I wonder if you ever realised how many times your child (or anyone else for that matter) is telling or showing you something and in all honesty you are half thinking of what to do for dinner or about your to do list, etc. and really are only half paying attention instead of actually “noticing” them? How often do you respond with “In a minute” or “I’m busy right now” and then forget to catch up when you are free? Many of us do it, balancing home, work and children can be a juggling act and we are often multi-tasking.
The definition of noticing is to treat (someone) as worthy of recognition or attention therefore, a child not being noticed would feel unworthy of recognition or attention. To notice a child is to recognise and attend to them, this plays an important part in their emotional well-being, their relationships and social life. Recognition is connected to both self-esteem and being esteemed by others. Anyone who has been the child who was never chosen for a team, the child eating alone in the dinning hall, or the child often left alone in their bedroom has felt how lonely it is to be unnoticed. The teenager who everyone criticizes and judges and feels no value for could be as a result of being unnoticed or unrecognised. Recognition, noticing and attention is the emotional connection between people that makes them feel valued and worthwhile.
To notice your child is to see them as they are, to recognise their presence, to let them be and allow them the freedom to determine who they wish to be. Noticing a child allows them to feel appreciated and invalidated. Noticing, recognition and attentiveness helps form self-acceptance, which encourages self-esteem.
Having worked with children who don’t to talk or talk very little in sessions it is clear to see in their face that they appreciate being noticed, even when I say nothing and just show I am present for them, I am aware of the glances that show me they know I am watching and I’m noticing what they are doing, often they say they like it. Some children may hide what they are doing so I may say “I notice I can’t see what you’re doing from here and it is making me feel curious but it’s OK if you don’t want me to see” sometimes they may say it’s a surprise, sometimes they may say nothing but they know I am there, they know I am interested in them and that is important for them. Being able to have somebody there who will be with them even though they are not actually involved, not invited into what they are doing or not demanding to know what’s going on for them is empowering for a child who may have little power elsewhere in their life.
I know how frustrated I get when I notice someone’s mind is elsewhere yet, I will admit after taking a step back and focusing on my responses to people especially after a hard day, I realised how guilty I was of not paying full attention to, not through rudeness or lack of interest but through sheer busyness and if I’m honest through a little lack of self-awareness. Having realised that my therapist mode of being present and attentive needs to carry on into my personal life too has made a huge difference to my relationships.
I wonder, have you ever realised the difference it makes to just stop for a moment, give eye contact, notice the body language and really pay attention to what you are being told or shown? Perhaps if you were to think about this and notice how many times you do or don’t it, it may just surprise you.
The words “I notice” to a child can be powerful, it shows you are there and recognising whatever is going on for them, they may be doing something not favourable but your ‘noticing’ may bring about awareness and it may be enough for them to do chose to do something differently after all it can be said that children usually do things with positive intent it’s just not always the outcome that is desired or as expected. Children naturally aim to please people around them and being noticed pleases them so it can be a win-win situation.
It can be tricky at home when you are trying to split yourself in many directions although it can be said that short bursts of undivided attention 3 times a day can make a huge difference to a child and their feelings of being valued and worthy. Between 5 – 20 minutes 3 times a day (according to their age) of you spending time noticing them can make the difference between the attention seeking negative behaviour of a child who feels unnoticed and a contented child who is able to enjoy their own company while you are busy. Children strive for attention, any attention so, it is helpful to remember negative attention is preferable to no attention therefore those few minutes of your time are worthwhile all round.