Listening to Children…In Action!
As I mentioned yesterday in my blog, listening to children is so very important. As both parent and educator I’ve come to understand that listening to children is very essential for their well-being. It addition, it is FUN and very revealing. Listening plays a huge part in connectedness which research shows is the key to a happy childhood as well as a happy adulthood! Listening makes for a peaceful child and peaceful family.
When I was 18 years old, and a day camp counselor, one of the children in my group was with another counselor doing a craft project. An altercation took place and the child ran off and refused to speak with anyone. I’ll call her “Diana”. After some time, I approached her from a distance and simply said, “Diana, I want to listen to what you have to say.” I walked closer to her and again said, “I really want to listen to what you want to say, Diana.” She remained quiet and allowed me to come near and speak to her. She told me her version of what had happened.
When Diana felt listened to and understood, she willingly came back into the group. I supported her in speaking to the other counselor and telling her why she was so upset. Everything was able to be worked out.
And Diane returned to her happy, confident self!
During the summer, this happened more than once and each time, it was listening that made the difference and communication was restored.*
Ever since that time I’ve used this technique with children (and adults). Over the years I’ve developed it and now call it the 10 Minute Miracle. For it truly is that, a miracle! Listening builds connection! Listening builds trust! Listening says: I want to know what you are thinking is important! I care about you! You are important! Listening changes lives!
NOTE: I’ve just revised this eBook. If you’d like a complimentary copy, of Listening to Children: The 10 Minute Miracle, please email me. I’d be happy to send one to you.
From my experience, listening is the forerunner to communication and is essential for a child to live in peace. When a child feels listened to then he/she is able to listen! Listening is the beginning of dialogue, the beginning of communication. When two people are listening and communicating, heart to heart communication takes place, which is true connectedness.
Edward Hallowell M.D., author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, states that the results of a groundbreaking study of adolescence showed that what children need to prevent them from negative outcomes is twofold:
The first is a feeling of connectedness at home.
Hallowell stated that connectedness at home protected children against emotional distress and suicidal thoughts or attempts; it protected against violent behavior; it protected against cigarette, alcohol, or marijuana use; and it protected against early sexual intimacy.
Connectedness was the key! During the study, the researchers actually did use the word “connectedness” and the word was defined as “closeness to mother and/or father, perceived caring by mother and/or father, satisfaction with relationship with mother and/or father, and feeling understood, loved, wanted, and paid attention to by family members.”
The feeling of connectedness at school.
Hallowell states in his book that connectedness at school was defined as “the student’s feeling that teachers treat students fairly, feeling close to people at school, and getting along with teachers and students.”
Listening can take place in a variety of places and in a variety of ways. A few ideas for times to connect and conversation starters are as follows:
1. At the dinner table: What was the high and low of your day?
2. Before bed: Did you talk to any of your friends today? Are you planning any activities together?
3. Going for a walk together: Being together connects parent and child. Just being together allows for the possibility of listening and communication.
4. Preparing dinner: Inviting your child to help you prepare dinner and being open to listening to a suggestion from them about the meal.
5. Shopping for school supplies or clothes together.
As summer comes to an end in a few weeks, and you prepare for a new school year, it is a time for an amazing connection with children. When I went shopping with my children for back to school clothes, we worked out a system of selecting clothing items. Each item, in order to be purchased, needed a “YES” from Mom and a “YES” from the child! During the process, I’d share the reasons for my yes or no reply as well as listening to my children’s reasons for their decisions. By educating my kids as to what was behind my decisions and listening to the basis for their decisions, we came to more deeply understand each other.*
In so many situations I’ve discovered that education was a key to their internalizing what I was saying.
Non-emotional statements giving information in a non-threatening manner were hugely important in helping my children form a strong and sturdy foundation in life from which they could make rational decisions.* On the other hand, strong emotional responses from me created a dis-connect with them. Perhaps they felt that they too were entitled to their opinion and had not “ears” for hearing.
Another way of listening to children is in regards to meals. Children have great ideas and love making up their own recipes. Recently when I was with a family, the 10-year-old girl asked if she could make her potatoes for dinner. She called them “Open Lid Potatoes.” She had the basic idea of how to make them, and then during the process she experimented and created her recipe. Below is her recipe and some ideas about it.
RAISING PEACEFUL CHILDREN IN ACTION:
I invite you to continue the act of listening to yourself and your children. Take time out for quiet time, to listen to your inner thoughts. Sometimes, just sitting with a thought, or challenge, can bring new understanding about it.
Does your child need to be listened to in a deep way. Make time for each child to have “special” time with you. Time that is one on one. Go for a walk. Play a game. My good friend recently said he enjoys playing board games with his children, not just for the sake of the game, but the interaction that it leads to. Taking time to connect one on one, deepens the connection and creates a deep bond between loved ones.