I Don't Pay Attention When My Kid Is Talking -- Oops

As I write this I'm sitting at my kitchen table and my 3-year-old daughter is parked in front of me eating her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pretending to interact with all of the kitchen appliances. It's one of her favorite games to play and one in which I'm expected to act as the voice of the bored microwave or overworked dishwasher. I occasionally throw in a "It's me, the stove, and I really want some chicken tonight!" but my heart isn't in it and she knows it. Here I am, trying to find the right words to start this post, and there she is being 3 and glorious -- and those two facts don't always work well together.

For those of us moms who think we're getting it all done -- working, answering texts, Christmas shopping online, keeping in touch with friends, AND achieving that perfect state of motherhood that includes actively listening to our children -- a new study reveals we may be fooling ourselves, but we aren't fooling our kids.


Highlights for Children has released its 2014 study, "State of the Kid," in which kids ages 6 to 12 responded to a survey about lots of issues pertaining to their lives -- including a biggie: "Are your parents ever distracted or focused on other things when you are trying to talk to them? If so, what distracts them?"

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Their answers are pretty eye-opening: a whopping 62 percent of children feel like their parents don't always listen to them because of other distractions. When asked to list some of those distractions, the top four reasons given were cellphone, siblings, work, and television.

Sound frighteningly familiar?

I know I can relate and it isn't because I'm a bad mom -- it's because I have the wrong idea about what it takes to be a good mom. As a work-from-home mom, instead of adhering to a strict no-talking time when I insist my daughter focus on playing by herself while I work, I often give in because I feel guilty about not answering a question or attending to her needs. As a result, it might seem to me like I'm involved in a conversation with my child, but the reality is that I am not entirely in the moment. A part of me is always back at my computer, thinking up the best adjective to replace the horrible one I just typed in a post while half of me was pretending to listen to my kid wax poetic about her tutu.

It isn't fair to her and it certainly isn't making me a better mom or worker.

I recently started making a conscious effort to turn my full attention to whatever task I'm handling at the moment -- whether that means work, spreading peanut butter onto a slice of bread, or helping my daughter find her lost purse. As a result, I feel a lot less stressed. But it can be a process. I often have to work hard not to allow myself to be pulled in 12 different directions at once. It's a constant struggle to stay present and in the moment in my life and in the life of my child -- but it's a challenge that I know is worth it because this moment is the only one we've got.

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But, ugh, this study. I'm thankful for it because it has opened my eyes. It makes me want to work even harder at being present for my child, since I know she is fully aware of how distracted I am when she tries to talk to me. And there I was this entire time thinking that I had her fooled ...

Do you always listen when your children are speaking to you? What distracts you most?


Image © iStock.com/ArtMarie

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