“Mom, When I Hear You Say That, I feel Discouraged.”

I got a call from my mom a few weeks ago.  She called to say hello and to update me on my father’s visit to my new home.  We chatted a bit and I asked her whether or not she read my latest post on my weblog.  She was featured in the article and I thought that she would appreciate reading it.

She said that she read the post (“Turn Baby Turn”) and was very focused on the fact that she could not remember the story.  I knew that she wouldn’t – only because she tends to forget details like that.  I told her that the details of the story were not important, but that the message that I received from her – her supporting me by allowing me to make my own choices – was very powerful and had a tremendous impact on me as a teenager.

She did not really react to what I was saying and instead began to ask me questions about my business.  I felt like she was not really listening to what I was saying.  I also heard skepticism in her voice.

I love my mother and I know that she loves and respects me.  I know that she had not intended to hurt my feelings.  Maybe her mind was elsewhere.  Maybe she was focused on something else.  But I did feel hurt and not heard.  I did feel my body cringe and my throat closing up.  I wanted to end the conversation as quickly as I could.

What prompted me to feel this way?

I feel close with my mom.  We have a nice relationship.  Although there are certain things I do not share with her, I do often call her (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day!) to update her on what is going on with my life.

But the way that she reacted to what I was sharing with her – even though she had not intended it, left me feeling unheard and discouraged.

Maybe it was me.  Maybe my own insecurities were coming to the forefront.

But this experience helped me learn a valuable lesson.  It helped me to personally discover why kids, when they feel discouraged, tend to express that feeling by misbehaving.  According to Jane Nelson, world renowned author and speaker on Positive Discipline, children misbehave when they feel discouraged.

I am an adult.  I am aware of what support I require, and am able to express it and access it when I require it.  I also know how to communicate my feelings in a healthy way.

But most kids do not.  Most kids, when they feel discouraged, get angry (just like we do) and express it by throwing a tantrum, fighting, giving up, ignoring us, or any other way that reinforces the idea that “I am not good enough.”

So how will I move on from this?

I am going to think about what messages I give my own children.  I am going to ask myself whether or not I say things that are discouraging – even when I do not intend to.  I will do a self-observation with this in mind for one week and see what I learn.

I will also make a list of the ways I can be encouraging to my own children (and spouse!)

What are some encouraging messages?  Hmm, let me think…

Well, each time I look at my children, before I say anything to them, I will think and say in my mind: “I believe that you are beautiful, lovable, and capable.” (And express that to them more often – being careful not to go overboard either.)  I will think about how much I cherish them.   I will focus on their strengths and qualities.  I will listen, really listen, to what they are saying and the feelings that accompany what they say.  I will ask them what support it is that they require.

I am going to call my mom back, and ever so gently, let her know how I feel; letting her know that I know that she loves me and had not intended to hurt my feelings.  I am also going to tell her how I like to be supported.  After all, unless I tell her, how will she know?

*****

How about you?

How will you show encouragement to your children, spouse, sibling, or friend this week?

What can you do to let someone that you trust know how you like to be supported?

When We Listen to Understand
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