One of my dear ones wrestles with attention. From the time she’s been little, getting her to pay attention has been a challenge. She has a delightful personality that isn’t bothered by pesky details. She is happy, has a tender conscience, and cares about people (much of the time). In general, sustaining attention is not a strength.
Recently, I’ve been dealing with how her attention is manifest in how she obeys when I tell her to put away sometimes that she has left out. This happens frequently. I’ve been watching her, and I think I figured out that when I ask her to put something away, she gives only enough attention to pick something up. Because she’s not really paying attention, a second or two later, she has no idea where she’s going or why she’s holding the object. So she puts it down and goes on her merry way.
I am certain that her sin nature is cooperating with her natural lack of attention. It’s true that she doesn’t like to put things away, but I’ve watched her lose attention when it’s her OWN object that she’s picked up for some purpose. When this sort of thing happens, I have a very important clue that more is at work besides simple disobedience.
So, we talked about attention. I told her that I noticed that sometimes she pays attention to pick something up when she is obeying mommy, but she doesn’t pay attention long enough to figure out what to do with something. I told her that one way she could pay attention longer was to ask herself a question whenever she picks something up. “Self, where does this go?” Then she needs to answer herself. I’m on her team, and I know she doesn’t like forgetting what she’s doing. (Actually, that was an assumption, but I like verbalizing good intentions when I’m giving strategies for doing right. Keeps kids off the defensive.)
So, she’s been doing it. It’s cute to hear her say, “Self, where does this go?” Yes, sometimes she forgets to answer, and I know that unless I prompt her, she may never get to her destination. But it has helped her, and I’m surprised that she took it seriously.
So goes another day in the quest for teaching attention.