Listening to Your Kids’ Struggles Without Your “Stuff” Getting in the Way
From my experience of teaching and coaching hundreds of parents (plus raising my own daughter), learning how to listen and build connection is the foundation to a harmonious home.
When children are upset about an issue in their own life, it can trigger thoughts and feelings in us that makes us not want to listen to them.
What you think causes what you feel which then leads to your actions. This, in turn will either negatively or positively influence your child’s “Think-Feel-Do Cycle” as well.
When you change, your child responds differently. Many times you have a big impact on your child’s behavior.
Here are examples of things your kids tell you that might be hard to listen to…
- “My teacher got mad at me today and I didn’t do anything wrong.”
- “It isn’t fair that my brother gets more than I do.”
- “My friend doesn’t want to play with me anymore and it’s not my fault.”
In order to shift from not listening to an upset child to listening to an upset child, begin with analyzing your inflexible thoughts that lead to disconnection and then replace them with flexible thoughts.
For a complete understanding about listening to emotions, please refer to my book Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. It is available in print and audio formats.
To make the shift from inflexible to flexible, follow this 5-step process…
Activity 1: Write down a time when your child was upset and you didn’t want to listen. Your main focus was for them to stop being upset.
What are some inflexible beliefs and thoughts you had that made it difficult to listen to your upset child? Here are some examples. Add your own at the end.
- It’s weak to show emotions
- Buck it up. Get over it.
- Emotions should be ignored. Listening makes them upset longer.
- Listening makes kids think you agree and approve of what they are saying.
- Listening will lead to more arguing.
- They shouldn’t be upset. They are being silly.
- Why are they acting this way? It’s no big deal.
- It will weaken them if I listen to their upsets.
- Life is hard and they are being too sensitive. They need to toughen up.
Activity 2: What feelings do you have about your children or yourself when it’s hard to listen? Below are some examples. See which ones apply (and feel free to add your own).
(Know that anger is considered a secondary emotion, so consider what other feelings are triggering your emotions.)
Angry, ashamed, disappointed, guilty, hopeless, irritated, miserable, overwhelmed, pained, rejected, remorseful, resentful, manipulated, trapped, uncomfortable, unloved, worried.hurt,
Activity 3: What did you say or do during this “difficult to listen” time?
- You felt frustrated and helpless, so you told him to go into his room until he calms down.
- Tried to make her feel better by saying it isn’t that bad, or it will get better, or we can fix it.
- You felt hurt or manipulated so you got angry. What did you say and do?
- Ignored your child.
- Told your child to stop being so upset. What did you say exactly?
Activity 4: Which flexible thoughts below could replace your inflexible thoughts? Add your own, too.
- I can handle listening to my upset child.
- After he gets his upset feelings out, then we can possibly find a solution.
- I need to get control of myself.
- He/she is just trying to cope.
- Only after my child releases feelings will she be able to solve the problem.
- If I try to solve the problem too soon, my child will reject whatever I say.
Activity 5: How to think you will feel about yourself and your child once you shift from being stuck in a place of not listening to being more free to listen, connect, and engage in heart-felt dialogue with your child?
Choosing Flexible Thoughts Leads To Connection, Empathy, and The Ability To Listen and Influence.
It can be difficult to want to change the beliefs that make you right and your child wrong. These beliefs give you a sense of being righteousness.
I encourage you to think about how you might feel about yourself when you have more understanding and compassion toward your child as they struggle.
For more information, you can contact Cynthia Klein at [email protected]
Copyright 2019 Cynthia Klein. Contact Cynthia for the rights to reproduce this article.