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Look Me in the Eye!

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Posted on : 11:28 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I have one child that hates eye contact, and one child that demands eye contact.  My eye-contact avoiding child (can you guess which one that is?) will not look you in the eye willingly if you are talking one on one with her.  The exception is if she's really distracted by something she's excited about and she'll look at your face, but even then I'm not sure if that's eye contact because I rarely feel like I've made an eye connection with her.  This has been tricky for me to develop with her because it's one more thing I have to constantly remember to try to do (along with helping break self-destructive habits and keeping her busy and all the other things a mother has to take care of during the day).  


The other child won't talk to me unless I've made eye contact with her.  In her little 3-year-old voice she will demand, "Look me in the eyes!  LOOK ME IN THE EYES!"  It doesn't matter if I am talking to her when doing something else, or if I've already answered the question, or if I am looking in her eyes through the bathroom mirror, like we sometimes do when we're getting ready to go somewhere.  At first I wondered if this was a control issue, since the older child will pull tricks to get me to stop the things I am doing in any way possible.  But, I think she just needs the eye contact to feel understood.  

I grew up in a family that wasn't that big on eye contact, for a variety of reasons.  I enjoy making eye contact, but it's something I don't think about unless I'm looking in my husband's eyes.  Now that I have such a contrast in the girls I have become so much more aware of my own bad eye contact habits.  Because eye contact is one of the most important communication tools (and since supposedly up to 93% of our communication is nonverbal), being intuitive towards my children and communicating effectively with them depends on it.  I'm not sure if that is always true... when they were babies they both found close eye contact too intense and looked away, finding more pleasure in physical comforts like holding and nursing.  But there came a point when they reached out to me and enjoyed seeing my facial expressions and reactions, eye contact included.  

One thing I think I have a bad habit of doing, and it must be a universal phenomenon that I learned from my family and we see it in the media (the stereotypical mom in some children's shows and movies) all the time, is unconscious conversation because we're too busy with a task.  When someone comes up to talk to me and I'm doing something, it takes me a minute to bring my brain around to paying attention to the speaker.  Because of this I tend to go, "Uh huh...uh huh" on automatic.  It's frustrating, and I hate when people do it to me, and yet it's a bad habit that I have too.  I want to learn to immediately pay attention to a person who is talking to me, and make eye contact with them, because they are more important than my meaningless task.

At the same time, I have children who ask me the same question over and over and who also sometimes make loud shrieking sounds if they don't like the answer, that I tune out.  It has taken a while for me to understand that I need to meet their needs before they have to verbalize to me over and over what they need, but balance that out with not being child-centered.  We have been spending lots of time breaking their bad habits too - I don't have to jump like a servant when they call, especially if they can do it themselves.  Eye contact makes this a heck of a lot easier.


Comments (2)

There is actually a book called Look Me In The Eye out. It was written by an adult with Aspergers. He explains why it's so hard for him and others to look people in the eye. It's really, shall we say, "eye-opening"!

Here's the link on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Look-Me-Eye-Life-Aspergers/dp/0307396185/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1227452420&sr=8-1

Thanks for the recommendation! :)