When my children were little, scarcely a day went by that I didn’t say a dozen times: “Look at me.” It was difficult to get them to focus on what I was saying to them, unless I could get them to look at me. Every mother must go through a period of seeing their child discover how to ignore Mom’s instruction, and act as if they don’t hear her reprimands and direction. When this happens, Mom’s go through a period of repeating themselves, over and over, unless they get smart and outwit the child. With 3 toddlers, I finally learned that it was important to get them to at least look at me. In order to not just be talking to the air, I learned very quickly that I had to get down face to face with them, and insist they look at me.
Well they resisted, and when they resented my forcing them to look at me, I learned that there must be some distance between us, but they needed a reason to look my way. Without that reason, they simply found lots of reasons to ignore me until I was frustrated with them. I really can’t remember how I came upon the solution, but it was the best answer to my exasperation, and I really don’t know why it works. I decided that I would not give my children unlimited opportunities to listen and respond to my voice. They didn’t realize that their lives might depend on it one day, especially if I already had two of the three of them by the hand. Since I didn’t have 3 hands, my voice would simply have to be the thing that held them back from harm, or sent them in a direction that was functional to us all.
So, I began to make them look at me, but I instructed them to look first at my face to see what I was saying, and then at my hands to see how long they had to get busy doing what they were told. It was a hand signal of “one, two, three.” Initially, my instructions were that they look at me, and if they didn’t obey quickly, I would say, “one.” If they didn’t respond, I would say, “two.” If I got to “three,” they knew they were going to be punished, or disciplined in some way. I made sure there was enough time between the numbers to give them response time. Just like stopping your car, it takes a bit to make the decision to just move your body. But, eventually, I could tell by the attitude of their bodies, if they heard me or not, and if they intended to obey right away. I could see them quicken their movements to complete what they were doing, and they would look at my hands to see if I had said one or two, to know how much of a hurry they needed to be in. The time came that I almost never got to “three.” In fact, the time came that I could have my back to them, and have my hands behind my back, using only my fingers to designate the numbers. I held up one finger, then two, and usually by three, they were either standing by my side, or had quieted themselves and were busy doing what I had asked them to do. This was especially good when I was talking to someone, but needed them to be quieter, or get ready to leave.
Eventually, my children would look at me often just to see if I was simply waiting on them to look my way so I could quietly instruct them to do something. Or to see if they missed something and I was already holding up fingers to count down their time. By this time, the decision was now theirs. I believe this worked because they needed the limits on the time it took them to look at me and obey. When I was able, I also sometimes used the "Come to me," instruction to give them a reward for paying attention and looking at me. If I had to go back, I would have spanked them far less, and would have given far more rewards for having them respond appropriately.
The “Look At Me” Principle is very Biblical. Learning to practice it as mindful children, looking to a loving heavenly Father, helps us focus and obey the voice of God as much as it helped my children. He too, needs not to have to repeat over and over his will for us, nor should we tarry 'til he gets to "3."
Let us decide today to look to the face of our heavenly father, several times during the day. May we not miss his guidance and give him opportunity to need to place discipline in our path to redirect us toward looking to his face and listening for his voice.
Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord: for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15
Lord, I desire to be like David and be an obedient Child, focusing often on you, to know your will and recognize your voice. If there is a frustrated mother or teacher, needing a way to have their children listen, help them apply the principle, and find the joy getting their children to choose to respond will bring. Bless their efforts and ours as we look to thee. Amen.