Parents: Do you “sitter-visit”? Then you’re doing it right. – The Washington Post | Team Cansler


In a recent parenting trend making the rounds on social media, parents have posted photos of adorable teens playing alone — solving jigsaw puzzles, digging in the dirt, building with Legos — and tagging them #sittervising.

The term, coined by Susie Allison, author and creator of the popular blog Busy Toddler, began in July when she posted a video titled “The art of sittervising.” “You don’t have to hover over kids while they play OR feel like you absolutely have to play with them all the time,” she wrote. “You can supervise children from a seated position.”

The idea of ​​being able to tell your children to just go and play was met with enthusiasm.‘Sittervising’ is the latest parenting trend because it’s bloody awesome,” read a headline on Motherly. An online Today article asked, “What is ‘sittervising’ and why is it the latest peer-reviewed trend for parents?” .

Of course, sittervising is just the latest parenting trend that isn’t one. Allowing children to entertain themselves is a practice that has existed at least since hunter-gatherer societies. Its popularity probably tells us more about the anxiety-ridden state of privileged parenthood than anything else.

But the fact that this concept is attracting such a passionate following is an opportunity to revisit the reasons kids need solo play and why so many parents seem to think they spend all their free time with their kids have to.

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Mark Sabbagh is a psychology professor and principal investigator at Queen’s University Early Experience Lab in Ontario. He agrees that whatever you call it, encouraging your kids to play alone is, and always has been, a good idea.

Children use the game to explore the world, Sabbagh said. “So sometimes they’re working on how physics works by building with blocks, or sometimes they’re working on how humans work in a dramatic game environment.” They usually have an idea of ​​how things work, he added, so ” try out these ideas in a playful way and then observe the results of these ideas in an environment of their own design.”

This is an important part of the development, Sabbagh said. When parents feel they need to be involved or provide some form of instruction, “they can disrupt that natural learning process.” If you get invited to play, great. But if not, “then let her do her thing,” he said.

Of course, don’t push it too far: Scrolling through your phone until you’re not responding when your child needs you isn’t good either, Sabbagh noted. Parents should encourage exploration and autonomy in a supportive way that also allows their children to understand that they are there when needed.

Brandi Hawk, an expert in parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), developed as an intervention for noncompliant and unruly children, looks at the problem of sittervising through the lens of attachment theory. “Attachment theory says there are two really important roles that a caregiver plays in a child’s life,” Hawk said. “One of those is being a safe haven so that when your child is scared, anxious or excited they know they can come to you for support.”

But, Hawk added, “The other equally important element is being a secure base for your kids to explore from. So being the person your child can look at and say, “You know, my mom or dad is there so I can go out and find out new things.” “Parents who need to be reminded that it’s for kids in Order is to play alone, approach the safe haven role rather than the safe base role.

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Children also grow through actions other than play, said Nancy Darling, chair of the department of psychology at Oberlin College, who has researched different parenting styles. One way is to watch parents do housework or errands. “There’s a ton of things we learn about adulthood from hanging out with our parents when they’re not paying attention to us,” Darling said.

Giving kids the opportunity to explore the big wide world means “they don’t just play with us, they play with other kids, they play with dogs, they play with random kids they need to learn to negotiate with, or a little older.” and slightly younger children.” And when they play without parental interference, they need to learn to solve problems on their own or with the help of other children, which empowers them.

Of course, some children don’t get much alone time, often because their parents work multiple jobs and have many responsibilities. This can lead to problems like attachment; throwing tantrums or showing aggression; or being anxious, moody, or withdrawn, said Hawk, the chief psychologist at UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s PCIT Training Center.

One of the components of PCIT is “special time” – five minutes during which a parent engages in a child-led game and practices some of the skills they were taught in this therapy. Research into the effectiveness of PCIT has shown that children whose families get involved during special times have better outcomes than those whose families don’t, Hawk said.

Hawk acknowledges that some parents struggle to find even five free minutes in a day, and suggests incorporating one-on-one play with their child into daily activities like bath time, or squeezing it into parts of the day such as B. right after school. “It’s amazing when kids go from nothing to a little bit,” she said. “Parents also feel less stressed because they enjoy their child a little bit.”

So where do many parents get the idea that they have to spend everything with their children?

Sabbagh says the internet plays a part. “I think working from home tends to be undervalued,” Sabbagh said. “So that creates cultural pressure to get your work out there,” through blog posts and social media. Hawk agrees. “There’s this real pressure that if you’re a good parent, you should be posting pictures of you and your kids having a great time together,” she said.

Some parents feel compelled to cram more parenting into fewer hours, Darling said. “One of the things that’s radically changed in the last few generations of parenting is that we’re spending a lot less time with our kids, but we’re focusing on them,” she said. “So it’s not like you’re with your kids and you’re doing something, and they come with you, and they’re sort of part of an activity. she are the activity.” This makes any parent who doesn’t focus 100 percent on their child when they’re together feel like a slacker.

But Darling points out that guilt is a feeling based on a misunderstanding of the past. After all, the housewives of yore didn’t spend every hour after school with their children. “It was just, ‘Oh, you’re home now. Well, go play, do something fun, and then we’ll do something together as a family, like have dinner or do something else,'” Darling said.

“I just think we’ve really upped the ante of what we call good parenting, and then we don’t give anyone support,” she added. “So no matter what you do, it’s not enough.”

None of this happens in a vacuum, Sabbagh said. “It all happens in such a cultural landscape. And so I understand why people do it.”

But he also appreciates it when that landscape produces someone creating a term like sittervising and telling parents it’s okay to let your child play alone. “This is where developmental psychologists can come in and say, ‘Yeah, we think so too.’ ”

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