Last week was a slow week. Kind of kicked-back, dialed-down, old school…what with no screen time and all. We did other things. And it felt good to slow down; to let boredom creep in and fill the space usually occupied by our iPad. It was there for a bit and then it got dismissed by books and Legos and bike rides.
It was a slow living kind of week.
Slow-ness can be helpful. I recently read an article about eating slowly–putting your fork down between bites and actually chewing slower. It was about taking time to enjoy the food on our plates and being mindful of how much our bodies are consuming.
Then that reminded me of the slow food movement in general, which is about getting back to basics of food preparation; forgoing fast food in favor of traditionally prepared, nutritiously-dense, highly flavorful foods.
These ‘slow’ movements and awareness days (like last week’s Screen Free Week) are about taking time to think about things of which we may not be typically mindful. It’s an attempt to bring awareness to issues that are important but that we may be speeding through without thinking; on autopilot with our food choices, eating habits and use of technology.
And also with our parenting?
Bonnie Harris of Connective Parenting first brought up the concept of applying “slow-ness” to raising kids–the idea of slowing down our parenting. Not time itself, of course, but simply taking time to be aware. Like other “slow” movements, slow parenting is about being mindful of ways that we may be parenting on autopilot. I see it as…
–Parenting with consciousness. Being aware of choices and making informed decisions about how we interact with our kids. Asking, “How will this (request/ conversation/ consequence/ hug/ time out/ “Good job!”/ etc.) affect our relationship?” Saying yes, I’ll go with it, or no, I’ll pass.
–Not hurrying, taking your time. Instead of rushing to get to the next thing, staying on the current thing for as long as it takes. It involves planning ahead so you don’t have to rush, and it involves not scheduling your days with stuff you need to rush through or to.
–Managing our expectations with real child development. Trying to bridge the gap between what behavior we expect of a child of a certain age, and the developmental capabilities (normal brain development) of that child of a certain age. Many times they don’t match up. Many times we expect more of our children than their brains and bodies are capable of.
–Observing. Instead of talking, commenting or directing, just watching. Taking note.
–De-scheduing. Hanging out at home in our kids’ “natural environment.”
–Completing activities. Not interrupting a child’s activity and thought process with our thoughts, questions, feedback, suggestions or input. Allowing them to focus for longer periods of time.
–Delaying reaction times. Postponing a reaction to a child’s behavior; not reacting instinctively and “flipping our lids.” Letting our strong emotions dissipate before letting them dictate our response. (And it’s OK to wait, really. The spilled juice, the broken object, the child who is mad about candy….they will all still be spilled/ broken/ mad in 20 minutes when we’ve had time to gather our wits.)
Slow parenting is about focusing on establishing healthy habits and new instincts when it comes to kids’ behavior. It’s about taking the time to understand what is going on with their development and to learn that emotions are healthy, normal and OK. It’s about taking the time to change a reaction from one of, “Stop crying right now,” to, “It’s OK to cry; let it all out.” It’s about taking the time to teach our kids lifelong skills: how to manage feelings, do laundry, prepare food, take care of pets, take care of each other, be a good friend…
Slow parenting is about taking time.
And while I personally don’t think our family can always live as slowly as we did last week while the screens were off, I can always slow down my parenting. I can take my time with interactions and reactions to make them conscious, meaningful. I don’t want to live old-school all the time, but I don’t want to be so attuned to my devices that I’m living on autopilot. It’s helpful to put them down; to slow things down and take time to be a mindful mom. To detach from the devices so my kids can attach to me. Move over iPhone, make room.