Children Want to Be Seen and Heard

Most of us as parents realize that the adage “Children are to be seen and not heard”, does not apply anymore. Children are not only dying to be noticed but if you don’t notice them they will scream to be heard.

Children by nature want to be seen AND heard, for the purpose of feeling connected, safe and building self awareness. Whether a child is seen negatively or positively does not matter. They will do what it takes as long as there is connection. However, it is hard to see and hear children when we are consumed in our to-do’s of the day.

I was in Wal Mart recently, observing a hurried Mother trying to accomplish her busy task of shopping while her young child wanted to be seen. Her child found a toy truck and brought it to her. Her immediate response was to tell him to put it back. He started to whine and she immediately threatened to spank him if he didn’t stop. On went the whining as she tried to ignore his attempts, until she finally swatted his bottom, picked him up and went on her way.

Often in these situations parents do not want to been seen so they resort to threats, coercion, physical force or simply give in to their children, in an attempt to control the situation. The result is that children learn in order to be seen or heard, they must act this way. This cycle will repeat itself until we choose to react differently.

The most effective way to help a children be seen is to notice them. Noticing requires that we attend to their internal states without judging them. It helps stimulate the higher centers of the brain that build self awareness and self control.

With regard to the incident in Wal mart, the mother could have said, “You are showing me the little truck you found on the shelf. I can see you like it. ” If the child persisted in keeping it, the Mom could follow with, “‘You really wanted Mommy to buy that truck for you. It’s hard when you can’t buy the toys you want.” At this point she could have picked him up, gave him a comforting hug and gone on her way.

Noticing does not require that we give up our boundaries. We can see AND hear what children are feeling without giving in to their demands. We can help them develop a moment of delayed gratification or shut them down out of fear. It is our choice!