To end off our month-long series on Raising an Adult by 18 we are spending this last week looking at five keys strategies to build attachment with your child or teenager – regardless of what age or stage they’re at. These attachment principles are what give our children the safety – the sense that they are seen, known and precious – that then allows them to learn and grow and develop and become all that they were made to be.
Today we look at “bids” – the way that we as humans make it known that we need a little more support, engagement or attachment. In infants a ‘bid’ is something like the rooting instinct or when they start to get squirmy in your arms. It is pre-cry, and is designed to help you to know that there is a need before it’s the end of the world. Because bids become increasingly subtle, off-hand, or seemingly insignificant, however, as we grow up we often miss these initial opportunities – especially in older children and teens. If we take a look at the following examples, it will give us a sense of the ‘choose your own adventure’ game we’re all playing on a daily basis.
Your little one comes out of preschool and want to show you their art before you get into the car – do you:
- Say ‘we’re in a rush – come on!’
- Say ‘that’s nice dear’ while hurrying them to the car?
- Stop, get down to their level and take a minute to look at it, and ask them some questions about it such as ‘what was your favourite part of making this?’ or ‘how did making this make you feel?’
Your six-year-old comes up to you before dinner on a busy school night and wants to make cookies – do you:
- Tell them to go off and play – we don’t have time tonight.
- Remind them how much of a mess they made the last time they wanted to bake cookies and tell them there’s no way.
- Sit them up on the counter so that you’re eye to eye and acknowledge how fun baking cookies together is, let them know that tonight’s not going to work because they have swimming lessons after dinner, but that you’d love to make cookies with them tomorrow night, and then ask if they want to help you get the dinner ready?
Your thirteen-year-old comes and sits near you while you’re working on the accounts after dinner, reading a book, or completing a task for work. They don’t say anything, but they keep looking over at you, and they don’t seem to be particularly occupied. Every once in a while they sigh – do you:
- Say, ‘can’t you see I’m busy right now? I’ve got to get this done!’
- Ignore them, assuming that if they want something they’ll ask.
- Finish your train of thought (2 – 4 minutes max) and then say, ‘hey … do you want to hang out?’ (Realize that with teenagers you may then have to provide some of the emotional effort to figure out what the ‘right’ activity is to do together – but hopefully by this stage you know their favourite games, activities, hobbies or places and you’ve got some ideas to suggest: a game of chess, a trip to the mall, a walk in the woods, a bike ride, etc.)
Bids tell our child or teenager that they are seen – that the things that matter to them, matter to us as well.
Bids tell our child or teenager that they are known – that we are a person who knows them well enough that they don’t have to have it all figured out before they can come to you for help – because lets face it, often we don’t really understand what we need until someone who knows us well suggests just the right option.
And bids tell our child or teenager that they are precious – that what they need, and how they feel and what they are interested in matters.
I can’t tell you the number of bids my children have made to me over the years with things that I never knew I was interested in before my kids were interested in them! While there are a few bids that I’m not too great at accepting (with my physical limitations I can’t always say yes to things like working out with my youngest, I can’t always stay up super late talking with my oldest and I have never really gotten the hang of chess – that’s dad’s domain) I always try to respond to their bids, and if I can’t say ‘yes’ to the one they’ve offered – because of time, capability or other issues – I try to acknowledge it and offer a compromise (which is a great skill for them to learn as well!)
Today, see if you notice your child or teenager offering any ‘bids’. Then look for our next post tomorrow on giving words.