Lunch time found me sitting at the table with my children around the table happily munching and me with my nose buried in a book. A picture book? A classic children’s novel? A critical element of curriculum that we were sharing? Nope. A grown up mystery novel – just for me. Several times one of the children would direct a comment or question towards me but then they saw that I was absorbed in my book. Conversation went on without me. And so I ignored my kids during their lunch in favor of my book.
Now, many of you who know me might think that this piece of advice seems uncharacteristic of me since I spend so much of my life devoted to my children. Their education, their growth, and most importantly, their happiness and security.
Allow me to explain the inflammatory statement that I started with. Of course I don’t mean ignoring their needs. But a little bit of carefully chosen, purposeful neglect while reading something for yourself can set up a series of very healthy opportunities for ourselves and our children.
Letting your children see you read teaches them that reading is a desirable and worthy activity.
This does several things for your children. It instills in them the idea that reading is good, fun, and interesting. That it is something worth spending their time on. This sends them off on a lifetime of learning and growing. It also encourages them to realize that one should never stop exploring ideas and discovering the world. A child who sees his or her parents engaged in reading is more likely to read themselves and therefore, much more likely to become a well-educated, well-rounded person. This also improves their employment and earning potential as well, not to mention their over-all happiness in life.
Having your children watch you read makes you a healthier, more well-rounded person.
Of course we are completely committed to our families, but we have to be healthy to adequately care for our children. The ability to think about other interests or passions that we hold can give us a break from the monotony of things like laundry, cleaning, and diapers. If we are able to explore either well held loves or new experiments we can then return to our daily tasks feeling refreshed and better able to engage with those we love. This also can help prevent any bitterness or burnout from building up when we are in an intense care-giving role for so many hours a day.
When your children see you reading for yourself it illustrates to them that you are a “real person”.
So many children only ever see their parents and “Just Mom and Dad” and they don’t have the chance to realize that we are individual people with our own lives and interests. This can make our children more apt to grow up thinking that we might be less interesting to talk to, and much less likely to understand them as individuals. With them watching us read our own books, especially if we are reading from a variety of genres, our children will see us as more open, more accepting, and more interesting people. This also helps them understand that their own lives don’t shut off when they reach adulthood, and especially when they become parents themselves.
When you “ignore” your children in favor of a touch of personal reading, they have a little more time to work out their needs and problems by themselves.
This little bit of delay can be very helpful when your children are coming to pester about every little moment in their day. Many times children get caught up in asking us for things that they are perfectly capable of taking care of, given the opportunity. When we postpone responding to them it increases their ability to delay gratification and it can also make them feel just impatient enough to manage to solve their own problems. This is critical in this day where children often don’t have to wait for very much, and are frequently the recipients of many sources of answers. Being able to wait for what they desire and knowing how to creatively solve their own problems are very important life skills.
My reading this week covers a wide range of topics including the aforementioned mystery novel, a child development book, several business books, some craft books, and a theoretical science book. Of course I’m not finishing them all yet, and I might get only a few pages read at a time, but at least I can pick what I am in the mood for and I’m enjoying myself. So I encourage you to find a few minutes to selectively “ignore” your children and pick up something to read!
Share with me what is on your bookshelf or nightstand, I would love to hear about it!
Peace and health,