The Art of Distraction


“Shift your focus, stop striving for a minute and rest in the goodness that is already yours.” 

By Angela Doell | Twitter: @adoell

If there’s anything that’s ever been a sure-fire way to push my Crazy Button as a mother, it’s whining. At the risk of sounding like a meanie mom, I’ll admit that I have zero tolerance for it. Whining makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my kids understand that it makes my ears close. I understand that there are reasons why kids whine and I get that they may have unmet emotional needs or attention deficits, yes. Yada yada yada … But whining gets one nowhere in the Doell house. Period. That’s how we roll.

When my babes were toddlers, little works-in-progress, occasionally prone to ugly tantrums and high-pitched disagreement, I discovered the art of diversion. It’s a beautiful parenting strategy. There’s no reasoning with a child who’s in a funky mood and so I’d take advantage of their short attention span and simply distract them. The child raging about wanting a cookie could quite easily be distracted with a toy. The child whining to watch more TV could be carried into another room and distracted by the task of mixing ingredients for dinner. The whines were ignored and their attention diverted elsewhere.

When my son was nine or ten years old, not as naïve any longer and wise to my tricks, I stumbled upon a new way to gently nudge his attitude from grumbly to positive. And, as so often happens on this parenting journey, my child inspired me in the process.

We were on the living room couch and Miller had been complaining about something or other–loudly, persistently and irritatingly. As those hairs on the back of my neck began to rise I stopped him and, in a moment of parenting brilliance, said, “Enough. Stop. What I need you to do is take a piece of paper and a pen and sit on your bed for the next 10 minutes. Make a Grateful List–Five things you are thankful for. And then we’ll talk.”

The kid obeyed and came back to me with a list of five things. I remember that one item he had written on his list was his sister–which I’m pretty sure he included for bonus points. What was pretty amazing, though, is that the distraction was miraculous. He came back to me with a little hop in his step, the grumpy cloud lifted.

Christian brothers (sisters!), keep your minds thinking about whatever is true, whatever is respected, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever can be loved, and whatever is well thought of. If there is anything good and worth giving thanks for, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

A week later, I found myself sitting at my desk, in my office at work. I was frustrated, feeling a little needy. No one around could hear my thoughts, but they were awfully whiny. And Miller’s Gratitude List came to mind. I paused, pushed the computer keyboard aside. I grabbed a pen and a sticky note, and left the “to do” list for long enough to write a list of five things I was truly thankful for, in that moment. It was a game changer for me that day, as simple as it sounds, and it continues to be a practice that refocuses me.

We’re talking rest this month on SheLoves Magazine. If you feel stressed, ignored, frazzled, whiny–may I encourage you to stop and be purposefully thankful? Distract yourself. Divert your attention. What is good and lovely and worth giving thanks for right now? It doesn’t have to be deep–this isn’t work. Shift your focus, stop striving for a minute, and rest in the goodness that is already yours. 

Right now, as I submit this article, I am thankful for:
1. My health. I feel strong and capable and focused, and that is a gift.
2. A husband who still chases me, 18 years in. Enough said …
3. My iPhone. I love and really enjoy my phone. There, I said it.
4. My new bright yellow purse. It makes me smile every time I sling it over my shoulder.
5. Community. I love that I’m not doing this thing alone. I’m grateful for you.


My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments:

  • What are you thankful for, in this very moment?
  • Do you have any tips to share? How do you stop and refocus?


About Angela:

Angela and her husband Rod have been married for 18 years and they have two children, Madison (16) and Miller (13). Angela serves as a pastor at Relate Church in Surrey, BC. She loves finding beauty in everyday life and is passionate about communicating the grace, hope and reality of a living Jesus.



Angela Doell

Angela Doell

Angela is a lover and a fighter. She and her husband Rod have been married for 19 years and they have two beautiful children, Madison (17) and Miller (14). Angela works with the creative & media teams at Relate Church in Surrey, BC where she oversees graphic design, art direction and marketing. She loves finding beauty in everyday life and is passionate about communicating hope and the reality of a living Jesus through media and design.
Angela Doell

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