The weather outside is frightful today in New England. Many families are holed up. Some parents may be dreading a day of entertaining and refereeing the kids.
My suggestion is to treasure this day as an opportunity to connect. Spend some time together shoveling, making hot cocoa or cookies, or playing a game for a while. Get outside and revel in the snow together.
After spending some positive attention at a neutral time when the kids are not whining, fighting or complaining, go your separate ways and check in with them every hour or so. The younger they are the more frequently you check in. Notice what they’re doing and offer encouragement by offering observations or asking questions. You can simply watch quietly and do not disturb a good thing.
Things might get worse before they discover the art of self-entertainment. Allow them to learn the joys of having a brother or sister. Boredom can lead to creativity. It is not parents’ job to solve a child’s lack of initiative. Encourage them by saying, “I’m sure you can find something to do.”
Remember the three steps to empower kids to self-entertain and avoid boredom:
1. Spend positive attention at a neutral time every day — at least 15 minutes. This type of connection can solve MANY larger behavioral issues.
2. Expect them to find something constructive to do independently. Allow them to do nothing and feel the stillness, even boredom. This is Zen! Do not solve complaints or bickering with TV or a video. Expecting them to find something to do will probably generate a mess. Allow it. Plan on spending time cleaning up together. The blanket forts, spilled flour, and toys spread all over the floor are evidence of creativity, initiative and cooperation (if you have more than one child).
3. Encourage their efforts in a quiet, low-key manner. Just watch silently.
As I tell my kids, YOU CAN DO IT.