For several months now, we have had this fun little game called “attention” where Hunter has learned to exercise self-control, immediate obedience, and attentive listening.
When I say the word, “Attention!” (similar to the way a military drill sergeant would), Hunter immediately does five things (which he memorized in a little chant): Hands together, feet together, smile, look at me, and say “Yes ma’am!”
It is all done as a fun little game. Anthony, Hunter’s two-year-old cousin, knows the rules too, and quickly jumps to attention on command.
We try to practice this game frequently, just to get them accustomed to always obeying immediately (which is SO important. Think about if a child runs out towards the street, is about to step on something harmful, or a million other situations where it could mean their life if they aren’t trained to obey instantly).
And besides being great obedience practice, it is a wonderfully handy habit to have: undivided, respectful, focused attention from your preschooler. I use this little game all the time when I need to give them instructions, tell them what we’re about to do, or other things when I need their undivided attention.
The game is over when I say “At ease!” (yes, another little term borrowed from the military).
Sometimes I just call them to attention for a few seconds, sometimes I let them practice for a few minutes.
It’s not always easy for a toddler or preschooler to keep from wiggling, but it is a great way to learn self-control, which I would argue is the root of all other virtue – the ability to say no to what you want to do and yes to what you ought to do. The ability to control yourself, your impulses, and appetites and submit to duty, not just desire.
“Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.”
Hunter is 4 years, 2 months old