Listening With All Our Hearts
The Peaceful Parenting Newsletter
A free e-mail newsletter from Naomi Drew
When you listen, the integrity and wholeness in others moves closer. Your attention strengthens it and makes it easier for them to hear it in themselves. In your presence, they can more easily inhabit that in them which is beyond their limitations.
Rachel Naomi Remen
One important way we can foster peace and healing is by deeply listening to the people we care about. Did you know that by listening with all your heart you will give your children what may be the greatest gift of all: a sense of being honored and a validation of his or her personhood. Also, in these times of uncertainty, its even more important to keep open the lines of communication, accepting whatever is in the hearts and minds of our children without trying to talk them out of feeling how they feel.
Remember too, that when we listen with great intentionality to our children, we teach them how to listen back to us. This starts when children are infants and we make eye contact with them, responding to the sounds they make. It continues in the toddler years as we look into the eyes of our two-year old and grasp for understanding of his words. And it blossoms in our childrens adolescence when, accustomed to years of being listen to and empathized with, our teen keeps talking to us even though her peers have stopped communicating with their parents.
This is critical. There was a study done a few years back with ninety-thousand teens to see what factors helped prevent drug and alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy. The number one factor in prevention was a feeling of closeness to ones family.
Bonds of trust are built on deep listening and open communication. Now is the time to start.
Peace to all of you,
Using Active Listening
When our children share things that are on their minds, they are not necessarily looking for a solution. They are mainly looking to be heard. When we jump in and try to fix, were not giving our child the opportunity to come up with his or her own solutions. By listening and validating we enable our child to sort things out and see problems more clearly. This process often helps them see a solution that was not evident before. Giving gentle guidance at appropriate times is absolutely necessary, but jumping in and fixing can be counter-productive. As a mother of three said, Part of making a problem better is hearing what is on my childs mind. I used to squelch my childrens feelings. I would want to get right to the solution. Now I see that my children need to express their feelings without my immediately jumping in. When I actively listen, they begin to see ways to solve the problem themselves.
When we establish a pattern of deep, compassionate listening, our children are apt to become better problem-solvers. They also feel safer in talking to us when they have something on their minds. Take a look at the contrast between the two scenarios below. Notice how the mom in the first scenario goes immediately into a fix-it mode that backfires. Notice how active listening in the second scenario leads to a far different outcome.
Mom: How was school today?
Tammy: Because the teachers mean. She told me the story I wrote last night was too messy and she made me copy it over.
Mom: That teacher is way too particular! This isnt the first time shes done something like that. Im calling her to complain.
Tammy: No, Mom! I dont want you to!
Mom: I think I know a little more about these things than you, Tammy. She had no right to make you redo your story. When I was your age something like that happened to me, and Im not going to let you be subjected to the same thing.
Tammy: (near tears now) No, Mom! it wasnt such a big deal! You dont have to call her! I can take care of it myself.
Mom: Stop fussing, Tammy. I think I know how to handle things like this better than you. Wait till I talk to that woman, getting you all upset like this!
Clearly, the next time Tammy wants to vent, shes not going to go to her mother. In her fervor to fixthe problem, Tammys mother did not listen to her daughters needs. Lets take a look at how this scenario could have been different:
Mom: How was school today?
Tammy: Because the teachers mean. She told me my story from last night was too messy and she made me copy it over.
Mom: Sounds like your upset about that.
Tammy: I am. No one else had to copy their story over. And I had to miss free time so I could do it.
Mom: That must have been frustrating.
Tammy: It was. I cant help it if I have messy handwriting!
Mom: So you feel that the neatness of your writing is something you cant control?
Tammy: Well, maybe I could if I went a little slower. But I was in a hurry last night because I wanted to watch my favorite TV show.
Mom: So you rushed?
Tammy: (Thinking about it) I guess I did.
Mom: Is there anything you could do differently next time?
Tammy: Take it slower. I guess if I started my homework right after dinner, then I would have had more time.
Mom: Good idea Tammy. Would it help if I remind you to do that tomorrow night?
Tammy: OK. Now that Im in third grade I guess I have to be a little more careful with my work. Thats what my teacher says.
Exercise: Practice active listening. When your child (or anyone else) tells you something thats on his or her mind, paraphrase what you heard, and avoid the impulse to jump in, fix the problem, or judge. You can start with words like
I heard you say . . . or Sounds like . . . You can also simply nod, listen, and say Is that right?
Try this and see what happens. Dont be surprised if your child looks at you funny at first, especially if this way of listening is a noticeable departure from the way you normally respond. Practicing makes it feel more natural, and over time you will reap incredibly valuable rewards.
Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so
we could hear twice as much as we speak.
Peaceful Parenting Coaching
Peaceful Parenting Coaching enables parents to work individually, as couples, or with their children on practical strategies that create greater harmony, less conflict. Sessions can be done by phone or in person. Crisis coaching is also available.
To schedule a complimentary Peaceful Parenting coaching session by phone, e-mail Naomi Drew at email@example.com or call 609-844-1138.
Naomi Drew is the author of three books, all available through Amazon.com:
Peaceful Parents, Peaceful Kids (Kensington Publishers)
Learning the Skills of Peacemaking (Jalmar Press)
The Peaceful Classroom in Action (Jalmar Press)
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Copyright Naomi Drew, August, 2001 All Rights Reserved.
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Love and Peace to All of You.