The Science of Parenting

Finding Focus | S.3 Ep. 8

September 24, 2020 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Season 3 Episode 8
The Science of Parenting
Finding Focus | S.3 Ep. 8
Chapters
The Science of Parenting
Finding Focus | S.3 Ep. 8
Sep 24, 2020 Season 3 Episode 8
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Did you know simple tricks like making eye contact, written notes and clear commands can aid in your child’s concentration levels? Try out some of our pro tips to help his or her focus (and maybe even your own).

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Show Notes Transcript

Did you know simple tricks like making eye contact, written notes and clear commands can aid in your child’s concentration levels? Try out some of our pro tips to help his or her focus (and maybe even your own).

Send us an email: parenting@iastate.edu.
Find us on Facebook or Twitter: @scienceofparent.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.iastate.edu/diversity/ext

Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research-based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Hayungs:

And I'm Lori Hayungs, parent of three in three different life stages. One's launched, one in college and one in high school, and I'm also a parenting educator. And today we are continuing our conversation on temperament . Yes, three. Today is all about parenting with temperament in mind. So when we look at this entire season and we think about temperament , we want to think about how it impacts your parenting, but just a quick reminder on what temperament is and what it isn't before we start. So temperament is our predisposition to how we react. It's inborn, it's genetic, and it's with us from the very beginning. So you might be wondering how is it different from personality? Good question. So we think about temperament as that foundational piece. So we start with temperament and then we layer on top of temperament, the environment that we grow up in. We layer on our own growth and development as we age. We layer on life experiences. And as we layer all that on, it forms our personality. But when we think about temperament, it's always been there.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And so of course, we're going to talk about the research and reality of temperament today looking at one specific trait. remember the research we're looking at is some of that original research from Thomas and Chess, and then also, research from James Cameron and his colleagues at Kaiser Permanente. They have been tracking kids' temperament, thousands of kids' temperament profiles for over 30 years. So lots of great insight there and what we know from this research is that everybody gets all nine traits. The question is, did you get a little, or did you get a lot , how much. So as we think about that with our kids and with ourselves, you know, exploring that temperament and where we fall on each of those traits , we also want to remind you that we have a lot of resources from the topics we've already covered in temperament, and we're going to continue adding to that list on our temperament page, on our website @scienceofparenting.org. So you can check out those resources, you can find where you might be able to take a temperament profile , like Lori assigned to me and all of those things are found on our website. But for today, we get to talk about distractibility or perceptiveness, right? As Mary Sheedy Kurcinka calls it.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes, exactly. Let's look at how we define it and talk a little bit about how it plays into our role as a parent. So distractibility is about how much we notice things. I love that Mary Sheedy Kurcinka talks about it as, how am I distracted away from my focus? And the researchers do also call this perceptiveness. So how much is my child noticing other people, colors, noises, objects around them? Do they forget what I asked them to do because something else caught their attention? So that idea of distractibility, but at the same time, thinking of it as perceptiveness. So how might you describe it in your own words?

Mackenzie Johnson:

This is another one of those traits that I just love, like either end of the continuum, I think is so fascinating. So I actually think of just the phrase "notice", like that particular phrase really sticks with me of, do I notice, am I taking in all of those things around me? Am I noticing these really? Maybe what others might deem not important, right. Taking in all that extra stuff. So that noticing, and I really, really love the word perceptive. Yes . I think that's a very positive way for us to talk about this trait of taking lots of things in. So how do you describe it kind of in your own words?

Lori Hayungs:

So I chuckled because I think that Kenzie DeJong think of it in the same way. It's that, did I catch the shiny object? Did I notice that , you know, sometimes it would be like squirrel, you know, and you catch it, you catch that. Right. So I too love the idea of perceptiveness. and that idea of perceiving the little things, those shiny objects. Yeah .

Mackenzie Johnson:

I feel like I've heard you say, catching the subtle, you know, picking up on those little subtle things. You know, I feel like it's the way I've heard you talk about this trait, too . Yes, exactly. And so we know that every kid, every adult got a certain level of perceptiveness. Did they get a little, did they get a lot, you know, on that continuum? And so I do want to explore that continuum but I also want to remind everybody, our listeners , this trait in particular, sometimes people might perceive that we might be talking about a medical diagnosis, like ADHD or something like that. What we are talking about today on our podcast is the temperament trait of distractibility or perceptiveness and that normal range of typical development , that kids and adults have. So just talking about temperament here today.

Lori Hayungs:

And I love that you talk about there being this normal range, which means that there are children, adults who are highly distractible , and that doesn't mean there's some medical diagnosis. It just means that there is a normal range of distractibility. There's a normal range of perceptiveness. So let's start on one end of that continuum. And let's start with the less distractable or less perceptive child. And these kids, they might not be easily swayed by those subtle messages around them. They might miss the details. And it's important to remember that they may not be intentionally ignoring you or ignoring things, but they might just miss it and keep going right along with what they're doing.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And we talked about this example of reading the book , you know, with persistence. Am I going to finish? How important is it to get back to that task? I feel like, you know, sometimes we confuse this distractibility with perceptiveness or sensitivity but I think the difference is, if we think about it in that example of reading a book, a less distractable child is able to hone in on that book and shut out, right. They're not as distracted by the things around them. So even if there's a lot going on, they have that ability to kind of hone in and tune out , which is a skill that I maybe wish I had a little more of or a natural ability, I might want to say. But yes, that less distractable child might be honed in on the activity they're doing. And so they're naturally able to tune out those things. It might not be intentional that you had to say their name six times , you know. They're not being obstinate necessarily just they're honed in and tuned out.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes, exactly. I love that. I can see it visually in my head of just being honed in. I love that. So then on the other side of the continuum is the child that is highly distractable or highly perceptive. And this child is literally constantly taking in all of the sights and the sounds around them and think of them as literally being barraged by messages in their brain. And they're taking in so much, they might not be able to sort out which message is the important message to be hearing right now, or which is the most important message that I should be responding to right now. You know, they might have a rich imagination and those messages are coming at them. And what they really need is for you to help them to figure out which message they need to hone in on. And it's really worth pointing out here as well, that it takes a lot of energy for a distractable , highly perceptive child to pay attention to things. And so by the end of really honing in and paying attention, frankly, they might just be exhausted.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh, I relate to that so much. So my temperament , I fall in that distractable end. And actually just recently I was out and about with my kids and we were in the pool and my son was having a hard time. He's about one right now and he didn't really want to be in the pool. He was kinda fussy. Do you want to sit on the edge? And then it was just like, okay , I really need to pay attention to him and be alert of what's going on to keep him safe here while my daughter wanted me to catch her as she jumped off the edge or pay attention to this thing she was doing and all of that stuff. And I realized after being at the pool and focusing so much energy on trying to keep my son safe, I was exhausted from tuning everything else out, the music and my daughter trying to get my attention and ooh, that highly distractible, that's exhausting to hone in like that.

Lori Hayungs:

It is and think about all those sights and sound that the highly perceptive person or child is catching . And then at the same time, the less perceptive child, they might not be hearing the lifeguard at the pool telling them don't run. And it's not that they're ignoring them. It's just, there are all of these other things and they're pretty much honed in on to , you know, being in line at the diving board. Right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, my mom tells the story of me when I was a little kid. Actually, we had gone to visit a family friend who had recently moved and she was having trouble remembering where the house was. And I was maybe, I don't know, I was early school age, like maybe six or seven. And I just remember from the backseat , I was like, well, mom, the house number is 1819. And sure enough, the house number was 1819 and my mom was able to find the house and I've heard her tell that story a couple of times. And then now I think those are the kinds of details that I see my daughter pick up on. You know, when we would drive to school, if I took a different way, mom, the blue house is on the wrong side of the car. She picks up on those details. So the apple has definitely not fallen far from the tree on the distractibility perceptiveness trait.

Lori Hayungs:

That's how we call it, apples and trees, apples and trees .

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So as we think about, you know, this kind of a continuum and our own distractibility level and our child's where does your family fall? You know, everybody, did they get a little or get a lot?

Lori Hayungs:

So I think about my three children. And I think that if I include myself in this mix, that there are two of us who are more highly distractable, more perceptive than the other two of us. And then of those two that are less distractible . One is definitely much less perceptive in noticing those things. And so I can see there are times where, gosh, you know, her and I are totally missing each other's cues. She's not catching my subtle cues and I'm forgetting that she's not being intentionally obstinance, she's not ignoring me potentially. I'm just being way too subtle.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And it's just different, the different temperament levels and the different experiences. Absolutely. And my family, my co-parent, as well as my two kids, we all actually tend to fall on the mildly to very distractible and so we actually all kind of fall on the same end of the continuum for us. So sometimes that is a challenge though, too. Actually, I have to tell you this. The other day my daughter and I were sitting together in the chair in the living room and I was looking out the back window of the house, just you know, in the zone, like daydreamy. And then I come out of it, shake my head a little bit. And I'm like, oh, you were maybe saying something to me? And I looked down at her, she's looking out the front window daydreaming , like looking at the birds. And then I just had to laugh and I started laughing and she shakes her head a little bit like. And I was like, we were both distracted.

Lori Hayungs:

That's cute.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So one thing we do, of course, like to keep in mind with our different temperament traits is that as kids grow and age , that temperament is going to stay the same, but there are going to be times when, because of the developmental tasks they're working on, it's really that certain traits will kind of rear their head. You'll really see those temperament traits kind of come to play. And we know that that actually increases as we grow those skills associated with that noticing. And so as we think about these ages and stages and perceptiveness, I love to kind of go through some examples here. Sure. Start little, like we always do. Let's start with those infants and toddlers. How might we see this kind of perceptiveness or distractibility , play out. Let's start with the higher end.

Lori Hayungs:

Okay. So just developmentally we think about infants and toddlers taking in their whole world. And so, in general, because of who they are as little human beings, it's honestly like science class 24/7. So let's talk about the more distractible infant or toddler. And we look at the fact that that infant, they might not nurse very easily because they're excitable and they want to see what's going around them. And the same thing with that distractable or highly perceptive toddler, you know, they might not sit and eat their entire meal because they're so distracted with what else is going on around.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes . So what about on that less distractable and you know, what might we notice about a baby or toddler who's less distractable .

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah. So the less distractable infant or toddler, you know, one of the things that we about with tools and techniques in terms of guidance and discipline is this idea of we can redirect an infant or toddler. Well guess what, if you have a less distractable or less perceptive toddler, they're not going to be easily redirected. And so that handy temperament or that handy guidance and discipline tool just isn't going to work as quickly for them as it does for other children.

Mackenzie Johnson:

All right . So let's move on up the ages here. So let's look at preschool. So what do you know ? We know that lots of kids, you know, they're starting preschoolers or you're starting some of that school stuff. We see certain things that are going on in the school day, what are kind of some tasks that might be going on where we might see this distractibility come to play. Again, let's start with that more d istractible child.

Lori Hayungs:

Okay. So a more distractible preschooler is that child that, you know, during circle time, they might notice everything else around them except for what the teacher is doing. So they might catch that spider climbing up the wall in the corner, they might hear the sirens going off in the distance outside. They might feel another child behind them kind of wiggling. And, you know, as a teacher, a preschool teacher, you might get frustrated because they're constantly distracted by things that are going on around them. They're taking in all that stuff, taking it all in.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And what about the less distractible child then?

Lori Hayungs:

Well, in that same scenario, think about during circle time, the children are all sitting there and the less distractable child is really focused and honed in on that book that the teacher is reading. And sometimes preschools use that circle time as a transition to move from one activity to the other. And that less distractible child might not hear the teacher behind them asking them to come and wash their hands or come over for the other activity. And so, again, it's not that that less distractable child is purposely ignoring you. They're just not catching it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. So picking up on everything around at circle time, except the book, or maybe so honed into the book, can't notice the other stuff.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Alright . So what about these kinds of school- agers?

Lori Hayungs:

All right . So thinking about one of the big parent-child struggles of school age, right? It's the big homework word, homework, homework. Sometimes parents will call and say, the nemesis of my existence is homework. Yeah. So, right. So think about the highly d istractible school ager. When it comes to homework, they are catching a nd noticing everything else around them. You know, the cats and the dogs running through the house, they can hear the neighbor, kids outside still playing, and they're having to do homework and homework can really be a difficult time for a d istractable child. And as we think about a child who i s less d istractable and homework, you know, what might happen is they might be so honed in on their homework, they don't hear their parent calling them down for dinner, or they don't catch that their timer went off and now they need to go and move to another task. So both ends of the continuum can bring us those parent-child power struggles. And one other thing to mention with that highly d istractable child is remember if t hey're really working hard at honing in on their homework, they're going to be exhausted when they're done. A nd so there's that potential for those meltdowns after homework, because they're so exhausted from trying to not be d istractable.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I think about like a lot of times in my family, you know, we would want to do homework at the kitchen table but then all of the sound of cooking and yes, right by the window outside and all that , and I learned as I got older, that was not a good place for me to try to do that because I was exhausted from tuning it out, versus it didn't take quite as much energy if I found a space where there wasn't as much to distract me. Cause I get exhausted from having to.

Lori Hayungs:

And our producer, Mackenzie DeJong, brought this up as well. And she said, well , think about the distractible child taking tests at school. After their test , they could be completely exhausted. And then they have to move to the next class.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And the teacher is expecting things of me in the next class, not knowing how wiped I am from working really hard on that test and not looking at my friend, clicking the pen.

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah, exactly, exactly. Which brings you to the end of the day meltdowns for distractible children. I mean, they've been honed in all day long at school. You've been honed in all day long at work. Whew, perfect storm happening at 5:30, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Are you in my house at 5:30, Lori? All right . So let's move to maybe what's at your house.

Lori Hayungs:

So at my house, parent power struggles happen around chores and the idea that my teens and preteens, you know, the highly distractable children and you tell them to go do their chores. Well, you know, they might start sweeping and notice that, you know, there's garbage on the floor, pick up the garbage on the floor. Suddenly they realized the garbage is over full. They take the garbage out the back door. They notice their shoes out the back door so they bring their shoes up to their bedroom. And pretty soon they're not in the kitchen where I expect them to be sweeping, right?

Mackenzie Johnson:

You are at my house, aren't you ?

Lori Hayungs:

And you know , so that power struggle of why aren't you doing what I asked, well, you know, because all of these other things distracted me. Can't you praise me for all these other things I did notice that needed to happen. And so, on that high distractibility, highly perceptive end of the spectrum. And so thinking about the opposite side, that less distractable , less perceptive, the task I sent them to go do was to sweep and they completed it and then they left the room, but they didn't notice that there was garbage overflowing and that they could take the garbage out. They didn't notice on the way out to take the garbage that their shoes were on the steps and that they could have put those away. And so there's that potential for me to be frustrated and think, well, you only did one thing, you swept and you know, in their eyes, well, they completed the task. I didn't even notice the garbage is overflowing. Huh. You know? And so there are those, just those places for those power struggles when it comes to perceptiveness and where we are on that continuum.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And I think this is a good place to remind everybody, myself included that, yes, it's not about an excuse, right? Understanding this temperament trait is not saying, oh, they don't need to take out the garbage because they just won't notice it. We're not saying that. We're saying understand that your child may not naturally pick up on those subtle things. And so we might need to be a little more explicit or your child was cleaning or they just ended up cleaning parts of a lot of different tasks. Right. And so understanding the place where that might naturally come from for them and what skills we can help them develop.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. Rolling right into that, of what skills can we help them develop? Because remember we talked about this idea of learning to respond to their natural temperament. And like you said, it's not an excuse to just keep ignoring the garbage. It allows us that opportunity to respond in a way that's a good fit. We respond and we say, oh gosh, I need to help you remember that after you're done sweeping, why don't you go ahead and check the garbage because you may not have noticed that it was overflowing. Thomas and Chess, they call this the goodness of fit and learning to support those natural tendencies really helps us to not blame the child or even blame and shame ourselves. And what happens is it maybe makes our parenting easier and we can begin to really learn about and understand, and then prevent behavior problems and children. So as we look at that natural distractibility, that natural perceptiveness and pair it with our own. Oh, like we said, we may not be surprised to find that they're similar. And if we look at how to navigate that distractibility or perceptiveness, we essentially find way to create a better fit.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. And I love that. And it makes me think of our writer, Barb, you know, she talks about this idea of creating space for understanding temperament. And I just love that. And, you know, seeing it as that gift that we value, you know , and as parents, we understand and explore their temperament and along the way we help teach them skills. We help them meet milestones. You know, we have these shared goals of things that they want to accomplish and so they can successfully navigate the world with that temperament while valuing it. Right. That we're not going to Oh , okay, well, you never pay attention to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So you need to like, no , you can value that. You are a highly perceptive person. I can teach you to value that and I can help you gain some skills to navigate the world with it.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And the other thing that happened as she was sharing that with us was we all of a sudden started to think about, oh, we need to add in a section where we talk about what's wonderful. Yes . So leading us in that direction. Right. So let's talk a little bit about what's wonderful. So when we think about the less perceptive, less distractible trait, whether it's in a child or an adult, what do you think is wonderful about the less distractible?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Being highly distractible, it's a little bit easier for me to relate to that and see that as a wonderful strength. So I really want to give a thought, this is a wonderful strength. You know, it's a wonderful thing to be less distractable too . And so that ability, I mean, honestly it just impresses me. The ability to just hone in and be on task. And I even think our writer, Barbara , sometimes her ability to multitask because she can tune things out and I'm just like, yes, that is not something that comes very easily to me. And so that's a wonderful thing about a child or a person in general, who is less distractible, that ability to hone in. What would you say is wonderful?

Lori Hayungs:

Where you said it impresses me and I appreciate it. And thank goodness that someone who is less distractible is on our team because without her, the three of us would just constantly be going off the rails. And so I appreciate having someone on our team who can keep us honed in when we need to be. Absolutely. It's wonderful.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah, it is indeed wonderful. So what about on the other end of the continuum? What would you say is wonderful about being more highly distractible or more perceptive?

Lori Hayungs:

So I do often have to remind people that it is wonderful that, you know, I can find humor and be creative and catch the other things that others are missing because I am highly distractible and I was chuckling because sometimes we've talked about how we're just exhausted recording. And it hit me while we were recording this right now. And I'm thinking, gosh, I hope I didn't miss anything she said, because I was totally thinking about this thought and idea of we are exhausted from honing into each other to record the podcast.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Weird how that happens to us. I think of, you know, I shared that my daughter is particularly more perceptive and , actually I have this picture of her. We were on a walk and I remember kind of turning around, come on, let's go, let's get ready, come on. But I turned around and right as I got to say it, I realized she was literally stopping to smell the flowers. And so I have this picture of her stopping smelling those flowers. She's like not even two and it's just the sweetest, but literally that girl stops to smell the flowers. So I do think that's a wonderful thing. Sometimes with a distractible child, okay, I'm giving you a direction, listen to what I'm saying. Don't be distracted, but it is also so wonderful that ability to take that in , and to notice and stop and smell the plants .

Lori Hayungs:

We'll have to think about posting that picture of her alongside the picture of me when I was about 18 months old, outside with my grandmother and I'm smelling the flowers.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Really? We should.

Lori Hayungs:

Future story, right. Yes. I love that. Okay. So let's talk about our reality. How about it?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So looking at some strategies for you as listeners, and now that you have this understanding or listeners or viewers, whichever you are , this understanding of distractibility or perceptiveness trait , what are some strategies we have to help our kids who might fall on either end of this continuum?

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah . So I look to Mary Sheedy Kurcinka book, Raising Your Spirited Child, when it comes to some of these techniques, particularly when it comes to that highly distractible, highly perceptive child, because there are a lot of parent power struggles that can happen on that end of the continuum. Now, not to say that there aren't power struggles at the other. and I think that as we talk through these strategies, you'll find that they can be utilized for either end of the continuum. So a couple of strategies together here include presenting information in different ways. You might to present it slower or without distraction, or even using words or written instructions.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Love that one. So for the less distractable child, it's the explicit okay, you did this. Nice job completing that whole task. This is the next task. I explicitly want you to empty the garbage and sweep and wipe the counters. Exactly. And for the more distractible child who maybe was noticing the flowers while we maybe were trying to give a direction. The written out instructions also give like , remember to come back, you didn't finish sweeping, make sure you get back so you can cross that all the way out. So I love that the idea of writing it down.

Lori Hayungs:

And it's really important too . If you start to hear yourself say, well, I told you, and they're kind of looking at you with a blank stare. That's a really huge indicator that I might need to write this down and speak the words out loud. Yes. It's just something you might have to learn to do is a little of both. So another strategy that she talks about is using eye contact and keeping it simple. And when I'm talking about eye contact, I'm not saying that phrase we've sometimes maybe heard ourselves saying, which is, look at me when I speak to you. Yeah . It's not that at all. Absolutely not that. It's more the idea that we say something like, oh, I can tell you're really focusing on that book. As soon as you look up and see my eyes, I need to tell you something.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, I'll know you're ready to listen when you're looking up. Yes. The opportunity for eye contact, recognizing whether it's because they're focusing on lots of things or honed in on one, right. The opportunity for the eye contact.

Lori Hayungs:

The other thing to consider here is that with children who are distractable, highly perceptive and with children who are not distractable or less perceptive, we are going to find that we're repeating ourself in multiple ways, multiple different times. And that is something that we just have to get over and recognize. I am going to need to say it, write it, perform it, model it multiple times for them because it's their natural temperament. And if we can get over that annoyance of it and accept that it is part of them, we suddenly become much more willing to teach them how to work with what they naturally have.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. I honestly feel like I need to like take a breath and take that in. Okay, I can expect that I'm going to need to repeat it. Right. It's not my child being difficult. It's not, you know , it's not any of that. It's a part of raising whether my child is highly distractable or less distractable , it's a part of raising my kids that I can expect it will be normal for me to have to repeat myself a lot. And I don't have to be mad because it's not them being difficult. It's not necessarily a choice. It's a part of raising my kids is that I'm going to need to repeat myself for them. And there's some power in that.

Lori Hayungs:

There's totally power in that. And as they grow, you can even say things like, okay, so this is actually the fifth time I've said it. And I know that sometimes you miss the first two or three, but this is the fifth one. And as they grow, they're then going to be teaching themselves alongside of us. Okay. What can I do? Because this is the fifth time and now I can tell that the irritation in her voice is rising, allowing that. So, okay. So another strategy that Mary talks about is maybe including some different motivators for learning, even things like multimedia messages. So motivators for learning might include, we think about those standard sticker charts, or we think about a motivator for earning time on a multimedia device. So what can we earn that motivates us to stay on task, to hone in? Yes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We talked about the plan in a future episode that my daughter and I, you actually helped us develop this, okay. We need a thorough bedtime routine because staying on task and all the transitions between tasks that bedtime was hard for us. And so, yes, it was realizing my daughter loved to go to the fountain, like the outside fountain that's in our town. And it was just a few blocks from our house. And so it was we're going to work on doing the plan for a couple nights in a row. And you know, it was three, she's young, so not a lot, but like three nights in a row, we'll work the plan. And then, you know what the motivator to stay on task. We're going to go to that fountain. We're excited because we'll have rested, you know, and talking about why that was relevant, you know, different motivators for different kids.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. And then another one that she adds is saying what you mean and having clear expectations. And I think the idea that sometimes we say, go clean your room. Well, okay. What does that mean for me? And what does that mean for my 15 year old? What does that mean for me? And what does that mean for my six year old? They can mean completely different things. Even if the child who is six or 15 has cleaned their room a dozen times. This time they're in different spots. It is a different day. The lighting is different. It's a different time of day. And so cleaning the room is so ambiguous. What do you mean by clear expectations? I need you to pick up your clothes, put them in the laundry and bring me down the garbage or whatever your expectations are. Just be clear. And then going back up the list, you might have to write it down. You might have to give a motivator. You might have to repeat it a couple times in a couple of different ways for you. Have eye contact. Right? Absolutely. So many good strategies there from that book, no matter what end of the continuum your child is falling on with this trait of perceptiveness. Absolutely. Absolutely. All right . So maybe it's time to bring in our producer for our Stop. Breathe. Talk. segment.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I might need to take another breath.

Lori Hayungs:

This is the space where we allow Mackenzie - allow, did you like how I said that - we invite Mackenzie DeJong to give us the opportunity to practice Stop. Breathe. Talk. She gives us a question and we have absolutely no idea what that question is going to be . We even tried to fish it out of her before. Well, I mean today I said what are you thinking.

Mackenzie DeJong:

And I said, it's about distractibility . I'm honest, but just not fully truthful. Right. So today's question is also from Barb, she's been very helpful to come up with some questions that are a little outside the box or things that I don't necessarily think of. So today's question is along the lines of telling the difference between when a child is just distractible versus when they're being disobedient. And is a child ever disobedient, or are they just distractible or insert answer here?

Lori Hayungs:

That's an interesting question. It's an interesting question. Okay. So the basis of that question ends up to land on that idea of motive. So what is the motive behind the behavior? So the question you had said was, is the child just being disobedient or is the child's temperament interfering? And I would answer, yes. So what's the motive . So if you have a specific example of, let's say that I've asked my 12 year old to go and do a chore. Right. And they remained seated on the couch where they were watching television. And so I then have to decide, okay, well, Mackenzie and Lori, I've been listening to this podcast. They tell me that I need to expect to repeat myself because my child is not distractible . And so I am going to probably move into their line of sight and get that eye contact, which was one of the strategies that they told me I should think about. So I'm going to get into their line of sight and I'm going to repeat my request and ask them, did you hear me? If you heard me, can you look up so I know that you actually heard my request , right ? And then it becomes, do they look up ? Did I get their attention? Did I not get their attention? And then what is my tone? Do I have a tone that says, I really want to work this out in a way where you're listening to me and I'm getting my request finished. And so it depends on that interaction. And it depends on the tone of the interaction. And I mean, you can 100% say to your child, okay, I feel like you're really not listening to me. And I've been known to say that to my 15 year old, even my 20 year old. Okay . I'm really sensing that either you didn't hear me or you're purposely not listening. And that's where I bring that humor in. Right. And so sometimes we as parents, we dance around things. We think, I can't say that to him . Well, why can't I tell my child you're not listening to me. And all of a sudden the child is whoa, okay. She caught onto my game. I wasn't listening. I was purposely not listening. And so I do tend to bring in that humor and that playfulness sometimes just to keep my own tone in check. Sure . But I still get the end result. I get the win when the child completes the chore and we now have this opportunity to have a communication about being honest with me saying, I kind of feel like you were ignoring me on purpose.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I feel like we're going around the question while answering the question, but I wanna think about the word disobedient in particular. Yeah . Is that a term we would use for an adult? And in what situations would we use that word? So I kind of go back to authoritative parenting and not that we never have requests of our child or expectations to meet but is it also balanced with warmth, right. That authoritative parenting has expectations in warmth. And so, yes, my child is reading a book and, hey, I'm trying to get attention. Hey, I'm trying to get your attention. Hey, listen to me. I'm right. And it could be on purpose, right? Like I am upset. I don't want to listen to you ask me to do this because I want to do what I'm doing or I'm mad about how things went a little bit ago. And so there may be times when a child is choosing not to meet your expectation. But I think the warmth part of that is also trying to understand, okay, right now you're working on. Right. So if I was going to talk to my co-parent Hey, could we pick up the house today? If they said, you know what, right now I'm planning on doing this. We wouldn't call them disobedient and so I think giving some thought to that of distractibility is a factor in these things and yes, our children need to meet the appropriate expectations we have for them. But balancing it with that warmth, too , I think comes in. Sure, sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. So did we answer it the right way?

Lori Hayungs:

Maybe not the right way.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I don't know if there was a right way. I just think the question comes from a place of this happening a lot, right? I know I am highly distractible and I, as a child was the kid who, when told to go clean your room would go in my room and move piles around and sit and reminisce about childhood as this eight year old. Right. And I still do that where I sit and I look at things because I get distracted. And for me it wasn't cause I was trying to be a pain. It was just cause I was Oh, I want to look at this. I want to look at this. And I know that rings true in at least, you know, one of my niece and nephews, if not more of them, that sometimes it feels like they're just trying to get under our skin, but really they're distracted. But in some cases he gives you that little smirk and you're giving me a smirk, okay, go clean your room. So it's just kind of starting that conversation of are they doing it on purpose or is it their temperament ?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So that's kind of where it comes from relationship and connection, you know , like that warmth part of it does help. You know , it does help give you a little bit of insight, Oh , okay. You are sneaky little, you know, like you're being kind of silly .

Lori Hayungs:

And I maybe have been known to say, I can see your grin so I know that you're hearing me. And so how about you make the choice to go finish the task.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh thanks, Kenz and Barb.

Mackenzie DeJong:

Yes. Barbara is always helpful.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So maybe we should start fishing questions out of Barb instead of trying to fish them out of Kenz.

Mackenzie DeJong:

She gives them to me to present. I'll always give her credit when she feeds them to me because I need the help sometimes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Love it. Excellent. Thanks, Kenz. That's perceptiveness and distractibility. Understanding how much we're taking in of the world around us. Did we get a little of this trait or a lot, you know , that it plays out at different ages and different developmental milestones. And then, you know, of course understanding the goodness of fit and the strategies that we can use to help our kids navigate the world with either a lot of distractibility or a little distractibility or is yours somewhere in the middle.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely. So there we are for today's distractibility perceptiveness temperament podcast in season three. And we want to thank you for joining us at The Science of Parenting and remember subscribe to our weekly and audio podcasts on Apple , Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can also watch our show each week on Facebook and once in a while , you can even join us live where we might take your comments and questions.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So please come along with us. As we tackle the ups and downs, the ins and outs and the research and reality all around The Science of Parenting.

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is a research based education program posted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@ iastate .edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension.state.edu/diversity/ ext.