A teacher I once had told me about how her grandchild would fend off family members who tried to engage him in conversation, saying, “Don talka me! Don talka me!”
Why was he saying that? And what can we learn from it?
Here’s what I see:
On the one hand, a lot of parents say, “My children don’t listen.”
On the other hand, we parents spend a lot of time talking to our children.
And it’s all this talking that can create a problem.
Now you’re probably thinking, isn’t it great to communicate with our children? Isn’t that what we’re meant to be doing? And I’d say, yes, totally. It’s probably the most important thing that we can do. But it’s about the how.
It’s all about the how.
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I see a lot of the following:
- parents trying to persuade children to do things that they don’t want to do.
- parents trying to convince children to see things the way they see them, reasoning with them and explaining why things are the way we see them.
- parents asking children whether they had a good time – at school, or with friends, for example.
- parents trying to encourage children not to feel things by saying things like,
“You’ll be fine.”
“It’ll all be alright.”
“It’s all good. Don’t worry.”
I’ve just quoted a collection of communications that you probably think are normal. You probably think it’s just what parents say to children and that this is all not only harmless, but necessary.
But the question is, where does all this communication come from?
I think, when we peel back the layers a bit, we can see that a lot of it comes from worry, worry that:
- our children might miss out on something.
- our children might not learn the rules of society.
- we parents might lose our authority.
- our child might not have had a good time.
- our child might be having a bad feeling.
When we communicate with children from this place of stress or worry, it’s hard for them. They resist. They don’t like it. And that’s the reason why they don’t listen a lot of the time.
When a lot of this is happening, children get into a habit of zoning us out. Our children stop listening. They ignore us, they say no, they run off, or they literally block their ears!
So, what can we do about this? How can we make it easier for our children to listen?
Here are three things you can take forward and practise in your daily life to improve this situation.
#1 – Reflective practice
First of all, develop a reflective practice of asking yourself where your communication is coming from. Is it coming from a place of worry, or is it coming from somewhere else, like a wish to connect?
Just notice how much is coming from a place of worry – or even panic.
#2 – Just say less!
Experiment with sometimes not saying the habitual things. Just don’t, and see what happens.
#3 – Observe your child’s response
Observe what your child puts into the space that opens up when you’re saying less.
I believe children are longing for us to trust them more.
And when we do trust them more, this creates space. They feel they can be more themselves and they can express more of themselves. And when that happens, it’s just so beautiful. And it’s a sign that you’re on the right track.
When we hold back with all the asking and explaining, it also makes it easier for your children to listen when you do have something that needs to be heard.
Talking less is a gift to your child. Try it.
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