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Attending is harder than it sounds

I’m currently reading Parenting the Strong Willed Child (partly in response to a horrible couple of weeks, around the time of the really bad day). Step one in the five step program is “attending,” or making statements that echo your child’s actions while playing together or participating in an activity, i.e. “You’re building a tower!” or “You’re coloring with the red crayon!” Only both of those statements are assuming that my kids actually sit and color for more than 2 minutes or build with the blocks instead of throwing them around willy nilly.

The point is to let them lead the activity and not ask them any questions of give any directions, and the child will respond positively, eager that you the doting parent are so interested in their actions. It’s actually much harder than it sounds, but I’m still going to call this one a total fail.

Let’s set the scene: Rachel is reading a book. Enter the mother, eager to practice her attending skills.

Me: “Can I read with you?” Oops, question. Should’ve just said, “You’re reading a book!” 

R: “No, let’s play dinosaurs.”

Me: “Okay, good idea.” Yes! Like that!

R: “Where are all the dinosaurs?”

Me: “They’re all right here.” You know, from when you tossed them all about earlier?

R: “But where’s my horse?” Easily distracted much?

Me: “Um, I don’t know. Do you think the dinosaur wants to ride in the tractor?” Dangit! Not only is that a question, but I’m trying to lead the activity like a big old dinosaur pushing bully!

R: “But we need to play bubbles!” Yes, dinosaurs, horse, bubbles…the natural progression of things.

Me: “No, we can’t go outside right now. I thought you wanted to play dinosaurs?” Trust me, I had a good reason whatever it was. I’m not trying to deprive my kids of vitamin D.

R: “No, I can’t!!!!” [runs dramatically from the room]

End scene.

I guess I’ll keep practicing this one.

parenting the strong willed child

Yeah, laugh it up, punk.

In an effort to fund my kids’ My Little Pony habit, this post contains an Amazon affiliate link. 

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Leigh Ann Torres
Writer, artist, wife, cook, maid, bookkeeper, mom to twins plus one...all around genie in a bottle, except you only get one wish, and it has to be reasonable.
17 Comments
  1. Going outside means getting them dressed. Which, sometimes, no.

    • Absolutely. Although if you spend any time at the Torres house, you know that we frequent the backyard in our jammies. Who needs more laundry?

  2. I honestly have yet to read a ‘parenting’ book that has helped me at all. The only good idea I’ve gleaned is from Scary Mommy’s new book where she talks about suddenly inserting new batteries into the dead toys for the boys that have never experienced them with juice. Now THAT is a good parenting idea.

    • Seriously. We’re currently experiencing the post-birthday euphoria of new toys and constant entertainment. I give it a week.

      I can say that even in just reading the first few chapters, before I even got the the exercises, the book let me in on some things I was doing to fuel the bad behavior. It’s easy to slip into the habit of either letting things slide or becoming a screaming monster, both of which just make things worse.

  3. Attending is much easier if you’re one on one – otherwise an outright battle can break out between the too, with escalating volume as kids try to get my attention.

    My son is now old enough, he doesn’t want me randomly saying things like “You’re coloring.” I’m a distraction. He’ll tell me “Be quiet Mommy.” or “Go away.”

    I’m only allowed to listen during show/tell once the picture is done… and maybe occasionally say something.

    I don’t know how many people have told me to read that book. Would you recommend it?

    • It seems like it’s an art form almost. I haven’t had the opportunity to try more than one at a time, and honestly I forget that I need to work on it at all. But the book DOES address the issue of your child thinking that your making statements is weird, and I believe it just says to keep trying. I get “go away” from Rachel sometimes too. I WOULD recommend the book, but I’m only a few chapters in.

  4. I ended up putting that book down because I found it too difficult to follow. Spirited child was much easier for me to follow. If you have success with this book, I hope you share it on the blog, because I’d love to hear about it!

    • I’m still in the beginning stages of it, but what it HAS done so far is show me that some of my responses and behaviors were fueling theirs. If I can remember to focus on working on the steps and mastering them, then I’ll let you know!

      My goal is to tame the “beast,” but not crush her spirit. All of my kids are very spirited, and I don’t want to defeat them in any way.

  5. I love that picture!!

    I find Brian uses the word “ok” a lot after giving her a direction and I’ve reminded him not to say “ok” and give her an option after a direction.

    It’s hard to remember that stuff.

  6. This is so funny. “Attending” is what I did naturally in the beginning because I had no idea what else to say to my baby.

    “Oh look, you pooped.”

    “That’s a kitty you’re strangling!”

    Parenting books scare me because so many of them contradict each other and what if I buy the wrong one? I’m so screwed.

    I love that picture, btw. She’s got such a twinkle. ;)

  7. Oh wow.

    I just watched my kid playing freely last night and thought, “I am good at this”. I observed how slowly she was able to feel comfortable with every step on the game, pushing herself little by little to something else. I did not direct her, I did not suggested, I just remain quiet and watched her. I had the ocassional “No! that is bleach! Dangerous.” ha ha ha, but I think that builds her idea and confidence of what she can do instead of what she can’t.
    Patience and control is suggested my friend, you’ll get there.

    • Good for you! I definitely need more practice. And then there was the time I was trying to practice, and I was told to go away. We’ll get there…eventually. ;)

  8. I need to read this book… P is challenging me at every turn. I STINK at playing, and I’m sure I’ll stink at attending. Doomed, I tell you. But I’m going to read the book anyway & hope for the best!

    • It’s hard, yo! I can’t move onto the next chapter until I master this skill. It’s going to be a long road.

  9. No

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