Been on the receiving end of your child’s complaint that you aren’t home enough? That you spend too much time at work, on your hobbies or with friends, and not enough time with them? Children are smart. Without realizing it, they are constantly absorbing information about how the world works. This information is primarily gained by what they observe at home. It’s their blueprint for how things “should” be. When they see their parents prioritizing almost everything above family time, they unconsciously internalize this information and make up stories to explain. Things like “My parents aren’t here because I’m bad” or “because they don’t love me,” which can wreak havoc on their self-esteem. They grow up learning that family time isn’t important and develop coping mechanisms and outside routines that don’t include the family. Worst of all, sometimes they learn that if mommies and daddies aren’t around much, that’s how they should be with their kids one day. Remember the song “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin? By the end of the song, the father wishes he had spent more time with his son in his early years because now he wants that time, yet his son has learned not to have time for his father.
Some of these examples will surely be extreme or inapplicable to your life and that’s a good thing. The point however, is that not all of our children’s grievances should be overlooked. Often there is an important message scattered somewhere in the heap of their cries. Parenting is a 24 hour, 7 day a week job. You get tired, stressed and consequently learn to “tune out” the noise and complaints your kids love to make. No one is perfect but if you can practice “tuning in” and finding that elusive middle ground, you might round a corner on your child’s development and the relationship you share. After all, they may be little, but they may also just be right.