The first day of my maternity leave was the day I quit my full-time job at the Ministry of Culture. I already had two beautiful boys that went to daycare at the age of 3 months. With my daughter, Hella, I chose to take a different approach and spend my time with her during the first year of her life. However, after we had celebrated her first birthday, it became noticeable that a need for independence grew within her. As most one-year-olds, she started to walk and say her first words. With the next step in Hella's development, I felt this was the right time for me to start working outside of our home again. We have less time together, that is why I try to make the most of my playtime with Hella nowadays. She's curious when it comes to exploring things on her own, but she still needs me and the time we spend together.
I chose to take a different approach and spend my time with her during the first year of her life.
As you start researching how to raise children, there is one expert you can't miss: Thomas Gordon, a clinical psychologist internationally known for his Gordon Method (read more about it here and here. In the Netherlands, for example, you'll find that they use this method at most childcare facilities. The most important element of the Gordon Method is the premise that children don't misbehave. The behaviour of children is simply the result of a certain need they feel at that moment. For example, if your child is trying to prevent you leaving the room by screaming and blocking your way out, they're not misbehaving. This behaviour is simply the result of their need for contact at that moment. You leaving the room is not fulfilling that need and a reason to get upset for them. Can you tell the difference? Good, let's continue!
I'm a strong believer that children grow from real attention
Fulfilling the needs of a one-year-old
As mentioned before, Hella is a one year old now. The following three things are important in this phase of her life:
- Need of contact. Hella likes to stroll around the house but only when I'm an arm's length away. That's one way her need of contact becomes apparent. Toddlers love being around people, especially around its parents. They love following your conversations and letting you know this by making sounds of protest when you stop talking. You can think of this as misbehaving because they interrupt your conversation. However, keep in mind that they only do this because they have the need of contact. They need to adjust to you working outside of your home as well.
- Independence. Toddlers love to do more themselves such as putting on their clothes. During playtime, you can stimulate your child's independence by letting them take the lead. Most kids love doing small chores like cleaning the sink with a dishcloth, for instance. You spend time together while letting your child take the lead in one of the household tasks like in this scenario. It can be difficult to let your child take control. Most of the time, I as the parent decide what's going to happen. For example, I decide that the doll has to wear the dress the right way instead of backwards. Now that I'm aware of her need for independence, I can give her more space during playtime. She has this big box with random items such as a brush, different fabrics, cooking items like a whisk and many other things. This box allows Hella to decide what she wants to play with herself. That is one of the ways I try to meet her need for independence.
- Give your full attention during playtime. Connect with your child by giving your full attention. That means not playing with both your smartphone and your toddler. Your child needs to be able to trust and grow through your attention, care and love. It is up to you to decide what that means in your home. In my case: I'm a working mother, and I combine work with time for my kids several times a week. That works just fine for us. I'm a strong believer that children grow from real attention. So several times a day (it can be as short as 10 minutes a day per child, the children have my full attention, and I let them decide what we do. It can be reading the book we mostly use for bedtime stories for instance. I'm easily distracted, and we've already read that book hundred times before so it requires some effort to stay focused on my part. But quality time like this is important to me, so I make sure I maintain that focus. In the end, it's fulfilling their needs, and that's what matters.
I'm curious how you make sure you are fulfilling the needs of your children? And do you recognise any of these needs by any chance? I' would love to hear your story. Leave a comment or feel free to send me a message on Instagram or Facebook!
More about Thomas Gordon on: