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Attention & Autonomy: What Your Older Kids Need

Many people are overflowing with excitement when they find out they’re pregnant. But perhaps after the initial craziness fades, or maybe after you’ve already given birth, the realization sets in: Oh crap, I have to be a parent!

I’m here to tell you: It’s not a riddle!

With everything in my life, I do my best to keep things simple. Oi. Otherwise, my mind can’t keep up! I hate second-guessing myself and have tried to develop and trust my gut instincts. The same is true in parenting.

There’s no need to discover complicated parenting theories. All you need is your heart and confident knowledge of your kids. The one parenting expert I could listen to and read again and again (because she’s so simple!) is Amy McCready.

The core of her literature (and really, all you need to know) is the two things kids need from you emotionally: Attention and Autonomy! I love this thought. I keep those two simple tidbits in my mind and even when I have a little baby, if each of my older kids get some of my undivided attention and feel a sense of significance and charge over their own lives, I count that as a win.

Attention: Spending intentional time with your kids directly and without distraction. Day in and day out, attention looks like:

  • Reading books together
  • Getting on the floor to play when baby is happy or sleeping (extra point if you tap into the autonomy piece and let them choose what you play!)
  • Tea time
  • Simple quality time – unscripted and without agenda
  • Taking your child out for one-on-one time – to a coffee shop, the library, or the park. In our family, we called these “dates.” All day long, I get to hear: “Mom, I want to take you on a date!”

Autonomy: Giving your kids control and choices. Despite their size, they are humans and need that, too. You can let them choose:

  • Their day clothes
  • Their own snack
  • Which book you read together
  • How to perform their morning routine
  • How to complete a task you give them

It’s as simple as that! I’ve found that kids really just want to be a part of our lives. They want to be included in what we as a family unit have going on. Those two pieces – attention & autonomy – are all they need to feel loved, connected, and significant.

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