You’re doing it wrong. (And by you, I mean me.) As parents, but also people, we tend (and by we, I also mean me) to stack our plates to full. We want to be a great parent, have a clean house, work or go to school or complete individual projects, and all in a timely manner. In this age, we are more and more splintered, devoting mere frames of our attention to any one thing at any one time. And the cool thing is, we’re smart enough to be able to do that. We can keep 20 plates spinning at once, without having any of them drop. We can make the deadlines, clean the house, do the work, parent the kids, and socialize with our friends all at once. The only problem is, one of the plates doesn’t just want to be spun. It wants you to look at it. Always. It requires your undivided attention. But you don’t even know how to give your undivided attention to one thing anymore. So you try to make up for it in other ways. Like engaging in lots of conversation, even while you’re doing other things. By listening and allowing debates to occur so that your kids think they are important to you (which they are) and have some semblance of control over their lives. You want them to thrive and make their own decisions, rationally and reasonably.
You remember being a kid. “Because I said so” was a shitty response. You hated it. It was the conversation-ender when your parents were no longer listening to you, when they no longer had time for you. You want your kids to know you always have time for them. That even as your fingers type a sentence for a school assignment, you are listening to them and caring about them.
Even though (to me) that kind of engagement shows a caring, loving front, that’s not what the kids see. Instead of paying attention to them all day, every day, as you do other things too, you might have to try paying your full and entire attention to them for shorter spurts, then clearly explaining to them (they’re five now, you should be able to do this) that you need to work for xx amount of time. Then pay them your complete and full attention again. So instead of a continuous stimulation of halfsies, you’ll have to start doing each thing in full, then switching gears.
It’s something I’m going to try anyway.
The goal is the same, the emphasis is different.