This is the second of eight articles where I’ll share what I learned about parenting at Disneyland. In my first blog entry on this topic, I shared how Disneyland taught me how important it is for parents to be proactive. In this blog entry I will share a new parenting insight I received on my recent trip to the happiest place on earth.
During a recent trip to Disneyland, I was able to observe many parent-child interactions. I realized from these observations, that most of what anyone really needs to know about how to be effective as a parent can be learned at Disneyland. Watching families standing in lines, shopping in souvenir stores, eating meals in restaurants, watching parades and shows, trading Disney collector pins (a hobby my son has), riding on various attractions, posing for photos, and deciding which direction to go proved to be very insightful!
The time I spent at Disneyland helped remind me that effective parenting involves being PRESENT in the moment. As my son and I stood in a variety of lines while at the Disney Parks, I was able to see some parents who were playing and talking with their kids and I saw other parents who were quite disengaged from their families – most of these parents were busy on their smart phones as their kids stood nearby looking disappointed, bored or sometimes involved with their own electronic devices.
As we left the Magic Kingdom late one night, we were walking in front of a young family. Their young child was obviously tired and the dad picked up the little girl and put her on his shoulders. As they left the park, he asked her questions about what they did that day. He was saying, “What was the first thing we did?” “That’s right, and then what did we do?” “Do you remember what we did next?” “Yes, we did that but that was later in the day; do you remember what we did after the monorail?” This exhausted child was having fun with her dad recalling the day’s events. He was building on her vocabulary, helping her to feel valued, and cementing the special memories they had created that day.
As parents, we can all reflect on how PRESENT we are with our kids. With our smart phones, Facebook, TV, hobbies, family and job responsibilities; we sometimes forget to be engaged with our kids. Building in routines like eating meals together, reading books together before bedtime, singing together in the car or at bath time, or playing inside or outside games together can help us to be present for our kids. Even watching a favorite TV show together can be a special bonding time. My husband and I enjoy watching Jeopardy and The Voice with our 10-year-old son. We have some great discussions as we watch these TV shows and we definitely have a lot of laughter. We also take advantage of special TV shows like the recent mini-series of The Bible, The Apple Cup, and the New Year’s Eve Special that shows the Time Square Ball.
Setting routines can help us be present as well. Every day when my son and I drive home we talk about our “highs” and “lows” of the day. This daily report to each other helps us to connect. It allows me a time to hear about how his day went and a time where I can share some great parts of my day and some challenges. Some of my best memories of spending time with my parents when I grew up was our time in the car. Singing with my family, playing travel games in the car and having deep conversations are memories that I still treasure to this day. Some of these things happened during long car rides and some just happened as we drove around town.
So I challenge you to think about how you could work to be more present as a parent. This is a goal that I am focusing on currently…and the “happiest place on earth” helped remind me of this very important parenting principle.