[The following is an excerpt from Life is Too Short For One Hair Color, by Connie Sokol. Purchase links below.]
“Each of my four children was born with abnormal hearing. Through exhaustive research I have discovered that they are afflicted with what I call SDRS, or Selective Dog-Like Response Systems. Similar to Pavlovian responses, though more sophisticated, my children hear entire conversations but only respond to particular words.
For example, I will clearly say, “Boys, please pick up the Legos and put them in your Lego tub.”
What they hear translates to “Blah blah Legos, blah blah Legos.” To which they respond, “Hey, my LEGOS!”
Interestingly, I notice a similar disorder in their father. I say, “Honey will you take out the garbage and put softener salts in the tank?
And what he hears is “Blah blah take out blah blah tank.” What I get is chow mien and a reading on our water heater.
Where was I going wrong? The future looked bleak indeed when, like a toddler’s rejected pancake, it hit me: I was trying to be logical; I was trying to make sense. You see, I had forgotten I was dealing with men and small children. With this epiphany, I devised a new strategy—only use words that motivate, that contain two syllables or less, and do it without any logic whatsoever.
For example, I now say, “Boys, please clean your room with ice cream and you can empty the dishwasher treats.” This gets their attention.
Which leads to, “What, mom?” or, “What was that?” This is big, really big, because I get what every mother wants —eyeballs. Now they are committed—they have acknowledged I exist and I have witnessed their vocal cords in motion.
The ultimate benefit of this technique is that, though the key words change, the principle remains the same. Sure, they graduate to bigger words like “keys to the car,” and “remote control,” but no matter the age, the response is generally the same—a response. And in my book, that is big.
Recently, I retrieved my four-year-old son from the neighborhood preschool. After joining the moms outside, I was juggling my one-year-old daughter and two-year-old son when the latter wriggled free, running diaper naked down the street. Quickly, I had to choose—chase him in thick clogs, balancing a flailing infant or use a key word? Technique and vanity won, and grappling for the right word I screamed, “Ethan, come here.” He ran. “Ethan come HERE.” He laughed. Think, think—the nice neighbor ladies watched with ping-pong head motions. My final serve, “Ethan, ICE CREAM.” He stopped in his tracks, turned about, and ran his diapered fanny right into my arms.
Appropriate to age and understanding, use key words to motivate rather than force.
Teaching Your Children Values, Richard and Linda Eyre”