It’s called The Half-Busy Syndrome. There’ve even been studies done on it for Pete’s sake!
This is the cycle in which the mother is half busy all the time. She goes about her various duties and occasional leisure-time activities in bits and spurts, stopping whatever she is doing to take care of this or that, answering the child’s persistent questions, taking make-believe tastes of endless mud pies, admiring drawings. She is busy, but never too busy to look up from her book or stop her work to attend to the child’s needs or wishes…She finds a certain satisfaction in the idea that she’s a good mother. But occasionally she feels she must have some relief from being constantly on tap.
What is she to do? She has tended, minded, soothed, coaxed, and displayed the patience of a saint. She must get away somehow. After, all children are children and it’s their nature to seek attention.
Parents who feel they devote great quantities of attention to a child in the course of each day do not generally understand that the nature of that attention is the crucial factor.
Research findings suggest that the quality of a parent’s attention matters considerably. In one experiment preschool children were left alone with a consistently available and attentive adult, while a second group spent a similar period of time with an adult who pretended to be busy with her own work. The children in the “low availability” condition proved to be considerably more demanding of the adult’s attention than the group whose caretaker was consistently available. The quality of the available caretaker’s attention seemed to allow the children to play more independently and make fewer demands on her. The caretaker who seemed to be busy was far more beleaguered.**
That’s what I am. Beleaguered.
Ok, so now that I know this, what do I do about it?
I noticed that to be true this morning. I had a friend here, so I didn’t bother with the usual chores and tasks, we just sat in the living room and talked. And because I was available to Aviana and not trying to “get something done”, she entertained herself with hardly an interruption.
Lisa Whelchel mentions in her book Creative Correction something she calls Alone Time, wherein her toddler played alone in her room for an hour. Then she implemented Together Time, and allows her children to play together for an hour and she acts as referee.
So my plan is to slowly get Miss A to play alone by first giving her my undivided attention (which I already do) and then telling her she mayn’t bother me for ___ minutes, gradually increasing the increments of free time I require.
I’ll let you know if it works, and you let me know if you have any better–equally good :-)–ideas for this!
**The Plug-in Drug by Marie Winn