5 Points to Help You Focus on What Your Kids are Saying
I am the organizer. The watcher-outer. The list maker. The get things done do-er.
I make the stuff that is supposed to happen happen and I give the “all clear” on the day’s “to-do’s” as they are “ta-done”.
In the typecast world, I’m not a Type A; I’m a Type A+.
I’m far too serious. I’m focused. I’m lost in details. I’m one step ahead and panicked that I’m behind.
In my world, I’m constantly struggling to not think of what’s coming next, to not play out every scenario of what may or may not happen. I can drive myself crazy; I don’t need anyone else’s help to get me there – and I’ve been known to unwittingly take other people with me.
So while I am physically present, I may be miles away and watching the interactions on my internal video camera with all the side commentators doing their play-by-play which is bouncing around in my own head.
That’s all well and good, but it’s not particularly fun. I’m all too often on the outside, looking in. And suddenly, from out of nowhere, I will hear my own voice commenting, “But – WAIT – that’s me right there! Get in there!”
Sometimes, then, when I’m with each of my daughters, I have to make a conscious effort to be ‘verywith’ them.
I have to stay in the conversation without the distraction of the technology and without the distraction of my own pop-up speech bubbles with reminders to tell my daughters of things that need to be done (check the list!) which, frustratingly, probably have nothing to do with what they are sharing with me in that moment.
My mind wanders. And another mental pop-up screams at me: Focus!
For me, listening requires intention. And work.
Whether I’m with my toddler or teen, what helps is to:
- Turn off the tech completely. No vibrations. No sounds from my tech. No sounds from her tech. Silence.
- Look my daughter in the eye. Don’t glance away. Hold her eyes even as she may look down or into the distance. Show her that I am right here – not right there, but right here – with her.
- Provide mirrored feedback on the pauses. Simply repeating her words with “I hear you saying ___” helps keep me present and reassures her that I’m still with her, following her. I grab at the name of the teacher or friend that I think I know and make sure that I heard her correctly. I repeat an event to make sure I understand what happened and that I didn’t zone out and make assumptions instead. This gives her the chance to re-explain something that I may have misunderstood. I try hard not to “reply” with meaningless “uh-huh”s or grunts – a sure sign that I am not listening – not really listening – anymore.
- Not offer suggestions unless asked. Instead, I turn it around to: “What do you think you should do?” (My daughters almost always know what to do and feel more successful – and less resentful – when they come up with the solution – and it’s often the same or better than mine was.)
- Laugh with them. They each have a fabulous sense of humor all their own. Though laughter doesn’t come easily to me, I know the impact of sharing something to the silly level. And laughing a little usually leads to laughing a lot. (Unless you are my younger daughter – in which case, laughter leads to crying hysterically which cracks her up more so that she cries harder.)
It’s far from easy to check my idiosyncrasies at the proverbial door. I may not always succeed but I do always try.
It’s on my daily to-do list:
- Try harder.
- Laugh more.
- Let go.
- Be me and not be my list.