“How do I get my child to listen?!!”
Listening when you’re addressed by someone is a great life skill, but one that often our children don’t seem too eager to learn! Frustrated parents often say, “I hate it, but I just have to yell, and then they’ll finally listen.” What we’ve learned through decades of coaching parents is that a little connection and creativity goes a long way in helping kids tune in when they hear, “Time for dinner!” or “Pick up your toys, please!”
One of the best times to show love to your kids is when they are misbehaving. Anger, frustration and lecturing are standard reactions to a kid who does something wrong, but do they work to change behavior? I worked with many troubled kids before I co-founded Connected Families with Lynne and learned quite a few things about the messages kids receive (and don’t receive) when they are getting a consequence. Many kids who did something wrong, already defined themselves as “bad.” Undeserving of love. Yet, this is not how God responds to our sin, even when we are at our worst. (See Romans 3:23-24.)
A mother of five told us that her older children once “busted” her and her husband with an insightful observation: “We know you’re not listening when you say, ‘Wow, that’s great!’” The children were able to discern that the parents were really not listening or observing very closely. Fortunately, they could state their disappointment aloud and the parents could respond. Many kids in this pattern just grow up believing that perhaps they are not so important.
When we seek to communicate to our kids that they’re loved no matter what, one great way is to enter their world: watch, ask, listen! In other words, take an active interest in — and pay real attention to — learning from them about things they enjoy.
Caroline was thoughtful as I described how our young adult kids call from time to time and ask us to help them think through a situation.
“After they describe their dilemma, we usually ask them thoughtful questions to guide their thinking,” I explained.
“Hmm.” Caroline thought for a moment. “Neither my husband or I ever call our parents asking for input with a challenge. When we talk to our parents we don’t feel listened to, we feel lectured. They were very authoritarian when we were young, and they really haven’t changed.”
That insight about her own parents guided a great discussion about the kind of relationship she wanted to have with her children as they grow.
When kids melt down, we often advise parents to respond with empathy, by saying out loud what the kiddo might be feeling. But sometimes we can communicate everything we need to — without words.
Today we’d like to share with you a story from the blog of Bo, a dad who with his wife Jen took our online course and shared with us this beautiful story of their journey to become safer parents. We hope you are as blessed by it as we were!
A safe place. What do you think of when I use that phrase?
The picture I think of is changing. Let me explain.
Our youngest, Isley, is finally asleep in the bed. Eilam, Kale and Fallon are at the grandparents’ house for a sleepover. It is 10:30 at night and Jen and I sit on the bedroom floor, open the computer, and prepare to listen to our second class in a course titled “Discipline that Connects.” Tonight’s topic – “You are safe with me.” Little did I know I was fixin’ to learn a valuable and practical lesson in that very topic.
Teaching the art of asking good questions is a favorite goal in our daily work with parents. Why? Because we’ve learned that lectures and answers often shut kids down and build walls between parents and their kids, while good questions build wisdom, strengthen connection, and lead to kids taking more responsibility for their lives.
To illustrate this in real life, we’ve invited Joel and Amy to write about their journey to learn to ask good questions and build wisdom with their two teenage sons.
I remember the feeling of cluelessness one day when my husband and I were sitting in a session with our parent coach, Chad.
We’d been learning from Connected Families’ resources about how to communicate to our two teenage sons that they were safe and loved. While we were growing and our hearts were changing, we still had many unsolved problems and felt stuck. After we described an issue with one of our sons during a coaching session, Chad asked, “How does your son feel about it?”
Dead silence. We were totally clueless. We said that we thought he felt a certain way, but really we had no idea. Then Chad asked, “Well, have you ever asked him?”
Last week we wrote about what to do when we blow it. We suggested that overcoming parenting mistakes isn’t so much about not making them (which is good because we made TONS of them), but about being intentional to develop three specific things that will help you recover when you inevitably do blow it:
- Skills for reconciling well when you’ve blown it.
- Humility for admitting when you don’t live up to your vision.
- A vision that can sustain your family through tough times.
These components are like the legs on a three-legged stool. Without all three in place the stool just doesn’t stand up. Over the next few weeks we’re going to share a few practical things parents can do to strengthen each leg. We’ll start with Skills. The following four skills have helped many a parent grow well, in spite of all their mistakes.
Parents, are you struggling with how to address the recent racial tension that has exploded across the United States? At Connected Families we are on the side of Justice, Grace and Peace, without any judgment about how to legislate those values. We know that getting there requires humility and true curiosity. The following is a process for entering volatile topics that we’ve found extremely helpful for those wishing to increase in wisdom for seeking solutions. We invite you to consider the conversations you’ve had or could have regarding events related to the recent unrest in Ferguson.
We’ve often heard parents say, “I hate to yell, but the kids just won’t listen until I do!”
If the kids aren’t listening to requests, it may be about more than inattentiveness. It could be that the family culture does not exemplify respectful listening. We have seen in many families that often kids who don’t listen well are kids who don’t feel very listened to. Learning to view listening issues as a whole family problem — and not just one disobedient child’s problem — has helped many parents better address the listening issue with their child.