Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekly Column: Get Down To Eye Level

I know my daughters have the ability to hear me speaking -- they've passed all the mandatory hearing tests required since birth. But sometimes, magically, they're just deaf to my voice. I can call, lecture, and explain to my heart's content, but if they're in a distracted or stubborn mood, they just won't hear me. And I know I'm not alone in this frustration. Parents around the world would probably agree that selective hearing is downright maddening.

When my house starts to disintegrate into that maddening place, if I stop to look around me, here's what's probably happening: I'm calling across a room for a child to stop (or start) doing something, and that child is not listening. Out of laziness, I'm probably hoping to avoid the disruption of my own task to walk over, look in my child's face, and speak calmly.

But that's exactly the most helpful way to get my daughters' attention -- and hold it: get right down on their level. Stop talking above, around, or over them, and squat directly in their path. It makes sense, really. How frustrating must it be to be a tiny child, hearing voices above you all day, not knowing when or if they're directed at you? Probably NOT as frustrating as speaking to a non-listener, but who's counting?

Since learning the magic of eye-to-eye contact, interacting with my little ones has been infinitely easier. They can't help but hear me, and I know for SURE that they're listening. Obedience may or may not happen, but that's a separate bridge to be crossed.

When I'm down on my children's level, instructions or questions can happen in a conversational, rather than dictatorial way. I allow myself to be seen as a loving equal, rather than a threatening superior. An approachable -- not ignored -- mother.


  1. So true. And for me that's precisely why going from 2 to 3 children has been so hard. Things really fall apart when I'm nursing the baby and trying to direct the 2 and 4 year old from my armchair. Or when it's just hard to get down with him in my arms and putting him down results in tears on his part but not putting him down results in non-hearing. Because there are so many times I can't somehow that has translated into my almost never doing it, even when there are no impediments. I've grown lazy. I need to work on slowing down and doing my best to get down to eye level when I can. A very helpful reminder to do what I can.

  2. Another thing that I have been doing, saw it in parent magazine or something, is squat down, and take their hand and put it on my cheak while I am talking. It seems to help in calming them down and helping them to focus in. I also hear a slight top of the shoulder squeeze with both hands helps them relax as it is a preasure point, but that one just makes Gabe more mad ;) Love it!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?