Sunday, May 27, 2012

How To Get Your Children's Attention

My children are awesome. I love them. But communicating with them can be a hit and miss adventure. When I want my kids attention, I can’t seem to get it. I’ll be in a mood to chat and find out what’s going on in their lives, and they resort to one-word answers to make me go way. The conversations end up being very
one-sided including a glassy look in the eyes  if I’m able to get them to look at me at all. Here are some examples:

“How was school?” “Fine.”

“What did you do today?” “Nothing”

“Learn anything cool?” “I guess.”

“Stop hitting your sister!”  “what?”

But the times I think I have a moment to myself, well, that’s the time I get all the attention from my kids I could ever want and more. This morning while in the shower, just as soon as I had started to melt under the hot water and let the stresses and concerns for the day go down the drain, my three year old son and five year old daughter decided it was time to start World War Three. I thought the door was going to be pounded off the hinges and the children were howling like their very lives were coming to an end.

I would like to take a minute to ask here, Where the heck was dad???  Seriously, what is it about mom’s locking that bathroom door that pulls kids like magnets to fight, scream, holler, nag, cry, and tantrum through that small pocket of space under the door until mom shuts off the water and comes to the rescue of whichever child was looked at, breathed on, poked, prodded, bumped, or otherwise annoyed by their sibling.

Therefore I decided to compile a list of all the different ways I know are sure to get my children’s undivided attention. I’m sure there are more, feel free to add to this list.

1 – Locking the bathroom door

2 – Sitting down to eat. It’s not until you’ve got food on the fork and are just about to put it in your mouth when the request comes, though. It’s usually for something they need for school, for some food item that was forgotten to be placed on the table, or something that requires me to get up and do something other than eat.

3 – Starting to cook dinner. Kids get hungry, it’s inevitable. It happens all day long, with small ten minute to half hour breaks between the need for snacks. But when it’s time to make the big meal, they know that all of my attention is being given to dinner and somehow sense that they’re not my focus at that moment and immediately begin fighting and vying for that attention. I have a friend who delegates an older sibling to walk her little ones around the block at that time of day. Marvelous idea, I daresay. I am going to have to try that one. I’m still not sure how to handle it at lunch time when it’s just the two pre-schoolers at home.

4 – When I think the kids are settled and playing for a moment and I try to sneak a snack. Not just any snack, but that yummy extra good snack that hubby got me for de-stress moments. That’s exactly the moment they decide it’s time to come visit mom and see what she’s eating and why and can they have some, too?

5 – When I decide it’s bedtime for me and I try to go to sleep. Or not sleep, because, you know, sometimes the benefits of marriage can be kinda fun. But that’s a 99% guarantee that a child will want a glass of water or start crying and need a parent because they’ve had a nightmare or an older child will suddenly remember and come storming to the door that they have something due for school tomorrow and need my help to create whatever it is.

6 – Sitting down in church. Now, usually I can get the kids settled on the pew to listen to the talk for a few minutes, but as soon as I’m actually interested in the talk and taking notes, that’s when one child will start poking another child and sibling rivalry turns into all-out sibling war. I think because it’s church? I don’t know if acting up in church is so fun for the kids because it’s so mortifying to the parents? All I know is that I look for spiritual experiences in the few moments I get between negotiating crayons, toy trades, lap turns, books deals, and convincing my son that the back of the pew in front of us is not, in fact, a drum.

7 – Sitting down to write. Or paint. Or draw. Or blog. Again, the kids have this built-in radar that mom’s radar is no longer completely focused on them, and therefore must come investigate and demand all kinds of things that require me to get up and play with them again, or help them resolve conflicts, or fix a broken toy, or change the channel on the tv. You know, normal things that happen every day with little ones. Or not-so-little ones. My teenagers pick exactly the same times to come and tell me about their day, their dates, and their school lives.

Because I love my kids, my projects get put on hold. Which is why I say this is a perfect way to get their attention. If I want to talk to them, I open up my computer and focus on something else, then they come to me. Works every time. My son was put to bed 45 minutes ago. As I started writing this, thinking he was asleep, he kept sneaking out to show me little things he’d made with his toys. “Mommy, look. Mommy, look.” And so I look, kiss him, tuck him back in bed, and try to finish writing my thoughts down before I forget them. Therefore, please forgive any typo’s or editorial oopsies, because proofing while being interrupted by kids who are supposed to be sleeping can be somewhat distracting. But do feel free to share your own experiences and how you’ve solved them!


  1. Mine never need a thing until I pick up the phone.

    1. I totally forgot about the phone! That is so true!

  2. The interrupting of those "finally have a moment to myself moments" doesn't happen to me very often these days - one almost 15 year old is pretty easy that way. What DOES happen is the need for me to play Mom's Taxi. Believe me, it is impossible to get to those "moment to myself" moments while driving to and from school, classes, activities, and/or social outings!

    Of course, if my daughter is all happy doing her own things and we (the parents) want to go out as a family, THAT is a huge inconvenience for her, as are things like chores. *lol*