Do you have to count to 3 before your children make a move?

Do you have trouble dragging your children away from their activity, to sit up for dinner…or leave the house…or, horrors, do a job?

Let me make it easier for you to get your children’s attention, and their buy-in to your request.

Author Dr James B. Richards says in his book ‘Wired for Success, Programmed for Failure’, that up until the age of 11 or 12, children are constantly in a state that makes them very suggestible to input from their environment.

He calls it an alpha state, which is identical to a relaxed meditative state. As adults we must make considerable effort to return to a meditative state, but children are always there, so the environment and atmosphere we create for our children is very important.

Because children are in the alpha/meditative state, they are very involved, often completely engrossed in their activities and games. When an adult disrupts a child from their game in a harsh or abrupt way, it can cause them a level of stress, anxiety and confusion.

Here’s what to do!

Introduce them to the 5 minute warning.

This worked a treat for my 4 children with their differing temperaments, tolerances, ages and attention spans.

Before there’s a next time, explain this new strategy to your children. Doing this step conveys that you respect them and you’re willing to change the way you’ve been doing things.

Let me tell you, they will want to buy in to something that gives them a parent who doesn’t have to nag, yell and repeat!


In a kind voice (because you’re lovely) and a firm tone (because you’re in charge) say:

Hey kids, can you press pause on your game and look at me for a moment?

Language is important. The word pause tells them that they will be able to resume their game in a few seconds. Eye contact is essential, otherwise they can claim they never heard you!


Announce what needs to be happening in 5 minutes’ time. For example:

In 5 minutes’ time, I need your help to empty the dishwasher.”

In 5 minutes’ time, dinner will be ready.”


Then ask a question which gives your child a sense of control. For example:

Would you like the timer on, or shall I call you when 5 minutes is up?

Would you like to bring your Lego to the table and tell us about your game over dinner?

Would you like to bring Dolly to help empty the dishwasher?

Your children will see that you’re not an unfeeling dictator who’s out to ruin their day by stopping their play! They’ll see that you understand what’s important to them, while still requiring them to do as they’re asked.

And I can see your children leaping up to co-operate with you!