I think that most of us have days where we hear ourselves talking and talking – and not doing a lot of listening.
But quietly being with your child while they express their feelings is one of your most powerful parenting tools.
Today felt like the perfect time to revisit our peaceful parenting series.
Because like you, I have "on" days and "off" days. And re-reading this series always helps me find my path once more.
I originally posted this series in 2012 but began reposting it last year. I don't know about you, but I've enjoyed the refresher. So much.
For those of you who are new or who aren't looking for a new parenting paradigm, let me restate my intention here, just for clarity: This series is for parents looking for ways to integrate more connection-based peaceful parenting strategies into their relationships with their children.
If if isn't resonant to you, then no sweat. Perhaps you have found your perfect parenting fit. (Parenting, after all, is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement.)
But if you are in a place of struggle with your child, or if you are searching for a bit more ease, or if some of the parenting strategies you are using don't resonate anymore, this series is for you.
This is how we are striving to do things in our home. It is my goal as a mom to reach for deeper connection and to find peaceful ways to guide my children along this journey.
And you know, I'm learning right along with you. And I don't always find the right fit either.
But that's life, isn't it? We aren't perfect. But we're learning and growing everyday.
We began the Peaceful Parenting series last winter. I encourage you to take a few days to re-read steps one through five. These will lay the foundation and remind you of the journey we are on.
And now, finally! More Peaceful Parenting Step 6. Just Listen.
I want to restart with something so basic, so simple, that you are doing it already.
The change I am suggesting today is for you to deepen and shift how you are listening to hear more than you did before. To truly listen. With all of your heart.
And when we start to listen (really listen) our child receives the message that they matter. That their feelings are valid. That they are valid.
How to listen to your child:
1. Focus on your child.
Kneel down so that you are at eye-level.
Make physical contact if that is what your child desires. Sometimes for my kids it's easiest to talk while we cuddle. Some crave eye contact, others withdraw from it.
Listen to their energy and give them what they need. But give them your focus.
2. Ignore external distractions.
Don't answer your phone. Shut off your computer. Create comfortable quiet where you can focus on their words and body language alone.
3. Quiet your inner distractions.
As parents many of us have a stop watch that is constantly ticking in our heads. We have a lot to do and sometimes not enough time to do it. Stop that clock.
The dishes and laundry will wait. Dinner will wait. Nap will wait. Take a deep healing breath and focus on this moment. Your presence means so much more than anything else that might be on your to-do list.
4. Hear the feelings underneath their words.
Let your child talk without interruption. Hear what they are saying, and seek to understand what they are not saying as well.
What is the feeling (or the need) at the heart of their expression?
5. Accept the feelings they are expressing as valid.
Avoid the temptation to soothe them with words that negate how they feel.
Instead of using words like "You're okay," or "It'll be fine," try reflecting back what you are hearing, "It hurts," or "You're very angry."
Remember that your work in this moment is not to fix anything. Just listen. Just really listen.
Following the steps above will give our children the message that we are really, truly listening and that their words matter.
We demonstrate that we aren't going to swoop in to try to fix it and we aren't going to tell them that they are wrong.
They will instead hear that it is safe to express all of their feelings to you – even the scary or ugly or overwhelming ones. And this will create connection between you that will serve you always.
From here we can work together to find a solution, empowering our child to step up and participate in that process.
But before solution there must be understanding.
Let's start by just listening.
Here are the links to the complete Peaceful Parenting Series: