I would guess that most parents, at one time or another, have struggled to encourage their child to “STOP” and “FOCUS.” Responsive Parents can sometimes find themselves paralyzed with confusion on how to proceed, when their gentle, calm, positively phrased request appears to be ignored.

They don’t want to yell, but the child doesn’t even seem to hear them. How will they get their child to focus when they can’t even hear them? They don’t want to bribe or scare their child, but they need them to “STOP” and “FOCUS.”

Trying to find the most responsive approach can leave a parent bewildered. All this confusion and inability to have our own voices heard, can sometimes trigger frustration. In an attempt to be calm and responsive, we have gotten lost and are beginning to feel out of control (a feeling most people find uncomfortable). This can lead to unplanned outbursts that can create resentment and frustration for both child and parent.

We have often struggled to get our eldest’ attention when he is engrossed in what he is doing. He immerses himself into everything he does so he is often moving quickly and making a lot of loud noise. It can be very hard to get his attention using a soft voice. It felt like asking calmly rarely got his attention. I figured he just can’t hear me when I ask calmly, or at least that’s what I thought.

He’s at an age now where he is able to express how my behaviour effects him. I try very hard not to yell but I have noticed even if I am feeling a little annoyed and frustrated, he is able to hear that in my voice and tells me I was yelling at him. Even if I am not yelling, it feels that way to him so I wanted to find a way to make the experience completely different for both of us.

I reflected on what would stop him in his tracks and encourage him to come over to me. Was it candy? Was it a favourite toy? Was it a song? Or a certain book? No! My sons love language is physical affection (only with his immediate family though. He’s selective about the physical affection he bestows on those outside of our family bubble). I decided to try saying….

“C, can you come here? I need a hug!”

But before I could try this new strategy, I wanted to have his permission. So we discussed how it’s hard for me to get his attention sometimes but I don’t want to yell so I came up with a new plan. He LOVED the idea! To the point that he would refuse to come over until I asked for a hug, if I happened to forget the new plan.

Once we are hugging I whisper softly what I need to say and he almost always demonstrates he has heard me. Instead of ramping up the intensity of the situation by raising my voice, I am able to diffuse and reconnect, which is much more effective.

What do think would help your child to stop and focus?

What could you do to de-escalate and reconnect?

How could you get your child involved in coming up with a plan?