Last week, almost every time I asked the kids to do something, I have been completely ignored the first, second, and sometimes, third time. As you can imagine – this was driving me absolutely crazy.
“What’s going on?” I kept thinking to myself, “Why aren’t they listening to me!?”
After I LOSE it – (well, not always, but it happens to me too!) and realize that that has absolutely no positive affect on the situation, I like to have conversations with my kids (which I usually bring up at dinnertime, or bedtime) where I let them know about a problem I think we are having, let them know how I am feeling, and give them a chance to respond.
Everyone at the table is also encouraged to bring up anything that is bothering them that they would like to work through.
Last Friday night, when my son – again – was not listening to me, I told him how I felt, that I was getting very frustrated and that we really had to solve this problem. Here is how our conversation went:
Noam, you seem to be having a very hard time listening lately. I know from your teachers that you always listen well in school. Why not at home?
“Ima, in school I listen because I don’t want to get punished.”
Oh, I see. Is that the ONLY reason you listen in school?
Okay, well what are some other reasons it is a good idea to listen?
Noam, what kind of home do you want this to be, a place where people get punished and yelled at for not listening, or a place where we all listen to one another because it’s the right thing to do?
“No, I don’t want to get punished at home. We should just do it because it’s right.”
Okay, well that’s the kind of home I want too. Let’s go back to the table and talk about what we ALL can do to listen better to one another in our home.
What is my goal as a parent? Is it to control their behavior and to get them to listen ONLY because I said so?
I have to admit, that would be nice. But it’s not the atmosphere I am interested in creating in our home.
I want our home to be a place where people listen to one another because that is just what we do; where people clean up, because it is just what we do; where people respect each other’s feelings, bodies, personal space, etc. – because it is the right thing to do.
So I make an effort to teach, to respect, to listen, really listen to what everyone’s needs are – and address those needs, instead of the ‘behavior’ being displayed.
Yes, it takes more time – time that sometimes I do not have. And I have to admit, just like you, I am not always on my own ‘best behavior.’ I get stressed, I lose patience, I get upset, and even yell sometimes.
But I work on it and ‘keep my eye on the prize’ – on the atmosphere I want to create. I take a step back and start with myself and think about the way that I listen.
Am I ignoring my children the first time they call for me? Am I making an effort to really connect and help them figure out what is really bothering them?
At the table, each of us, my husband, myself, and my two older children (age 6 1/2 and 5) contributed to our conversation. My husband and I realized that we may have been giving too many demands – and nagging our children – and that WE may not have been listening well to them.
Robbie and I have both been pre-occupied more with our work lately, perhaps we are not giving our children the attention that they have been requiring.
We made a pact that we would all make an effort to listen to one another…the first time around…
This week, just take the time to observe how much listening is taking place in your home and life.
- When your children ask you for something, how do you respond?
- How well do you and your spouse listen to one another?
- How are you listening to your friends or your co-workers?
- How present are you when someone else is speaking with you?
- Are you feeling heard in your own life?
Send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or add a comment here to let me know what you are discovering about the listening in your life.