What is ho hum parenting and could it help my family life? This is a question I get asked frequently by younger mothers.
Ho Hum could imply a detached way of parenting or being almost non-responsive, so I want to first and foremost say that we need to be responsive to our children as this is the basis of all attachment. This is especially true for babies – a babies’ wants and needs are the same.
Yet, as our children grow we need to give them time and space to figure things out on their own – that is what makes children grow up to be resilient. If we keep responding to our children the way and how quickly we would respond to a baby or even a toddler, it creates a sense of urgency and less ownership for the child themselves. Children are smart and capable – if they have good models and good guidance, you can give them a little time and space to fix their own problems. This then carries into the middle school and adult years. Children learn to separate over time, and this is necessary in a sense to learn how to function as part of the family and the world (and not the complete center of it with expectations that everything will be done and revolve around them as the center).
One way to approach this is to think about a “ho hum” approach. Some of the ways we tend to respond to children, especially children who are more highly sensitive, is to match that urgency. I think what we want is for our children to feel heard, to feel like their needs are met , but also to value them as themselves with their own intellect and gifts. Therefore, if we can respond in a calm and less urgent manner, a manner in which we actively listen to our children and reflect back to them what they said, they can often solve their own problems. This, to me, is the point of parenting: teaching our children with good models and problem-solving how the child can be the author of their own life. This is the valuable basis of a relationship that lasts into adulthood. I believe and have seen that if you do this, your adult children will still want to come to to you with the big things for guidance, but overall, they have it handled.
Ho hum, then, means listening and reflecting. It means being calm and matching urgency to the BIG problems in life, but not to every little problem. If you have a highly sensitive child that is stressed a lot with small things, I think this is an even more important role to be able to help them see how to self-regulate. In order to do this, you need to be able to separate yourself from your child’s path. Your path is intertwined with your child, but your child has their own path. Sometimes with older children, you can hear parents bemoan, “I already did seventh grade math” or something to that effect – and this is true for many areas in life. You already were 10 or 14 or 20. You had that age. You cannot microscopically manage these ages for your children. Our children are their own people and if we can stay out of that way in a gentle, ho hum manner of availability, we can be a part of their developmental unfolding whilst not doing it for them.
Part of ho -hum parenting is having a rhythm. This keeps us from taking on too much, which makes the entire family stressed out, including the children. It also keeps us accessible and available. This is an important part of ho hum parenting – to be there. It also sets boundaries around a day in which children may have a million requests about “what are we doing today?” “can I do___?” This helps us fill in those blanks for the child, and gives the older child agency as they should be able to identify the rhythm on their own or with the use of a visual aid. Every household’s rhythm will look different and it should fit your own family
Part of ho-hum parenting is including the basis of health. No one in the family can feel well if we are not home to make healthy food, if we don’t have time to be out in nature. A child that often feels as if everything is urgent and is “wired”, often needs less in their schedule, not more.
And the last part of ho-hum parenting is figuring out how to communicate and perhaps in very different ways than we were taught or that was modeled for us. It is being sensitive enough to see what is going on underneath for a child who is more reserved, and it’s being able to help week out the important thing for a child who is super sensitive and overreacts. It’s understanding developmental stages and how this fits in with personality, and using your calm words and presence to help. There are many back posts about communication on this blog. I personally had to re-learn how to communicate. I took classes in nonviolent communication and read a lot, which was helpful. If I can do it, you can do it too!
I would love to hear about your parenting journey.
Many blessings and peace,