listening ears

Today’s Sluiter Nation Recruit is sort of different.  And special.

Twitter_PhotoToday Dr. Deborah Gilboa of Ask Dr. G is here answering a question I have about Eddie’s behavior.

“Dr. G is a board certified family physician, mother of four, and a professional parenting speaker and writer she follows 4 basic principals when guiding parents from toddlerhood to young adulthood – Respect, Responsibility, Responsiveness and Resilience.”

I was so excited when she contacted me about being here today.

I have talked about Eddie’s “listening ears” before, and many of you commiserated with me about having similar problems with your 2-4 year olds.  So, Dr. G is giving us some advice today!

Here was the question I posed to her:

Eddie ignores us.  Even though he knows there are consequences.  And then, when the consequences inevitably happen, he acts shocked and surprised and scream-cries every. Single. Time.

How can we get better listening ears the FIRST time we tell him to do something?

And here is her response:

Well, Sluiter Nation, this is not unique to your land! Or, at the very least this is something our two home countries have in common.

Let’s talk about “ignoring.”

To an adult, ignoring is what is happening if I ask my child to do something and he doesn’t look at me, say “Sure Mom, I’d be happy to drop this fun thing to do that super-annoying and pointless thing you want without any complaint” and then get up and do it. Immediately.

From Eddie’s point of view, he is not ignoring you!  He is (take your pick) playing, thinking, listening to something else, imagining, building, wrestling, resting, “reading” or any number of other really important-to-him activities. AND, you can only consider yourself ignored if you know he heard you.

Here are three tricks to actually getting a kid’s attention:

  1. If you don’t have eye contact he can’t hear you. So don’t start talking until he is looking you in the eye. The part of his brain that can actually attend to your words is not engaged if he is focusing on something else. Some kids can’t hear you until they have put down the toy, even if they’re looking at you.
  2. Don’t make your request until he’s participating in the conversation. Set you and Eddie up for success (defined as asking only once). Do this by calling his name or tapping him or shooting of a flare gun until he looks at you and answers you. “Yes Mommy?”
  3. If you have to repeat yourself, get quieter instead of louder. The instinct to escalate our volume when saying something for a second time is almost inescapable! Unfortunately, as volume rises, so does blood pressure and frustration. If you get quieter he will attend to your words better.

Once you have his attention you have to make a quick assessment. Ask yourself, “Is there a good chance of him doing what I’m asking?”

  • An easy one: “Please put on your shoes to go to the park.” Good bet that he jumps up!
  • Something that could use a reward: “Please put down the Legos and wash your hands for dinner. First time please so that we have time for a puzzle together after dinner!”
  • Something that might need a consequence: “Clean up that game and thank your friend for the playdate. We have to go, and if I need to ask again we won’t be able to stop at the library on the way home.”

The last tip I want to leave you with is this: If you have to repeat yourself sometimes you didn’t fail. Do you do everything you’re asked the first time? I sure don’t. Just ask my husband, or my kids for that matter! Keep in mind that Eddie is old enough to have his own “agenda” about his day and that, though your way is better for him, you are throwing a wrench in his plans! You’re (of course) in charge, but we can have a little empathy that our kids don’t really get much decision-making power about their schedule.

Happy communicating!



Thank you, Dr. G for this great advice!  Cort and I have already tried this and we get a WAY better response when we get eye contact from Eddie FIRST before telling/asking him what to do.

Find more Q&A on Dr. G’s blog and follow her on facebook and twitter (love interacting with her in both of these places!  She is ALWAYS available to answer questions!)

Bring Dr. G to come speak at your school or church or work or university.