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Ten Sneaky Ways to Get Your Child's Attention


Mother and daughter relaxing outdoors
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You've got something to say to your child, something to get her to do, something to stop him from doing. But before your wise and wondrous message can get through, you have to get some attention. Capturing your child's focus can be easier said than done, especially if it's already aimed at something else. Yelling sometimes seems like the only way, but it can raise the emotional temperature in the room to the point where your child is less able to attend. And if you yell too much, your child's probably learned to tune it out anyway. Fortunately, there are better ways to get attention, and best of all is to have a bunch of ways you can roll through to keep your approach fresh and, well, attention-getting. Here are ten to add to your arsenal.

1. Whisper. If your child shuts out shouting, try whispering. Your child may be intrigued enough by this hard-to-hear approach that she'll turn her attention to it. Saves your voice, anyway.

2. Surprise. Something that makes your child jump -- a clap of the hands, say, or a flicker of lights -- can break attention from one thing and focus it on you. You can take it from there.

3. Clown. Doing something silly -- making funny noises, jumping up and down, yodeling, speaking Pig Latin -- will make your child take notice, laugh, and focus on your ridiculous self.

4. Touch. Make physical contact when you want your child to pay attention -- a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a quick hug. That makes it clear better than words from afar that you need to connect.

5. Gesture. Make a secret signal with your child that means "Listen up!" Tap your ear, tap your mouth, wave frantically. Visuals can be more attention-getting than audios.

6. Bribe. Offer your child a reward if he or she hears you out. Not something big. Kids will often work for something unbelievably tiny. I sometimes say I'll tell my son a secret after he's listened to my message, then just whisper "I love you!" in his ear.

7. Distract. If your child's off on a tangent, try talking about something completely different. If you can get that train of thought to jump tracks, it may slow down enough to let you on.

8. Intrude. When your child's fixated on something, be it the television or the way a door opens and closes, step right in front of that object of affection and insert yourself into the conversation.

9. Order. Yelling is emotionally overwhelming, but raising your voice doesn't have to be. Try addressing your attention-wandering kid like you would your attention-wandering puppy, with a sharp but not unfriendly tone.

10. Ask. "Can you focus on my voice?" I asked my son one morning, and sure enough, he did just that. Sometimes, the most direct and obvious method actually works.

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