Steve Wiley: Parenting Three Words at a Time

Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week, he lists some powerful-yet-short statements for kids with short attention spans.

Short Attention Spans, Big Messages
The following is not an understatement: Kids have short attention spans.

Yeah, I know, I'm Captain Obvious to most of my parental comrades out there, but you parental wanna-bes might not entirely understand just how short.

See also:
- - Parent Hood: Steve Wiley Has Fun with "When I Was Just A Kid"
- - Parent Hood: What to Do When Your Kids are Corporate Branding Machines

When they are young, they're investigating everything . . . not sitting and listening to you. When they are tweens, they are goofy and they're not paying attention to anything . . . or listening to you. When they are teens, they are distracted . . . and they're actually ignoring you.

On the flip side, you add all those short attention spans together, and the time goes by pretty quick. Supposedly, as parents, we are supposed to be "preparing them" for life, so the bottom line is that if you are gonna make a philosophical impression, you'd better do it quick. And you'd better make it count.

May I Have Your Attention, Kid? Pretty Please?

(Note 1: This is where I provide the ongoing caveat that I absolutely make up parenting as I go. Call it a hypothesis, if you will.)

When you are trying to get through, I recommend short phrases. Shorter, the better.

Then you're gonna need repetition. Endless repetition. Even with your short phrases, you're still going to get through to them with about the same rate of success as a high schooler trying to hit Randy Johnson (that's right, I used a baseball metaphor. You gotta problem with that)? So say it again, Sam.

That still won't be enough. You'll have to add or subtract volume. You may have to use props and gimmicks. After all, you are their parents. They have the innate instinct to ignore you. Get creative, kid (I'm talking to you, the parent, but I call everyone "kid" now. It's another baseball thing).

It's a lot to go through just to teach a lesson or two, so most importantly, when it all comes together, make sure you've thought about the messages.

In other words, just what kind of philosophies or concepts are you going to support?

I look at it this way: If I can just get certain concepts into their clouded, under-developed heads, then I'll feel I've done some good -- at least by my definition of good (but that's another philosophical discussion).

What are some examples, Steve? I thought you'd never ask.

(I think I feel another "Jackalope List" coming on . . .)

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