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Note: I am aware that gestures mean different things in different cultures. In the United States, this gesture means “Come.” Just want to make sure that is clear to the global audience.
I had the question a while ago of how I teach my children to come when I tell them to.
I wasn’t really sure. This isn’t something I have a concrete plan for, it is something that happens. I knew there had to be something I did, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
Shortly after that, I was visiting with my neighbor when her twins went running off–ignoring her as she told them to come back. She said, “When do they stop running away when you call? I can’t remember?”
I started realizing teaching a child to come might be more about what I don’t do than what I do. It is at least equal in importance.
What I don’t do is I don’t let them run away from me or ignore me when I tell them to come. I think that is the number one key. If I tell them to come, they will come even if it means I go pick the child up and carry her to where I was when I told her to come.
Here is a break down of what I do and don’t do to teach my children to come to me when called in 10 simple steps.
1-Do start with a solid foundation.
If your child is used to listening to you and used to you meaning what you say, then you telling your child to come will be no different than you telling your child to do anything else.
The converse is also true. If your child is used to do whatever she feels like despite your instruction, then you telling her to come will be no different.
2-Do mean what you say.
Do not tell your child to come unless you intend for her to come. If you are going to tell her to come, then shrug your shoulders and decide it wasn’t that important anyway then she will learn it is okay for her to ignore you. If you won’t follow through, then don’t give the instruction.
3-Do expect compliance.
When you tell your child to come, expect that she will. Your child can discern what your expectation is. Children live up to expectations.
4-Do use the child’s name.
Start by calling the child’s name when you want her to come. “McKenna!”
5-Don’t tell your child to come if you don’t know she heard you.
Don’t just call out, “McKenna! Come here!” and expect a response. Call her name and then pause. This is when “yes, Mommy?” comes in handy. However, when you are teaching a child to come, she will literally be in capable of saying “yes, Mommy.”
I am one who waits for eye contact and that is enough for me from the young ones. But you could also teach your child to say “ya” (a child’s version of yes) if she can.
6-Do wait for eye contact.
Wait for your child to look you in the eye.
7-Do speak kindly.
I like to speak kindly and use my manners. “Come here please” or “Come to Mama please.”
8-Don’t expect her to know something she doesn’t.
Your child might have no idea what “Come to Mommy means.” If this is the case, walk over to her and pick her up and then move on to the next step.
As soon as your child comes to you, say, “Good girl! Thank you for coming to Mama.” You might even give a hug and a kiss. Give lots of positive reinforcement. What toddler wouldn’t want to come to Mommy when she gets 50 kisses upon arrival?
10-Do expect to be tested. Pass that test.
It won’t always be so simple. Your child will without a doubt test you on this. One day she will look you in the eye and then run the other way. Or she might be slightly more condifent in her ability to make decision and just stay put and ignore you. Maybe she just found a grasshopper and has decided watching the insect is of far more interest than coming to you.
This is the crucial moment. This is the moment that sets the stage for the future. This is when you do not allow her to ignore you.
I usually go first to my “Mommy look” and use my mommy voice to give the child a chance to reconsider. “McKenna. You come here.” This will often get the child to realize that yes, I indeed did mean what I said and turn around and come to me.
But not always. If not, I then go get the child and carry her to where I wanted her to go . This is especially distressing to toddlers because they want to walk everywhere themselves. I remain calm. I remain confident. I don’t let my blood pressure rise at all. I just make it clear to the little one that running away from me actually isn’t what I meant by “come to Mama.”
So there you have my 10 step process to teaching your child to come to you when called. Hopefully this will help you to teach your child to come to you when you call.
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