“Put your shoes on please.”
“Come on guys, get your shoes.”
“Where are your shoes?”
“Get your shoes off your face.”
“Why don’t you have your shoes on yet?!”
“Put your shoes on!!”
“Time for a shower.”
“Go get in the shower please.”
“Why are your clothes still on?”
“The water has been running for 5 minutes. It’s warm by now.”
“Get in the shower!!”
“Please go brush your teeth.”
“Why are you still in there?”
“What are you doing in there?”
“Have you brushed your teeth yet?”
“What have you been doing this whole time?!”
“Brush your teeth!!”
“The dog needs food.”
“The dog is hungry.”
“If you want your allowance, you need to do your chores.”
“The dog’s bowl is still empty!!”
“Time for dinner.”
“Why aren’t you eating?”
“You like this.”
“No dessert unless you finish your food.”
“Eat your food!!”
“Get in the car!”
“Get out of the car!”
“Go get ready for bed”
“Turn off the TV!”
“Get off the phone!”
“Put your toys away!”
“Do your homework!”
Etc., etc., etc.
If you are responsible for raising or caring for children, I know you feel me. If you’re anything like me, you probably hear these same sentences come out of your mouth more times than you want to say them every day. I know I get tired of my own voice. I’m guessing my kids don’t since they are okay hearing me say the same thing four, five and six times. I also get the “I knoowwwww” response sometimes which tells me they heard me every time, but still refuse to follow through in my desired time frame.
So I decided to do an experiment.
For one week, I told my seven- and four-year-old daughters (two-year-old was exempt) that I will only tell them to do something one time and they were to respond with a basic “ok” to confirm they heard it. At that point, they were to diligently get it done or else suffer consequences based on the situation. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to turn my kids into robots. I don’t want obedient robot children. I like when they argue a tiny bit because it shows they’ve got some tenacity and fight in them, but they need to learn to acknowledge my requests for help.
Although I respectfully gave them a two-day warning that this was going to happen so they could mentally prepare themselves, I failed to word it properly. When I told my seven-year-old I was going to do an experiment in two days, her mind instantly went to exploding volcanoes and slime-making. Her smile quickly turned upside-down with an explanation of my experiment to which she responded with “I thought you meant a fun experiment.”
Day 1: It worked well! Some of the basic requests I made were “Please get dressed,” “brush your teeth,” “put on your shoes,” “pause the movie,” “lunch is ready” and “the dog needs food.” I had to give “the eye” many times as a reminder of what we were doing to which my kids responded with “ok” (seven-year-old grudgingly and four-year-old enthusiastically). I didn’t have to repeat myself, therefore there weren’t any negative consequences. And honestly, I realized I wasn’t asking THAT much of them. When I only have to say it once it feels like I’m asking a lot less of them. It’s the ten requests in a day repeated five times each that make all of us feel like I’m requiring 50 things from them. The day ended and I felt happy with the quick progress.
Day 2 – Day 7: I failed. We failed. It didn’t stick. Maybe Day 1 was fun in a way, but after that, even if I gave consequences or punishments, the task at hand still needed to happen at which point I still had to say it again. And again. With how many thousands of words are exchanged in our household on a daily basis it was hard for me to acknowledge and enforce my experiment at all times. And my girls are really good at instantly losing all the bones in their bodies and becoming heaps on the floor. I guess this experiment quickly became old and we all went back to our repetitive ways. Even after a serious discussion with my eldest on how I don’t like saying the same thing over and over and needing her big girl help and being a role model to her younger siblings, nothing changed.
The other day as I placed a bowl of cereal in front of my daughter at breakfast I said, “You have a kid spoon because all of the regular spoons are in the dishwasher.” Her immediate response was “Hey, why do I have a kid spoon?!” I almost fell to my knees. I confirmed everyone else in the room heard me even though my voice was not projected in their direction.
Maybe it’s normal for kids to have selective hearing at all times. Maybe every household deals with this. Maybe there’s a magic age when this stops and I just don’t know what it is because we haven’t reached it yet. I understand that one day in the future the non-listening will transfer from saying “Put your shoes on” five times to them completely tuning me out with their earbuds. I’ll deal with that when I get to it, but for now I just want to stop hearing myself over and over.