It’s not difficult to see that children are easily distracted. Most parents consider that just to be a “fact of life” and not something that should be worked with and cultivated in a child at the earliest possible time in their life.
I was working with a young child one morning in a preschool classroom setting and when I noticed that the child had become distracted from putting her things away, I simply instructed her to finish her task and then she could attend to what she wanted. I call that exercise “First things First”.
The teacher overheard me instructing the child and proceeded to say to me, “Oh, she’s fine. She has the average attention span of a 4-year old.” I considered that comment and just how limiting it was. What does that comment really say? Five years from now as the attention levels worsen, that then will become the average, a descending average.
We all have eyes to see the insane level of distraction in this world. If you go to a restaurant, you will see two people sharing a table but yet they are not engaged with one another. They are glued to their cell phones. But is the problem the cell phone? Is the problem the kitchen when you walk into it without knowing why you’re there? No. The problem is that we have lost our ability to own our own attention.
So what is it that keeps us from cultivating this vital component in our lives? What is it that keeps us from helping our children cultivate their own attention? Distraction. When a parent asks a child to, let’s say, brush their teeth, a parent must attend to that child after giving the instruction. Meaning, a parent must not become distracted from their instruction. They must sacrifice everything in that moment to make sure the child follows through with the instruction they were given, guiding them gently in the process.
We must learn to be an observer of our distracted minds. We must learn to reinvent our attention. Otherwise, we will just continue to be the unwitting instrument of that distracted mind that will not only put us in harm’s way but will be the level of distraction we teach our child as well.
The mind will always utter things like “Oh, they’ll be fine. It’s not a big deal. They will listen. I really don’t have time. I have too much to do, blah blah blah.” Those are the voices of the mind that we need to observe and go against because if we don’t, then what we love above all else is not our children, it is our sense of self-importance. There is no love in that.
Raising a child requires immense sacrifice. Helping your child cultivate their attention is one of the most valuable things you can do for them. Help and guide them to always finish what they start. Help and guide them to always follow instructions. Help and guide them to follow through with something they agreed to do for another (the keeping of their word).
You do this by giving them your full attention, and interestingly enough, giving them your full attention is a gift you give to yourself. There is immense energy in being present and attending to the moment at hand.