By Stacey Gliniewicz
Have you ever taken a step back and really evaluated the personalities of your children or child? Have you ever wondered how they truly see the world and interpret all that comes at them, regardless of the age?
Often times, our household is chaotic in the mornings before school, and then again, after school until bed time. At any given time in our chaos, I have at least two children asking for help with breakfast or getting dressed for school, a dog jumping on my leg begging for whatever morsel of food is in my hand, and husband that is asking me for his car keys because he can’t remember where he left them the night before. Is it any wonder that my youngest, who is four, has found his way through the chaos with, “Mommy! Are you listening to me?” Suddenly, my little ‘Bubba’ has gained my undivided attention. This little strategy has caused me to take pause and wonder how he sees the world. Then I find myself wondering about the other four children wondering how they interpret the world at six, eight, fourteen, and seventeen.
As a parent, it is part of our job to help our children unlock the mysteries of their personalities in various activities, parenting time, and encouragement. How can you listen to your toddler, or even your teenager? Here are some things that work for my husband and me, regardless of the child’s age:
* Get to eye level with your child, even if they are asking a simple question. They want to know you are listening. This works well when you are speaking to your children concerning a discipline issue as well.
*Schedule a one on one date with each of your children. I mentioned this in my previous article, “Blended”, to do this with your step-children. Having such an appointment with any of your children is important, and makes them feel important!
*When your child is talking to you, and they are frustrated because it appears you are not hearing what they are saying, repeat what they have just said to you. This lets them know you are listening.
*Do not shut your child down. Often times my children approach me with ideas that I know, unfortunately, will not work out because of the larger details. Merely make suggestions to help direct them toward success, let them problem solve. Children are not able to see and account for the larger details because their brains simply cannot encompass all that is involved in coordinating, sometimes, simple activities.
*Encourage your children with genuine phrases and acts of affection. Perhaps tuck a little note in their lunch bag or backpack. Make a little good luck goodie bag for them prior to a sporting event. I remind them often how much they are loved and share hugs and kisses. When I give my eight year old son a kiss on the cheek, he often will rub his cheek, look at me and say, “Moooom! Gross!” My response to him is, that’s okay, rub it in. I usually get a giggle from my son.
Children need to be heard, feel like they’re being heard, and need a safe and non-threatening environment. This is true for all children, no matter how naughty they can be, or how frustrated you become with them, take pause and listen. Most children often have a hard time putting their feelings into words and will act out instead. ‘Listen’ to those actions and ask yourself what your child is trying to tell you. Stopping in the middle of the chaos to really hear your child is worth the extra minute or two to raise your child’s self-esteem and open the door to future conversations and questions. How do you listen to and encourage your children?