game, do you have any good ideas so you won't feel bored and mommy could continue the class?"
She said: "I can go out play the Dora game without earphone."
"Would you like to play the rock paper game before going out or after the class is over?"
"After the class is over."
Then she did!
There is no better role-play" than a real life experience in class.
Although Serenity was still down and sad even when we are on the way back home, she did not cry or throw a tantrum. She kept silent in the car, and shook her head when being asked if she would like to talk. I told her: "I love you, no matter what. Take your time."
When we got back home, she returned all fine. We played the game eventually and had a lot of laughs!