This is the perfect image for this post. Found it on Facebook and not sure how to credit it, so here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=318153091563208&set=a.263757173669467.72378.263751677003350&&theater
Listen to your kids. Some people are naturally good at listening while others have to work harder at it. It may not be easy to do at first but it will get easier and it *is* worth it.
I find it ironic that before babies are verbal there are times (when they are crying inconsolably for instance!) that we wish they could just talk to us - tell us what they are feeling and thinking, what they need etc. But almost as soon as they are verbal, children are faced with being negated in words and actions. A few examples that quickly come to mind are telling them what, when and how much television or media they can watch, telling them what they can or can't eat and when, oh and where too, telling them that it is bedtime and they *are* tired, when they need to go home, when they need to leave the house and of course, the most ironic in terms of listening - telling them which words are ok and not ok to use.
What? They are finally able to tell us, with words no less, what they want and need and now we decide is the time to tell them that they are wrong, that they don't know what is best of them, and of course, that we know better.
The older my kids and I get the more I realize that the more I learn the less I "know". My best stratgey lately for dealing with conflict, distress, and general meltdowns, is to wait - stop, take some deep breaths - and actually do almost nothing. (Of course I stop anyone from hurting themselves or others). I suppose this is actually a form of listening. Often I will repeat what Gerry or Marisol is saying so they know I hear them. If I'm not sure what to say or do I might tell them that too. I may ask for input. Sometimes they have an idea. Sometimes some brilliant distraction or idea strikes me and I help us all move through the moment. But more often than not the moment just passes on its own.
Of course, children will only feel understood and listened to if they are able to make their own choices and feel that they have some control over their lives. This means after listening the next logical step is to work together to decide what comes next. I'm not saying that kids get their way all the time or that adults' needs become secondary. I am saying that it is often very possible to come up with solutions that help everyone get their needs met and the more we practice partnership, creative thinking, and really listening to each other, the easier it gets. I also believe that adults have (or more accurately, *should have*) a greater capacity to be flexible by getting their needs met in different ways, and/or waiting for things which means from the outside it may *look* like the child is "always getting their way". However, children learn a few really important things when adults in their lives adopt these beliefs and act accordingly. They learn that the adults care enough about them to listen and act based on what the child is saying, and they are also seeing in action flexible, compassionate role models. Because communication is open they also learn what the needs are of the other person, and as the child matures they are more able to take others' needs into account (Note that there is not a set age when this ability magically appears!) For myself, I am continually learning ways to meet both my childrens' and my own needs in a way that builds our relationship. Of course I am very lucky to be home with them full time which offers me a lot of flexibility in terms of time and scheduling.
I've always been a good talker and I always *thought* I was a good listener. But I'm realizing that I have a lot of room for improvement in this area. My kids are helping me a lot. :-) They want to be heard! And they should. I feel that generally children are not listened to in our current culture. But children are people, worthy of respect and a huge part of that is listening to them. I hope that in the near future this won't be such a radical idea.