Pay Attention! Are You Listening to Me?

Photo by John Flinchbaugh

Updated 9/26/2022.

When parents imagine reading to their kids, they may think of snuggling on the couch, with their child listening to every word that the parent is lovingly reading. That doesn’t always happen!

Sometimes read-aloud time looks more like this photo of a child absorbed in play, and you may catch yourself getting irritated and telling your child to “pay attention”!

If you have a child who wants to be on the floor rolling around, curled under a blanket, drawing, or playing with Legos while you are reading, you’re not alone! Some children need to be busy while they are listening to a story. Try letting them do their activity while they are listening to you read, without scolding them to pay attention. You may be surprised to learn that they are listening, and if you stop reading, they’ll want to know why. They don’t need to have you quiz them to see if they are paying attention. Just trust that they are and keep on reading.

Wigglers drive schools crazy, since they can disrupt a class. Don’t take it personally, and don’t give up. Just be glad your child is homeschooled so that they can learn their way without being criticized.

And what if this child is noisy or you’re reading to more than one child? It’s reasonable to ask that they keep their activity quiet so that they don’t disturb others. And you certainly shouldn’t have to shout to be heard. Respect works both ways. You’re respecting your child, and they should be doing the same.

In time, the need to be busy may diminish, or it may be a lifelong need. If so, learning a socially acceptable way to be busy in group situations (crocheting, doodling, or ?) might be worth considering.


Karen Taylor’s always homeschooled son attended a local community college after graduating from homeschooling. He transferred to UC Berkeley as a junior, and received a PhD in neuroscience from UCSF.  She shares homeschooling comments and links on Facebook, Pinterest, and this blog.