Child Listenometer

I idly tweeted earlier:

ThePickards wonders if there is a mathematical formula to predict how many times you have to repeat something to a small child before they take notice.ThePickards on Twitter

Well, I say idly, it’s because in the previous sixteen hours, I had tried the followng:

  • [child], put that down and come out of the cupboard
  • [child], put that down and come out of the cupboard
  • [child], put that down and come out of the cupboard now
  • [child], put that down and come out of the cupboard now
  • [child], put that down and come out of the cupboard now
  • [child] put that down and come out of the cupboard now
  • [child], put that down and come out of the cupboard now

The same procedure was then repeated with “put your clothes on”, “put your shoes on” and “have you got your schoolbag?”.

Now, I know I’m not perfect. Anyone who has worked with me will be able to attest that when I’m busy working on something and concentrating, I might not notice — sometimes for several minutes — if someone is talking to me. So in this case there is probably a certain degree of genetic inertia built in, but I believe this is something common to most children anyway.

But, via the magic of Twitter, my tweet inspired infomixer to produce the formula:

@ThePickards (A*V)/(L+S+T), L=loudness and S=sterness of voice, A=ambient noise, V=magic number, T=threat severity. It’s all in the magic [number]Infomixer tweet

Now I think infomixer is onto something here, except I’m slightly dubious about this ‘magic number’. I think that’s one of those ‘fudge factor’ things, like Einstein’s Cosmological constant, where you fit in a number to make it work, only without knowing what that number actually means.

I don’t think I’ve got that resolved perfectly, but I think I’m on the way there.

Instead of using V as the magic number, let’s say that this is made up of smaller parts. For example, let’s say part of the magic number is inherent distractability, or D. If the child is doing something that they can be easily distracted from — tidying up, say, or homework — then you’ll have a low value for distractability. If they are watching The Simpsons or the Power Rangers, then you might be looking at a D value of 10…

What else makes up V? Well there’s bullheadedness, B, which is innate to the child: this reflects the likelihood that anything will actually get through to them when you don’t have their attention initially. Obviously, I would have a high rating for this…

And there’s a final factor, which comes into play over on the right hand side of the equation. This is — well, I was going to term it Authority, but as we’ve already used A, I’ll include this as U. The authority level will vary according to who that child sees as an authority figure that should be obeyed.

Sample values you might wish to include are things like

  • Classmates — 7
  • Policeman — 3
  • Teacher — 1.5
  • Random member of public — 1
  • Parent — 0.2

So, the revised formula then, would be:

Number of times required to repeat self = (A*D*B)/((L+S+T)*U)

Unfortunately, I think I need a better name for it. The Infomixer/Pickards child listenability rule doesn’t seem zingy enough. Can anyone do better?

5 Responses to “Child Listenometer”

  1. Anonymous responds:

    You missed out the guilt factor. If faced with consequences that may disadvantage the majority, the parent may play the guilt card. This may be inversely proportional to the authority (U) factor. It works for me as a grandparent.

  2. JackP responds:

    Ah yes.. I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, now where does G come into this exactly?

    If guilt factor increases (if you don’t stop doing that, it will end civilisation as we know it / make your brother’s leg come off / make Santa sad — all about even?), then obviously less repetitions are necessary, so that would presumably be

    Repetitions = ( A * D * B ) / (( L + S + T + G) * U)

    hmm. Although I’m not sure. Increased guilt (although it is almost invariably low) would tend to dramatically reduce number of repetitions, so maybe

    Repetitions = ( A * D * B ) / (( L + S + T) * (U * G))

    does that look okay?

  3. Mari responds:

    If U is a negative number you would need to divide by G if G is positive in order to decrease the U effect. Or if G is negative then G will increase the U effect dramatically.

  4. Jack's Mam responds:

    None of this ever worked with you- still doesn’t :-)

  5. mark fairlamb responds:

    i’ve got one you could try:
    x = number of times you have to threaten child that the whole day is cancelled and they are going straight to bed.
    usually fairly constant at x = 1, especially if y = ratio volume, usually > 0.7

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