When I call my kids' names I am met with silence. My voice no longer makes their ears turn on. In fact it might do the complete opposite. They don't hear me over the TV show or playing or reading books. My voice has somehow lost power.
Their lack of response makes me unsure if my directions are going to be followed. Often they leave the room so I have a false sense of certainty that they are following directions. When they return 30 seconds later it becomes obvious they heard the noise of my voice but not the words.
It's time to take the power back.
We need to get their attention before we start giving them tasks. We need to allow them to stop what they are doing so they can listen. Kids don't multitask—they cannot think or play and take in extra information. Parents cannot remain patient and kind when completely ignored.
I am always surprised when visiting my kids' classrooms at how the teachers keep things quiet and calm. How they aren't yelling over the volume of the kids and how the kids turn their heads and listen.
In an interview with The New York Times, Robert Abramson, director of the Dalcroze Institute in Manhattan, says: "When children can't stop talking, teachers wind up screaming. You make a game of it, so children have to listen, move, balance, watch … combining established rhythm and movement techniques … help students learn to pay attention."
So, I began to use a simple technique heard in many schools—a rhythmic clap that my kids have to repeat. This is acknowledgement that they know I am asking for their attention.
It is an audible signal to stop what they are doing. It is clear and direct. It doesn't make me want to scream and yell in frustration.
Kids like to move. Have you noticed how quickly they can memorize things, sing songs, and learn short simple tasks? This easy action of clapping is developmentally appropriate. Expecting them to pause the TV show or put down the toy when I start talking is always going to leave me frustrated. It is unrealistic to think they will learn to do that without a few beginning steps.
Clapping has become a training step in showing respect, responding in a timely manner, obedience and how to listen for cues. It has created a habitual response that keeps their brain engaged.
What was unexpected was how it gave our kids independence and confidence to get our attention in a less demanding way. Do you ever tire of hearing your kids yell for you across the house? Or worse: from the bathroom?
One way we helped our children learn to respond to us quickly was by letting them use the clapping technique to call for us. When we would come to them and praise them for not yelling our names across the house a new language was created between us—a language that allowed us to hear each other and communicate clearly, to give each other the attention deserved.