Once your children get to the point where they no longer run to you with arms outstretched and love being by your side, the task of getting their attention can be down right impossible. Thanks to all the books and toys you’ve bought them over the years, there’s a mountain of distraction keeping them from turning their focus on you when you need it. Pair that with an endless amount of technology at their disposal and we moms swiftly slip to the bottom of their priority list. Thankfully there are a few tricks to steal back the attention when you’re dealing with kids not listening.
Avoid the echo
How often do you say your child’s name, frustrated that they haven’t come running to you yet, and suddenly realize you’ve been stuck in a monotone echo for the last five minutes? This is an easy pattern to fall into, especially when both mom and child are distracted. Chances are if you’ve called your child’s name more than two times and they haven’t responded, it’s time to change tactics. It’s these moments with kids not listening where the best option is to take a pause from whatever it is you’re doing and go to your child. Get close to them before you speak again. Staying in that echo call will only make you more frustrated, and by the time they do give you their attention you’ll be irritated and more likely to snap at them without cause.
Get in the way
Because children get so one-track minded when doing something they love, you may need to break their concentration to get them to listen. Putting yourself between whatever it is they are doing is an easy and effective tactic. If your son is watching TV and won’t look up when you call, simply step between him and the television. That’s all it takes for him to look up at you, even if he is annoyed, so you can say what you need to say knowing he’s actually listening and not just pretending while he catches the last five minutes of Sesame Street. If they’re wrapped up in something more tactile, like painting or reading, just place your hand on theirs so they’ll turn their focus away from their activity and onto you.
Kids hear their names all day long. “Stephen, can you empty the dishwasher please.” “Stephen, you need to pick up your toys in the living room.” “Stephen, time for lunch.” These are all normal and expected requests, so saying something they are used to hearing is less likely to spark their interest. But you can bet you’ll grab his attention if you replace your normal talk and tone with something goofy like, “”Stephen, the flamingo ran away again, come help me catch it!” He’ll look up when he realizes what you said and probably give a happy giggle. From there you can tell him what you really want him to hear. This trick may even succeed in diffusing some tension that may have built up during the time when he wasn’t responding to you.
Give them specifics
When dealing with kids not listening, it’s important to teach them exactly what “listening” means. When your children are younger, being told to listen may not completely register with them. Give a more specific command to gain their attention. Try saying things like, “Sweetheart will you please listen to my voice for a minute” or “Maggie, can you look at mommy’s eyes please?? They’ll focus on the specifics and, in turn, focus on you!
Remember last week when you noticed something interesting on the news but it was too quiet to hear from where you were standing? What did you do? You moved toward the television (let’s pretend your kids hid the remote again so raising the volume wasn’t an option) and paid closer attention to what was being said. By lowering your voice and speaking in a whisper your child will lean into you to hear what you are saying, giving you his/her undivided attention. Whispering is also a great way to reduce any tension you might have in your voice if this isn’t the first time you’ve tried to get your child to listen to you that day.
Give it to get it
Kids not listening? Well, are you listening? This entire post has been dedicated to getting your child’s attention, but it’s important to remember that they aren’t the only ones who get distracted by the daily hustle and bustle. How many times have you been wrapped up in a book, TV show, or Facebook stalking session when your son or daughter approaches you with, “Mommy, mommy, mommy…” If we want our children to pay attention to us, we need to pay attention to them. Think of all the things that distract us from looking our children in the eyes when they ask a question. Listen to your children, give them your undivided attention when they need it most, and show them the same amount of respect you expect to receive.
No matter how you manage to extract focus from your little ones the important thing is to be calm yet firm when you speak to them. Soon immediate listening becomes second nature and you can rest easy knowing that they will look and pay attention when you need them to, whether you’re asking them to set the dinner table or stand still in a busy parking lot.
What other techniques do you use to grab your children’s attention?