We all need a certain amount of attention from others to thrive and survive.
The late Virginia Satir, a family therapist, said that we need four hugs a day to survive, eight hugs per day to stay at a strong emotional level and twelve a day to grow.
Unfortunately in our busy world, the time to hug and be hugged seems to be in short supply. Kids are funny in a strange kind of way.
Children will do whatever is necessary to get the attention they need to survive.
They’ll get our attention, either positively or negatively, by either constructive or antagonistic actions.
In their unconscious need for attention, I’ve seen siblings fighting and name calling, in a contest for their parents’ attention. Having mom or dad yell at you, spank you, or send you to your room fulfills a deep need for attention, in a powerful, yet negative way.
Growing up, my mom would sit down after we got in from school and have a snack with the five of us for about thirty minutes. She would listen intently about our day. After I left home and visited, I would marvel at how my mom could sit and listen to my brothers and sisters.
“How do you listen to all their stuff, day after day?” I asked her.
“I know if I don’t do it, all types of chaos and craziness will ensue by bedtime. Half an hour of focused time now, and everybody can have peace and quiet.”
I began to notice that the days when my mother was not available for after school time, my siblings were more prone to quarreling and dramatic outbursts. I’ve also observed this with my own children. For the children in my classroom, a little one-on-one teacher time was helpful when I knew that parents were out of town.
A parent or other caring adult’s attention is a powerful calming agent for children.
When children don’t receive the attention they need, equivalent to four to twelve hugs a day, they’ll find a way, mischievous or not, to get it.
Small parenting gestures, such as hugs, pats, smiles, sitting on laps, sitting next to one another, playing games, singing, brushing hair, or back rubs, can communicate a lot of attention in a very short time. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a loving touch is worth a thousand kind words.
Sherrie, mother to 16-year-old Liz, came to study group with an uncharacteristic cloud over her head. “Liz and I seem to be at loggerheads. She comes in from ballet practice every night so grumpy and nasty. I know it’s tough trying to do everything she’s doing, but I seem to be the target of all her anger.”
“Rub her feet,” said Bobbie, the grandmother in our group. “If you can rub her feet, which is a neutral touch zone for a teen, your touch will communicate how much you care.”
“And dancers love to have their feet rubbed,” Sherrie agreed.
Two days later Sherrie reported success with her touch therapy with Liz. “Liz actually smiled at me. After about five minutes, she started telling me what was going on with her. Last night she ask me to rub her feet and we had the best conversation ever.”
Kids will find a way to get your attention either with a warm fuzzy or a cold prickly.
Using positive touch to communicate your attention can yield powerful results.
Hug, pat or massage your child each day to use the power of touch to communicate your caring and to create a relationship built on positive interactions.
Best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing. Low fat and no calories, too.