What is present parenting?
Present Parenting is the conscious effort to be physically and emotionally available for our children when we are together. Being a present parent involves a willingness to connect and be in the moment when we spend time with them.
Sounds easy enough, huh? Well…
Unfortunately, we live in a society that is constantly trying to pull us in a million directions, therefore practicing present parenting has become more crucial than ever.
Looking at the big spectrum of things, nothing we do on a daily basis takes precedence over being a present parent.
After all, our children are our most precious possessions.
There is a lot going on. Not just in our lives as parents, but in the lives of our children.
Think about this for a second.
If you are a full-time working parent this is what your weekly schedule might look like:
- wake up in the morning to a crazy school morning routine
- you go to work
- come back just in time to prepare dinner
- help the kids with some homework
- clean up, start the night routine, and get ready for bed.
Now here is our child’s version of their day:
- go to school/daycare for at least 6-8 hours a day
- come home to do homework
- they might attend some after-school or sports activity
- come home, take a shower, eat dinner, and off to bed they go
Was there parent-child interaction? Sure. Was it meaningful or memorable, maybe?
But were you really present and in the moment? Probably not.
It isn’t something we purposely do, it is simply what our environment conditions us to do.
Therefore, it takes practicing mindful parenting and present parenting to ensure every second we get to spend we our children, we are present and engaged.
Why is present parenting important?
Our children depend on us for everything.
Not just for food and shelter, but for emotional support. They need to know that they are important, validated, and special.
As you auto-analyze the way you spend time with your children, do any of these sound familiar?
- While at soccer practice, are you on your phone instead of watching them kick the ball?
- Do you interact as you are driving them to school?
- When you do play with them, are you an active listener and participate in the activity at hand? Or are you usually distracted and thinking about something else?
- Do you sit on the couch together and watch TV while he plays on his tablet?
Don’t worry, you are not alone.
Motherhood is hard, and sometimes just getting by is what we have to do.
But what if we flipped the tables, and present parenting became the norm and not the exception?
Present parenting allows for incredible things in the lives of our children.
When we are present, involved, and engaging our children to tend (source):
- have better health as adults
- earn higher grades
- have better social skills
- are more likely to graduate and go on to post-secondary education
- are more socially competent
- have better communication skills
Present parenting also:
- forms a trust bond between parent and child
- makes them feel safe, important, and validated
- encourages open communication between child and parent
- makes them feel happy and fulfilled
A recent article titled “What Makes Children Happy ” by Michigan University concluded the following:
“Studies throughout the U.S. and Europe have looked at measures of children’s social and emotional well-being and have drawn the same conclusion – the things that really make children happy are not “things” at all. They’re real-life conditions, such as having enough nurture and love; a strong sense of attachment to a parent or other primary caregiver; confidence and optimism about the future…”
In another recent survey by The Associated Press and MTV, 1,280 young people were asked to identify what makes them happy. Overwhelmingly, the teenagers who were polled named spending time with family as their top answer. A whopping 73%, almost 3/4 of them, said their relationship with their parents is what makes them most happy. source
In other words, what your children want and need, IS YOU! Upfront and center. Present and involved.
So, how can we be more present parents?
There are many great ways to apply present parenting to our daily lives. You don’t have to do anything fancy or go out of your way from the things you already do on a daily basis.
All it takes is for you to be mindful and self-conscious of what you do and how you interact with your children when you are together.
Here are nine great ways to implement present parenting in your daily lives and make a positive impact on your children’s upbringing.
9 Ways to be a More Present Parent
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1. Phone-free Zone
This is the first and most important rule of being a present parent.
Although not a standalone present parenting activity, it is the basis of all the rest.
Ensuring your phone is on silent, and away from your reach while interacting with our children gives us the best chance at being less distracted and more engaged.
2. Have Dinner together
This might seem like a simple concept, after all, most of us have dinner with our children every day.
However, interacting with them while at the dinner table is a whole other thing.
Here are a few ideas as to how to be more present at the dinner table:
- Ask them how their day was
- Ask them what their favorite part of the meal is and why
- Plan your next family trip
- Have everyone on the table say one thing they are grateful for and why
To make it even more special, schedule a dinner date with your child. Imagine how special they will feel if you plan out a whole dinner date just for them.
Take that time to talk to them one on one. Listen to what they have to say. Listen. Ask questions. You will be amazed at what you will get to learn from your own children.
If you have more than one child, consider alternating the dinner dates so that each child gets that special time alone with you.
I know is hard. I know that there is a lot going on in our lives. But, making that kind of moment possible is what life is all about. And believe it or not, those are the memories that will forever be engraved in them.
Related Article: How to Raise Grateful Children (15 Gratitude Activities)
3. Watch and discuss a movie
Watching a movie might also seem like an ordinary activity. After all, there isn’t too much interaction as the movie plays.
But the key is to interact before and after the movie plays.
Before the movie:
- Pick the movie together
- If going to a movie theater, allow them to pick their seats
- Ask them about their expectations for the movie and what they think will happen
After the movie:
- Discuss the movie
- Point out and discuss the moral of the story
- Ask them their opinion and if they would have liked an alternative ending
- Schedule another future movie date
4. Play “The Question Game”
This has to be my son’s favorite game!
He is 5 years old and he loves what we like to call “The Question Game”.
Do you want to be a more present parent? This game will help tremendously. It is super simple but very fun and engaging.
All you have to do is ask them questions about anything in particular that matches their knowledge level.
You can pick random categories and offer multiple-choice options if you like.
In addition, they get one hint per question if they request it.
My 2-year-old daughter has recently joined the question party and requests the game on her own multiple times a day.
Here are a few of our own questions as an example:
- What is the fastest animal in the world?
- Biggest animal on land? In the ocean?
- What are baby Kangaroos called?
- What do giraffes eat?
- Who is the President of the United States?
- What are the colors of the American flag? How many stripes? How many stars?
- Tell me 3 things a firefighter does. A police officer. A doctor.
- Tell me 2 things a plant need to survive.
Note: If they don’t know the answer to a question keep it in mind and look up the answer together at a later time. My son and I love sitting down together and watching YouTube videos to find the answers to questions he didn’t know. Plus, the videos you watch together will have great material for future questions.
Examples of videos we have watched together are:
- The butterfly cycle
- How and why a rainbow forms
- How bees make honey
- All about giraffes and kangaroos
Ideal places to play the question game:
- While driving (this is a great way to keep them entertained in car rides)
- Bath time
- After dinner
- While taking a walk together
- Anytime really! Lol
5. Play hands-on games
There are plenty of games that allow for one on one parent-child interaction.
Most of these games require active listening and communication skills, both of which are necessary for present parenting.
Here are a few of our favorite board games:
6. Go on a nature walk
Going for a nature walk is another family favorite.
We live in the city, so nature walks only really happen when we go to nearby parks. However, that is not a limitation at all.
We love walking around the neighborhood in the late afternoon.
Being a present parent on a walk is very simple.
Simply engage with them by talking to them about what they see. Play the question game. Or simply hold hands and enjoy your walk together.
The simple fact of being with them, while breathing in some fresh air, away from phones, TV, and technology, is an amazing feeling.
7. Plant a tree
Planting a tree or flowers is a beautiful thing to do with a child.
Many people will tell you, “you should get your child a pet to teach them responsibility”. Truth is, many people forget plants are also living organisms that require special care.
Regardless of their age, planting a tree, flowers, or plant with your child and being responsible to water it daily and watch it grow is a beautiful life lesson.
Most importantly it allows you to bond with your child and be present and in the moment.
8. Read together
Reading with your child is one of the best things you can do together. Not only from a present parenting perspective but from an all-around rewarding and creative perspective.
According to the Children’s Bureau, here are some of the benefits of reading with your child:
- supported cognitive development
- improved language skills
- prepare for academic success
- a special bond with your child
- increased concentration and discipline
- improved imagination and creativity
- cultivate a lifelong love of reading
You can also sit with them as they are doing homework and help them create good homework habits.
9. Write a song or poem together
Writing a poem or a song together allows you to share ideas and be creative.
It opens the door for communication, active listening, creativity, and being present and in the moment with your child.
Once you finish writing it, you can choose to frame it and hang it in a place where you get to see it and read it often.
Creating something together forms a special and undeniable bond.
It can truly be a lifelong treasure that you can keep and enjoy for years to come.
Related Article: What is Mindful Parenting and 9 Ways to Apply it Daily
Present Parenting Final thoughts
Children grow, FAST!
Before we know it, they are off to college and living their own lives.
It is imperative that we choose to be present and, in the moment, every single day.
Present parenting has the ability not only to allow us to enjoy our children but also to leave a positive impact on their upbringing.
There is nothing more important than raising children who feel loved, validated, important, and included…. And that is what present parenting is all about.
Remember, at the end of the day what makes them the happiest, is simply being with you!
What have you done lately to be a more present parent?
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