Happy Birthday, Catherine! She turned 15 on March 22. I learn from her every day!
I grew up with the motto, “Children should be seen but not heard.” It’s another restrictive family parentism, yet one I’m optimistic about erasing.
When our children come to us with a problem, we usually want to solve it. Therefore, we briefly console and then quickly move to interpreting a “do this” mentality. Other times, we may feel we must teach our children, and so we cross-examine, lecture, sermonize, or, again, order. Probably more often than we’d like, we respond angrily, blaming, criticizing, ridiculing, shaming, or withdrawing.
However, all of these responses are tricky, whether with our children or with the adults in our lives. These responses often serve to stop communication, as well as the development of individual solutions.
Take the quiz below, which is adapted from the classic Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon, to assess your listening skills.
1. I let my children feel their difficult feelings, knowing that comments such as “Everyone goes through this” deny the strength of their feelings.
2. I try to listen for the need beneath the words and respond to that.
3. I make it a point to check in to see if I’ve understood something in the way my child intended it. When I do, I try to keep my own feelings, opinions, and guidance out of it.
4. When my child tells me something, I try to respond with either noncommittal phrases (such as “I see” or “Is that so”) or with an invitation to say more (such as “Tell me more” or “Go ahead, I’m listening”).
5. I notice that when I listen to my children’s problems, rather than make suggestions or give advice, my children often come up with their own excellent solutions.
6. When I hear my child out fully, my child is often much more willing to listen to my thoughts and ideas.
7. I really want to hear what my child has to say; if I don’t have the time to listen right at that moment, I say so and make time for it later.
8. I understand that listening to children express their feelings can help them accept a situation they know they cannot change.
9. I understand that my children are separate, unique individuals and that their feelings and perceptions are not necessarily the same as mine.
If you scored fewer true answers than false, consider really listening to your children (and others). After all, it’s the kit and caboodle of authentic parenting.
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage