Why are the best secrets to good parenting always such simple things? Simple, but hard, that is. I’ve been baby stepping my way through mindful parenting practices, and I have learned something so simple (yet so powerful) that it has changed everything about HOW I parent. And, God, it’s so simple it almost makes me feel stupid. Ready? LISTENING to my kids.
I know. It’s stupid simple. But, here’s a harsh truth for ya—you’re probably not as good at listening as you think.
No judgment, but it’s the truth.
I don’t know if it’s parent burn-out that makes us turn the volume down when our kids come to us with all their MANY issues, but listening has become a weakness for many of us moms.
And, the kicker—it may be why your kids behavior is in the crapper. Not to worry though, change can come quicker than you think.
When I practice active or reflective listening with my kids and mirror back their feelings to them, so many of our daily “problem” areas seem to magically fix themselves.
Someone PLEASE Listen!
The thing about parenting that gets under my skin THE MOST is feeling like I’m not being heard, and a close SECOND is feeling unappreciated by my kids (and often my husband for that matter).
But, in the past few months, I’ve made a painful discovery that puts me in the hot seat. As it turns out, I have been pretty terrible at actually listening to my children.
Most parents will agree that we are slaves to multi-tasking, we are always tired or simply just not that interested in paying REAL attention to the ramblings of our little ones.
Unfortunately for me, this bad habit has exacerbated some of my kids’ crappy behavior: having to repeatedly ask to get them to do anything around the house, constantly interrupting conversations, and loads of whining.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I tried everything: rewards, consequences, time outs, etc. but nothing was working. In fact, I was making it WORSE.
Then, I made this unlikely discovery: I was at the root of the problem.
Good times. So, in order to fix the problem, I needed to fix my own behavior first.
It’s not you, it’s me (AGAIN)
So, with this new discovery came weeks of noticing my own behavior. Nobody likes to hold a mirror up to their own flaws. It definitely makes you feel like a total crap mom. Trust me.
But, you have to REGROUP, give yourself some compassion and start making some changes.
The Art of Listening
As it turns out, there are actual techniques for listening—especially when it comes to listening to kids.
Being the multi-tasker that I am, I missed so many opportunities to hear my kids. I was just MISSING IT.
The unfortunate part is—we all know how it feels when you don’t have someone’s full attention. It sucks.
So, here are some steps you can start practicing to become a better listener to your kid, so they’ll feel HEARD & SUPPORTED.
- TUNNEL VISION: When your kids come to you with a problem (or just want to talk), you’ve got to FOCUS. I know it’s tough to stay focused on why the neighborhood kid is doing something stupid to annoy your kid, but FOCUS is key.
- HEAR: How is this making your kid FEEL? (Don’t interrupt and put words in his mouth). Just LISTEN.
- MIRROR BACK: Tell what you THINK is going on and how you THINK it’s making him feel. This part is important because it shows that you GET IT! He (at minimum) will feel like you’ve HEARD HIM. This is huge.
- DON’T TRY TO FIX IT (UNLESS ASKED): After listening to the problem or drama du jour, don’t try and fix it. Not gonna lie–this is my Achilles heel–I struggle here. I love to fix. But, it doesn’t do much to instill confidence in their abilities to solve problems for themselves. So, do your best to help them figure out the answers on their own.
- SHOW SOME EMPATHY: Finally, you’ll want to wrap it all up with a big fat bow of EMPATHY. Keep it simple here. Don’t go too over the top or play it too cool. Just show you get what he’s saying. Validate those little (or big) emotions.
Jennifer Miller’s site, Confident Parents Confident Kids, is a wonderful resource for parents looking to educate themselves on listening, as well as a multitude of other parenting skills. She provides a great example of how parents can use reflective listening techniques to help your kid solve problems for themselves.
The results will speak for themselves, but let me just say this: in 2 days of making this a practice, my kids started LISTENING TO ME. What do ya know—I listened to them, so they listened to me.
I almost felt embarrassed by the results. I didn’t think it would be so dramatic. But it was. Oh, man, the hours of arguments….the HOURS of bickering with my kids…the blow ups….the meltdowns.
SO MUCH TIME WASTED.
Listening, really listening was all it took to see a huge shift in my kids’ attitudes. And, I can tell you that when I slip back into my old ways (which is inevitable especially when I’m still trying to engrain it into my psyche) – my kids’ behaviors all shift, too.
That’s why it’s so important to remember that this is a PROCESS. It’s a way of living and parenting that won’t get results unless you continue to practice it.
The payoff is COMPLETELY worth everything even if your practice isn’t always perfect.
The only thing I can do is start again—focus, listen, mirror and show some empathy.
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