“Doing away with punishments is about being so close and attuned to your child more often than you’d like to commit to, and then some, so as to be able to make their lives fresh and exciting, and being able to anticipate needs and wants, and change up overall situations/moods.”
(~online discussion participant)

For me a huge ‘a-ha’ to what I’m doing is there within that quote in this tiny, easily-overlooked phrase:

‘more often than you’d like to commit to, and then some’

That’s the heart of it really.
Because anticipating their needs is not about doing ‘just enough.’

I don’t want to give them ‘just enough’ of my attention to not feel neglected any more than I want to give them ‘just enough’ food to stave off starvation. In both instances I want to give them bountiful variety to choose from so that they can thrive.

Anticipatory parenting is all about helping them to thrive. It takes the best of strewing the environment (books, magazines, puzzles, games, activities) and mixes in my presence and attention.

How do I know if I’m doing this enough?

First, I look at the children:
Are they engaged? content? ‘sparky’?
Are they squabbling? (yes, some is natural and normal…but ‘too much’ can indicate needing more parental attentiveness)
Are they eager?

Second, I look into myself:
Do I feel connected to them?
Am I irritated when they need my attention?
Am I intentionally ignoring signs of boredom?
Am I looking for things to mollify them instead of engage?

There are days when I don’t like the answers to those questions. I get a little ache in my heart knowing that I’m not doing my best. Some times I pout a little bit and start thinking about how unfair it is that I have to drop what I really want to do to meet their needs.

Thankfully I usually snap out of that just about as quickly as I realize it is happening.

Not only do these children need my attention and my desire to be with them to thrive….I need it.

There is a balance, a satisfaction, a ‘rightness’ within my heart when I know that I am doing my very best for them. And when their needs have been met and they have thoroughly filled up their ‘Mama tank’ they will almost always bound off eager to engage the whole world again.