Simple Mommy Secrets
Did you know that one of the top complaints kids have is that we don’t listen? I sure thought I was the ever fully-affirming attentive Mom until one day my three-year old showed me I wouldn’t make the cut Mother of the Year. He was busy talking away to me while I nodded and smiled (and put away the dishes and checked my voice mail). All of a sudden Adam stopped, turned, took my chin in his hand and pulled my faced towards him, so my eyes were directly in front of his face. His actions were crystal clear: he wanted my complete attention and he was letting me know I was falling short. The way he made sure I was listening was by seeing my eyes exclusively on his eyes. Boy did I learn my lesson! After all, that’s what our kids want (and should expect): knowing we’re really listening and interested in their thoughts. Doing so is one of the best ways to let children know just how much they really matter to us. So how are well are you using this critical parenting secret with your family right now? Here are five steps to becoming a better listener to your kids (so they will become a better listener to you).
Step 1. Check Your Current Behavior. Pretend that the last few conversations between you and your child were videoed. Rewind the tape, push “play,” and watch yourself carefully. As your child was talking to you, what were you doing? For instance: Were your eyes on your child or elsewhere? Did you ask questions to get information instead of trying to prove a point? Were your hands doing another task, or still so you could tune into your kid? On a scale of one to 10 (one being the lowest and ten the highest) how would you rate your listening skills? What one little thing could you do to improve your score? What is the one thing you recognize in yourself that you know you need to change so you become a more attentive listener to your child?
Step Two: Stop everything else. The very next time your child wants or needs you, put down that cell phone. Get off the computer. Let the pasta boil, and give your full attention. Turn and face him. Get eye to eye and at his level. Nod every once in a while. Smile if appropriate, and even lean in slightly. Don’t interrupt or offer any opinion: Just listen! Your silence can be affirming and besides, the last thing kids want to always hear is our advice.
Step Three: Offer encouragement. To let your child know you’re interested, repeat a few key that you’ve heard your child say. Offer a nonjudgmental word or two to encourage his continuing such as: “Oh?”, “I see…”, “Really?”, or even “Mmmm.” Or you can simply repeat back your child’s last phrase: Child: “I can’t stand being around Josh this year.” Adult: “So you can’t stand being around him?” Child: “Yeah! He’s so bossy.”
Step Four: Acknowledge feelings. When you recognize how your child is feeling, describe the emotion: “Looks like you’re angry.” “You seem really frustrated.” “Sounds like you’re irritated.” “You seem unhappy.” This simple act helps your child know you’re giving her your full attention, you’re really trying to understand her, and are interested in what she has to say.
Step Five: Provide reassurance. End your talk with a response that conveys your support or appreciation: “I hope things work out.” “That was really interesting.” “I’m so sorry.” “I’m here if you need me.” Or “I enjoyed that.” Wait to see if your child needs anything else: advice, a hug, reassurance. He’ll be more like to want to share his ideas and feelings with you because he knows you cared and were giving him your full presence.
To make sure you really master each lesson parts, I recommend you practice one—but no more than two—pieces per week. Then continue adding a new piece each week until by the end of the month not only will you have learned the whole lesson, but you’ll also more likely to use it in your daily family life. Simple little changes can make such big differences in your relationship with your child.