I approached the weekend with limited voice and energy, but much attention to my own behavior to try to figure out this whole following directions mystery.
The first thing I noticed is that when I didn't have much voice, I had to make sure I had my children's full attention before giving them directions. (Big light bulb! How many times have I given that advice?!) I didn't have the option to holler up the stairs or even talk across the room, I had be next to them and have eye contact. At work I call that increasing proximity (love the fancy words) and model it all the time.
The next impression I had was that when my boys knew I wasn't feeling well, their empathy meters were in high gear. They were worried about me and a bit scared, so were really paying attention to what I was saying and needing. This level of vigilance is not advisable on a daily basis (it's called neurosis), so it is both positive and exasperating that they do not feel the need to hang on my every word every minute of every day.
My final bit of insight came from our dinner conversation this evening. When discussing a family outing we had this morning, my husband asked the boys why they did not stop a particular behavior when they had been asked to stop. They acknowledge hearing the direction and even recognizing that others were not enjoying their behavior. The insight came when they indicated that at the moment they were asked to stop, they were enjoying the behavior so much those other factors didn't really matter. Just what we've always suspected, but could never before prove!
So what have I learned from my weekend research? First, practice what I preach...have their full attention before saying anything I actually want them to hear and respond to. Second, remember that their little heads are full of thoughts and ideas that have nothing to do with me most of the time. Third, sometimes they are getting so much from their behavior that I need to be even more creative with my incentives to get them to stop.
It comes down to that relentless being present mantra. Being present with my words and actions, being present with their needs, and taking the time to assess the situation and respond in this moment, rather than having an automatic response that they automatically ignore anyway.
Some days I do this better than others. The good news is that I have plenty of opportunities to practice every day!