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Now Hear This! Is Anyone Listening?

When you call your child, does it seem like he’s wearing ear plugs? After the third or fourth request, do you have to go and get him? Here’s something to consider. Perhaps your child has learned exactly what you’ve taught him - the first three calls are just warm-ups, and that you don’t really need him to move until you come and get him. But this routine can change!

Here are some tips:

Call. Wait. Act. 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 would like you to come.” Then lead him to the desired location. If you do this consistently, he will know that you really do expect him to come when called.

Watch how the adults in your family act. 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 and model the behavior that you want of your child.

Call a time for transition. Making a transition from one activity to another can be difficult for children. Instead of calling, “Come now!” try giving two warnings first, “You’ll need to come in five minutes.” A few minutes later, “Two minutes.” Then, “Please come in now.” At this point, if he doesn’t respond, go to him and take him by the hand saying, “When I call, I would like you to come.”

Acknowledge your child’s desires. Let him know that you understand he wants to continue playing, and then follow with a 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.”

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 50. This is a fun and specific indicator. If you have more than one child, you can allow the first one to arrive to ring the bell a second time.

Check his hearing. Make sure that your child has had a hearing test and that his failure to respond isn’t because of a hearing problem.

Don’t call to your child from a distance. The farther you are from your child the more likely he’ll ignore your calls. Don’t call your child until you’re really ready for him to come. If you summon your child, but then get involved in something else, you are reinforcing that your call is only a forewarning that you’ll need him sometime soon.

Elizabeth is a mother of four, and author of the bestselling  No-Cry Solution series on topics such as sleep, discipline, picky eating and potty training. She is known worldwide as the voice of practical, respectful parenting. Visit her blog at

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