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How do you win the hearts of our little children? Tan Chin Hock, an active hands-on father, founder of HoldingHands and author of Father (父), Mother (母), shares how through some simple and intentional activities with them.

By Tan Chin Hock

Chin Hock's younger girl, Celine, used to be more attached to his helper. She would turn to the helper for activities such as feeding, bathing or play time even when the father is around at home.

However lately, Chin Hock realised he has unnoticeably risen to the rank of the likes of Elmo and Mickey Mouse, and clinched an important spot in her little girl’s heart. Beside her mum, Celine would frequently seek his companionship now.

New study shows that quality instead of quantity is more important when spending time with our little ones. Picture this: 3 hours of passive TV watching with our children as compared to 1 hour of structured and interactive play with them. The latter has proven to be more effective as a form of engagement with our little ones for their development.

Back to the point, how did Chin Hock win Celine's heart and what are some of the little actions that we, as parents, can take in our daily lives to enrich our paternal and maternal relationships with our kids? 

Here are some tips to form that special bond with our little ones from the hands-on father and author.

1. Spend Lesser Time on Devices during Outings and Playtime

According to Chin Hock, he used to check and reply work emails after office hours. Now he has drastically reduced the screen time after he reaches home and during family outings.

He rationalises, “Many of us are glued to our devices due to personal and work commitments. But do we really need to check and answer that email or update that facebook status when we are with our children? Maybe not?”

He has arranged with his colleagues such that communication via phone calls instead of emails will be used for urgent cases that require his attention. In that way, he is freed from the periodic checking of emails, a mentally draining activity, and is able to focus more of his attention on the needs of the children and family.

2. Talking to Them at Eye Level

We show respect, interest and appreciation to the other party by making frequent eye contacts during conversations. When communicating with our children, making eye contact with them is even more important as their attention span is shorter and they would look for other things to do as soon as they find out that our attention is not on them.

Chin Hock shared, "I realised that when I lower myself and talk to my girls at eye level, they are more attentive and focused. I also found myself speaking with a gentler tone as compared to speaking at a higher pitch previously in order to get the girls’ attention. I also discovered that making cartoony sound effects and animated expressions to acknowledge their responses, tend to hold their attention fairly well too.”

3. Treating Them Like Robots instead of Toddlers

Parents, especially soon-to-be ones, please read OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT ROBOTS. We didn't place an online order and receive them at the doorstep. Realising this (hopefully) will provide us the context in helping to manage our expectations towards them, reminding us to be more patience and responding in a more understanding manner when things do not turn out according to our expectations.

Chin Hock shared, "I have drastically reduced my scolding after my gradual realisation. I feel the children are more receptive after I switch to counseling and education. On a side note, making the switch also helps in maintaining a healthy blood pressure too."

4. Surprise Them

Occasionally, Chin Hock would take time off from work to fetch his daughter from the school. The surprise visits never fail to bring a loud exclamation and a big grin from the girl every time.

Surprises may not be in the form of expensive toys or gadgets. It can be as trivial as pinning up their craft work in the living room before they arrive home, developing their favourite photos and hanging in the living room, opening up the fridge to find out their favourite drink has been replenished etc.

The rule here is: Be imaginative, bend some rules and do not be afraid to be silly.

5. Ask about Their Feelings

“Like us, our little ones have their feelings and want to be heard too”, quipped Chin Hock. Settling down after a long day, Chin Hock would sit down with the girls on his sides before their bedtime and ask them about their day and whether they miss their mama and papa.

Very often, that question (obviously simple and neutral) leads to conversation with the girls sharing about their day and happenings. “I discovered that the girls are very keen to share when we show interest in how they feel. Every night is full of laughter and silly jokes that I look forward to after a hard day of work."

This article was first published at theAsianparent. Republished with permission.

Tags: Parent-Child Relationships /Family Bonding