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The Less I Talk, The More She Listens

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When we're out in public and I need to get my daughter's attention (if she's a little ways away from me), I whistle at her. When other's witness this, they are either surprised (impressed?) or think it a little distasteful- she isn't a dog after all! But amidst the noise of the playground or the cafe, the whistle seems to work best. I'd rather not shout her name over and over, until a) it is background noise to her and b) everyone in earshot knows it.

Things that aren't talking or are a different way of talking tend to be the things that cut through the noise of our environment and even our own thoughts.

Sometimes it's whispering. Sometimes I act like I'm playing charades. But when I bring the volume down or change my approach, I find that my kiddo tends to lean in, pay a little more attention and listen harder.

Though it has been many years since I taught in a classroom, I still sometimes have nightmares about an out of control class that won't listen to the lesson I'm trying to impart. As my blood pressure increases, so does the volume of my voice. Eventually, I'm shouting to be heard above them and, as you can imagine, they never stop to listen to me and I wake up sweating. Phew! As I learned first hand, talking a lot and loudly, rarely helped me get my point across. I would be met with glazed eyes and dazed looks the further down the rabbit hole I went. Simple and quiet were almost always the key to being heard. It's easy to forget those lessons that I learned nearly a decade ago now that I'm working to apply them to my own kids.

As in so many realms of parenting (and life), more isn't always better. More parental talking becomes white noise. More mama talking means that kids don't have to speak for themselves. More talking from me means that I'm the only one who can figure things out or translate or make sense of things (not true!!).

When I get my daughter's attention after I whistle at her, I try to continue in my 'hushed mode.' I sometimes pantomime to her or crook my finger at her to come to me or use a little sign language to ask her something. These things don't always get my point across, but before I yell or hoist myself over to her, I want to give her the chance to decode some of what I'm saying. I want her to be good at reading people's faces and reactions. I want her to notice nuances in body language and people's moods. I want her to be able to really pay attention to what someone is trying to say or show to her.

After all, I'm trying to prepare her for a world in which I won't always be her constant companion. It's not just me who she should be prepared to listen to. So hopefully making her listen a little harder now will help her hear even more as she grows.