How important is it to have a child’s attention when giving directions?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 14,335
    Parenting educator Dr. Rene Hackney talks about the importance of having a child’s attention when giving directions.

    Rene Hackney

    Originally a full-time preschool teacher, Dr. Rene Hackney now holds a Master?s in school psychology and a PhD. in developmental psychology from George Mason University. She trained at the Developmental Clinic at Children?s National Medical Center and for the public schools, teaching in parenting programs at each. She has also acted as a consultant to several area preschools.

    For the last four years, Dr. Hackney has owned and lectured for Parenting Playgroups, Inc, a parenting resource center and preschool classroom in Alexandria Virginia. She has offered workshops to a wide

    range of parent, teacher and social work groups during this time.

    Workshop topics include eight hours on positive discipline techniques, five hours on early academic issues and common issues such as sibling rivalry and potty training. All workshops provide well researched lecture, in-class practice and open discussion time. Additionally she hosts a monthly parenting focused book club and fun play programs to introduce the preschool setting to young families.

    Dr. Hackney is married and has two young children of her own.

    Host: How important is it to have a child s attention, when giving directions?

    Rene Hackney: It's at least very important to have their initial attention, meaning you want to have their attention before you speak. There are great many ways to get that attention, we tell preschool teachers to flip the lights, to ring the bell, to clap their hands, so that they get the children, who are in the classroom s attention before they speak. Preschool teachers don t want to say a direction 16 times to 16 kids. They want to get everyone s attention and then give the direction. It's the same thing for parents, you don t want to be repeating and repeating and repeating yourself. So, the idea is to gain your child s attention first, say your child s name, tap their arm, whisper, when you whisper kids tend to look up because it sounds different, sing directions, sing and get their attention. Something to shake up what you are doing, we have had parents, ring the bell and clap their hands to get their children s attention, but it is just something, so, you know that child is looking at you.

    There is a difference though between initial attention and sustained attention. There was a study that came out in 2005 that said that children whose parents had initial attention retained more than children whose parents required sustained attention. Sustained attention means the child has to look at you the whole time you are speaking and what they found is when children had to continually look or be redirected to look at the caregiver, when a parent would say, Look at me when I talk to you throughout. They retain the less of the verbal information, what does researches were suggesting was that the young child, their brain is so focused on looking at the person that they are not listening to the person. Substantially you have their initial attention, but then if the attention wains a little bit, it s okay.