Our lives are hurried and harried. We have our adult commitments and schedules, and our kids often have their own commitments and schedules, too. It can be hard not to overload our kids and ourselves with the deadlines and dance card of each day because events must start on time. But kids' brains aren’t developed enough to process everything when they’re rushing. They need more time to organize their tasks, understand what you’re trying to tell them, and process their experiences. Kids don’t have alarm clocks and stopwatches in their minds like we adults do—all they know is they’re with you and you’re rushing around, so they better try to keep up.
While clutching your hand for dear life as you scurry them across the street to gymnastics class, they miss the message of looking both ways and waiting for the crossing signal, and they miss the fun of being with you. Hustling your child into his car seat with a fistful of string cheese en route to a playdate a few blocks away doesn’t give him a chance to ask what he’s wondering about: Who will be there? What will we play? How long will I be there?
Kids prefer to mosey. Moseying still gets you where you need to be and accomplishes what you need to accomplish—it’s just slower, more relaxed, and gentler. Of course, you can’t always mosey—you and your kids still have commitments and schedules—but try to mosey a little each day. You can mosey through dinner, mosey for an evening walk after dinner, mosey during story time. The extra few minutes you devote to eating slower, walking slower, and reading slower will give your kids’ brains a breather and let them better understand what’s happening in their lives and better learn from their experiences. Leave a little early for nearby playdates or preschool, and mosey there on foot. Jump over cracks in the sidewalk along the way, play “I Spy,” talk about where you’re going and what you’re going to do when you get there. You’ll probably both appreciate your time together even more.
It’s true that just being able to gather everyone at the same table for dinner is a challenge, but try to chew a little slower and linger a little longer—even 15 extra minutes can make the difference between a “functional” dinner and an enjoyable family event. Stretch the bedtime story a few minutes longer, too. If you’re looking at your watch while you’re reading to your kids, they’ll sense the rush and you may miss the magic of the moment. It’s especially important to mosey during listening time, whenever that occurs in your kids’ day. Try not to rush your kids when they’re telling you about their days, their accomplishments, or their worries. Even your advanced adult brain can’t absorb what your kids are telling you if you’re thinking about where you have to be or what you have to do.
The longer days of summer give you a little extra wiggle room for slowing down, so let yourself take advantage of it.
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. He is a Parents advisor and the author of books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting, 940 Saturdays, and Miracles We Have Seen - America's Leading Physicians Share Stories They Can't Forget. Visit his website and blog at harleyrotbart.com and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.