Perfect Parenting

Kids Who Don’t Come When Called Excerpt

Question:  I always have to call my child repeatedly before he’ll respond. It’s like he has cotton in his ears! I can’t stand being ignored. How can I get him to come when I call him?

Think about it: If your child knows that the worse consequence for not coming when called is that he has to listen to your repeated yodels, he may decide that you’re easy to ignore. He may have learned that he doesn’t have to take your calls seriously until your face is bright red, the veins are sticking out on your neck, and you bellow his middle name. This means, you need to change your behavior to get him to change his.

Do this: Children learn through experience. When you repeatedly call, but he doesn’t show up until he’s ready, you’re actually teaching him to ignore you. Follow this procedure: Visually locate your child. Call once. Wait three minutes. Go to your child, take him by the hand, say, “When I call, I expect you to come.” Then lead him to the desired location. If you do this once or twice in front of his friends, I guarantee he’ll change his ways.

What are you modeling? Watch how the adults in your family call to each other and respond when someone calls them. Does the caller yell from two rooms away? Does the callee mumble, “in a minute” and then have to be reminded several times before responding? These are the models for your child’s behavior. Change the ways you respond to each other. Children learn what they live!

Understand your child: Making a transition from one activity to another can be difficult for many children. Instead of calling, “Come here now!” try giving two warnings first, “Willard, you’ll need to come in five minutes.” A few minutes later, “Willard, two minutes.” Then,”Willard, please come in now.” At this point, wait a minute, and if he doesn’t respond go to him and take him by the hand saying, “When I call I expect you to come.”

Let him KNOW you understand: Acknowledge your child’s desire to continue playing, followed by a firm statement and an action that promotes compliance, “I bet you wish you could stay in the pool forever, but it’s time to go now. Here’s your towel.”

Save your voice: Use a dinner bell or timer to call your child. Tell him that when he hears the bell, he needs to come before you count to fifty. After a few practice runs you can create a consequence for not coming in response to the bell, such as skipping desert – just let your child know the specifics in advance as fair warning

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from Perfect Parenting (McGraw-Hill 1998).

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