Tuesday Tips for Parenting – How to Call Your Child

As threatened promised last week, we are ready to start our new Tuesday Tips for Parenting. Our desire is to have something to share each Tuesday in the category of parenting. Please come back and visit us each week for further parenting discussion. We love to hear from you, so share your favorite tip in the comments section. Parenting is one of the most difficult and rewarding blessings in life and it is our belief that we can (and should) encourage and build each other up as parents.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Tuesday Tip for Parenting – Child Training

If you’ve ever been at a park where young children play, you’ve seen this familiar scene play out:

Mom: “Sam, it is time to go!”
Sam: (Ignores his mother, keeps playing.)
Mom: “Sam, I mean it, we have to go, now. Come here, please.”
Sam: “I don’t want to go!”
Mom: “Yes, I know, but we need to get home to get dinner ready. (Mom’s tone is pleading, now.) Daddy is coming home, don’t you want to see Daddy?”
Sam: “No, I wanna play.”
Mom: (Exasperated.) “Sam, come right now. We have to go.”
Sam: (Ignores mom, keeps playing.)

david's running

“Catch me, if you can!”

At this point the Mom usually rolls her eyes, abandons the shreds of her dignity, and rushes in to physically apprehend little Sam. Depending on how feisty Sam feels, sometimes he runs from his mother, which is good entertainment for the onlookers, but not so fun for the Mom. These kind of parents have to be pretty spry and often wear high-quality running shoes. Eventually Sam is captured, and is carried, kicking and screaming, from the park. Mom carefully avoids eye contact with anyone.

big brother

It helps to have an older brother who can do the running and fetching for you.

As amusing as this can be for spectators, this unnecessary bit of parental grief can be avoided with a tiny bit of preparation, especially if your children are young (18 months – 3 years).

Here’s how you do it:

At some point when you have a little leisure time, gather your children together and explain to them that you are establishing a new rule, that when you call them, they are to do two things:

  1. to come running
  2. to call out, “Coming, Mommy (or Daddy)!”

Then find the longest hallway or other unobstructed path in your home, and place them at one end of it. If you have very small children, one parent will need to detain them there at the ‘starting line’, because they’ll get carried away by the fun of the game and they’ll come before you call. (While the ability to come before you call would be eminently desirable in children of all ages, it isn’t sustainable in the long run without recourse to telepathy or supercomputers with predictive algorithms.)

are you talking to me

“You want me to do what??”

You’ll want to resist the temptation to place obstacles in the path, at least at first (there’s always time to make it interesting, later). Go to the far end of the hallway and establish a ‘finish line’ by kneeling down and holding out your arms. Remind your child that they are to respond verbally (“Coming, Daddy!”) and to run to you. Then call them by name, clearly and loudly.

When they arrive, hug them and praise them, and have them do it again. We found, especially with our younger children, that the excitement of running made it easy for them to forget to say, “Coming, Mommy!”, and sometimes we had to physically prevent them from running until they said it. Repeat this process at least five or ten times, hugging and praising each time.

Hmmm, not sure about this.

“So when you call, I need to come running. I’ll think about it.”

If you have older children who are on-board with the program, they can often cheer and encourage the little one who is learning the ropes. Usually at least one of our older kids wants to try it, just because it looks so fun (and everyone likes a hug from their Mom or Dad). Dads will want to brace themselves, since some of the older kids may mischievously try to knock you down. It doesn’t hurt to have ice cream afterward.

All five of our children have thoroughly enjoyed this game, and they all know from the earliest age that when we call them, they are to respond immediately, both verbally and by running (or walking quickly) to where we are. Occasionally I sweeten the pot by randomly calling them and giving a treat to whichever child responds first.

you can't make me

“Can I stick out my tongue before I come?”

Some parents don’t think it is very important, or particularly desirable, to have their children come when they call. “I don’t want my child to be some kind of robot,” they’ll say. This seems sad to me, considering that in more than one case, training of this kind has literally saved the life of a child about to step into oncoming traffic or some other hazard.

Of all the things we have taught our children, this has been one of the easiest and most satisfying. I must admit, sometimes I show off at parks and other places, just to raise the standard a bit. “Joshua, Rachel, Daniel, David, Sarah!” I’ll shout, over my shoulder, as I head for the car. The ones who hear me police up the others, and most of the time they’re all waiting breathlessly by the car, by the time I get there, to the amazement of bystanders. It’s a good thing, ’cause I’m not so very spry, these days.


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12 thoughts on “Tuesday Tips for Parenting – How to Call Your Child”

  1. Excellent training method, it sounds like! A lot like dog training, with the positive reinforcement bit, but it’s probably a wise and effective way to go about it. You guys are Fun Parents, and God has gifted you with creativity in such things. Good that you’re using it for good, sharing with Boring Parents like us through your blogs!

  2. Wonderful tip today!! Wish I’d done this in years past. THANKS for sharing!! Have a good day THIS day. I’d love to eat some of those fresh blueberries with Katherine. I am a blueberry nut, too. AK

  3. I’m glad you guys went before me. I’ll be tuning into these Tuesday blogs very attentively for future help.

  4. Great tip!

    The Littles (our new kids) are easy…I just need to say “food”! LOL Maybe the novelty of that will eventually wear off and your idea is so much better.

    We’ll be trying this idea.

  5. Here’s my tip…

    When my older kids were just learning to read, we would gift them with an extra hour at night where they were allowed to stay up and read. We kept a small basket with books that were easy under their beds, that would give them practice and had lots of pictures in them to look at. Then they were allowed to stay up in their bed and read for an extra hour each night. If we heard talking, the lights went out early but they always felt so grown up being able to stay up that extra hour AND their love of reading came naturally through that extra time.


    Lisa in Jax

  6. Lisa – this is a GREAT tip! I love anything that encourages reading and builds up a love for books and learning. Did you limit or regulate the type of books they were allowed to read? My kids got into Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield and I found they were reading those books more and more and not reading “real” books.

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. As always. I LOVED this post! We’ve also trained our children to come when we call and most of the time they do (LOL). Hmmm…. hadn’t thought of sweetening the pot by occasionally having a piece of chocolate waiting for them. I’ll have to think about that. LOVE THE HUMOR – again, as always!

  8. My potty-training-in-a-day with my girls worked with the same premise: playing games and giving rewards/food. The girls spent the whole day peeing, pretending to pee, constantly rewarded with salty foods which then required lots of drinks when then led to more peeing which led to more rewards, etc… I should blog about it on my site soon: http://www.honeyifedthekids.blogspot.com

    Even though it feels like dog training, who among us wouldn’t want our children even more responsive and responsible than our dogs? It’s not about making our jobs easier (even though that’s a plus); it’s about raising great kids.

  9. Yes, I picked out the reading material. I liked getting books that would help them to gain confidence in their reading so very young kids got lots of “I Can Read” books, some picture books, previous readers, and a few harder to read books thrown in for good measure.LOL

    Once they were able to read, I would gift them each week with books from the book store that I picked out and read previously. Anything from Sonlight 2 Advanced or from the Authors of those books were great. I would give them a choice of 5 good books and a few books a little below their level. I’ve noticed that it really gives the kids confidence if they go back to read easier books, especially at night. They are tired and sometimes don’t want a challenging read, just something fun.

    Once they are good readers then I just give them 5 good books to choose from. Something that will capture their interest and keep them wanting more even when it’s time to go to sleep. I love it when the kids beg for 5 more minutes.LOL It means that they’ve really developed a love for reading.


    Lisa in Jax

  10. Hmmmm, any suggestions for how to do this with distracted children? My son seems to be in his own world and often doesn’t hear me. (And he’s 12)

  11. Corrie –

    We’ve noticed among our children that some are more attentive to what is going on than others, and we have at least one child who can be so focused on what he is doing that he sometimes ignores all other stimuli. Still, we hold the same standard for everyone, whatever their personality — it just means that some children have to work harder to remain attentive than others.

    Sometimes I will call my children in a soft voice when I want to give them a treat, and those who come, get the treat (as I mentioned above). I’ve found this to be a very effective way to build and reward attentiveness in my children. Conversely, if I have to call a child three or more times, whether because they have music playing too loudly in their room, or because they don’t come quickly when I call, they usually have to do pushups when they do finally arrive. Then I send them away and call them again.

    Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). Without wanting to be presumptuous, as a father, I stand as a shadow of Christ in the lives of my children, and I think it is reasonable for them to be able to hear and attend to my voice across a crowded, noisy room or in the far reaches of a house.

    Fundamentally, I seek to foster an environment in which my children love and trust me enough that they know when I call them, it is for their good or for the good of the family. Often I will call one child and three will respond, because they love me and seek to please me.

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