Call and response

Anybody who has a toddler knows the importance of teaching him/ her to respond to your call promptly, loudly and clearly. The thing with toddlers, indeed any child, is that they can get away from you in an instant and you have to locate them in the most crucial 5 seconds after their ‘disappearance’. This time reduces by about half when you’re in a public place. Parents go through emotional changes when they can’t locate their young child in church, the supermarket, the mall, the park. Its exhausting and emotionally draining.

So, how on earth do you get a child to respond when you call?

You can say, ‘when I call you, you need to respond’, till you’re blue in the face. But the child will probably never understand. So, you need to come up with ways that will work for both of you.

Martin is the world’s most innovative father- this morning as I’m in the kitchen doing dishes, or some equally fun activity, I suddenly have the sense that we don’t know where Kendi is. Plus, there’s a worrying banging sound. ‘Where’s Kendi?’ I call out to Martin who is in the living room, ‘ I don’t know’, he replies anxiously… ‘Kendi!’… and springs up in search of her. ‘Start with her room’, I yell as I see him run past on his way to the bathroom (Kendi is obsessed with the bathroom, maybe it has something to do with the closed door whenever someone goes in, or the flushing sound at the end of the mysterious time in there). ‘Kendi!’, he shouts again, more urgently this time, he understands that she can get in a lot of trouble in a very small amount of time.

Kendi comes out of her room and almost bumps into him on his way in. She is carrying one of her sneakers. The worrying banging sound was her getting her wardrobe door open in order to get the shoe.

Her father kneels down in front of her. ‘Listen little lady, when I call you, I need you to respond. Kendi, listen to me, when I call, you need to respond like this- aahhh. Do you hear me?’This is that blue-in-the-face situation I mentioned earlier

He starts, ‘when I say, “Kendi” you say “aahhh” ok?’ He explains further.

‘Baba?’ is all the baby can manage.

‘No no, when I say “Kendi”, you say, “aahhh”? Let’s try- Kendi’


‘Kendi aahhh’, he urges, trying a different strategy.

‘Aahhh’, she responds.

‘Good girl’, Martin and I both sing. I have been watching this whole episode from the kitchen sink with great amusement.

‘Kendi aahhh’ he repeats.

‘Aahhh’, the plan is coming together.

‘Let me go away and when she follows, you call her and we see if it works yeah?’ He tells me

And sure enough, when they leave and I call out, ‘Kendi aahhh’, she responds in exactly the same way. It’s fantastic. We have a plan in hand, we shall (hopefully) always be able to know where she is.

We’re praying she won’t be able to stop the instinct to respond until it’s too late and we have already located her.

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