Pay attention to me!
I remember, as if it were yesterday, when my youngest daughter who was 7 years old at the time, stood in the kitchen, and pointed an accusing finger at me---“Don’t read the newspaper when I’m talking to you,” she demanded. “You’re not paying attention to what I am saying!”
I was listening. But during her short description of a Brownie meeting, my attention wandered over to the newspaper lying on the kitchen table. My ears were open, but my eyes were somewhere else. At that moment, 15% of me was listening to Naomi, 25% was reading the paper, 10% wondered when dinner would be ready, 25% was glad to be home, and 25% was reviewing the events of the day. Truly, I wasn’t giving her my undivided attention.
Just the other day, my wife and I are talking about our day. I hear her words, but soon my attention drifts away from our conversation and I find myself glancing at my Blackberry. “Are you listening to me?” she asks. I wake up. I was listening and looking at her. But once again, my mind was wandering off.
Undivided attention is a scarce commodity competing with everything from worries about bills to our cell phone; however it is the fuel that propels successful relationships.
Examine a typical day, and ask yourself: “How often do I give my spouse or partner 10 minutes of my complete attention? When is the last time I listened to my child, without doing three other things at the same time? How often do I receive five minutes of a family member’s complete concentration?” This precious fuel is in short supply.
Frequently, conflict arises from lack of attention and not knowing how to ask for it. Siblings fight for parental contact. Want to get Mom off the phone? Start a fight with little brother. Want to get Dad‘s attention away from the game? Trip little sister. All too often, children demand and receive negative feedback from parents when all they really want is positive attention and tender loving care.
Spouses have the same attention-getting problems as children, but these problems express themselves differently. A couple may fight over housework but in actuality it’s because someone is feeling neglected or not heard. Attention is like a spotlight. It radiates light when it shines on loved ones. Children glow when adults stop, look, and listen. Couples light up when they feel this beam directed towards them.
One minute of undivided attention is worth hours of divided awareness.
Here are some attention-getting and -giving tips.
- Teach your children to ask for attention when they want it. When kids whine and fight remind them to simply ask for some attention by a saying “Mom/Dad, I need your attention”. A hug or a few minutes of talk will feel better than an angry, “Stop that right now!”
- Give each family member a few moments of undivided attention throughout the day—when they don’t expect it! Stop washing the dishes or raking the leaves and let your loved ones know how much you love them. Spend a few quiet moments with each child. Make this a habit and you will be amazed at the results.
- Don’t be shy. Ask for attention when you want it. Most people are terrible at mind reading. Let others know what you want and need.
What are special things that you do to give your partner, spouse or children your undivided attention?