Multi-tasking has become part of the norm. Being busy, we often feel a need to do several things at once. It’s not uncommon to get laundry started and head off to another task while that is in process. If you think about it, though, the only reason that multi-tasking scenario works is because the washing machine does the heavy lifting of one of the tasks. You aren’t actually “multi-tasking”; you are “managing” multiple tasks. There’s a difference.
Multi-tasking with children is not effective because personal relationships require in-person time. You can’t just press a button and expect children to go through their cycle while you move on to another task. Additionally, kids are often in the middle of learning something new and that requires hands-on support by the person they are learning from.
Parenting is not about managing kids; it’s about building a relationship with them. Nurturing that relationship is how kids learn interpersonal skills, kindness and respect. It’s also how they come to feel important, valued and safe. Thus, when a parent multi-tasks with their children (splitting attention between their child’s task and another task) and their child is left to their own devices, frustration will often follow. The parent will be disappointed with the lack of performance of the child or the child will be frustrated by the lack of consistent support of the parent. Eventually, kids get distracted and most likely do not complete their task, which gets them in trouble. You can avoid the drama.
Here are some things to consider:
#1 – Does your child need or want your hands-on assistance with the task at hand?
#2 – If you stay and assist, is there a downside? How do you resolve that in advance?
#3 – If you do not stay to provide support, will they be interrupting you?
#4 – If you are interrupted, will you be frustrated?
#5 – Is there a better time to do one task or the other?
#6 – Is your child capable of doing the task alone?
#7 – Is your child asking for quality time together?
#8 – Are you the best person to provide the needed support or could you find someone else?
In reality, the frustration you feel when interrupted is not your child’s fault. It’s caused by the fact that your brain has to make an unplanned transition. When you want to finish what you’re working on and someone interrupts you, it’s annoying. Planning ahead to make sure your child is not working on something they will need assistance with or choosing a task you can easily transition in and out of (dishes, folding clothes, organizing vs. crunching numbers, writing a report, answering important emails) will both be helpful options.
Remember, you are only ever doing one thing at a time, while you are most likely “managing” several things at once. As your child grows and matures, they will need less hands-on support and can be more independent. Providing focused attention and support when they are young will assist in that process. Taking the time to focus on one task at a time (when it involves your child) will save both you and your child much heartache and will also build trust in your relationship. It teaches your child they can count on you and they are worth your time.
Traci L. Williams is the Founder of A Loving Way to Parent. She provides parenting classes, teen programs and individual coaching. She is known for her practical parenting style and offers a free 15-minute phone call. Schedule today at 951-240-1407. www.alovingway.com