This article is contributed by Priyanka Bakhru Talwar for Kidsstoppress.com.
Priyanka Bakhru Talwar spent 11 years in the corporate world after her MBA, and in her last profile, she headedÂ marketingÂ for Vogue and Conde Nast Traveler. Around 5 years back, she became interested in metaphysics and psychology, and the adventure that followed has resulted in her new and permanent avatar as a counselor and clinical hypnotherapist. She specialises in relationship and inner child therapies, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Psychology. She dabbles in photography, all ancient and alternative healing arts and cooking; and is passionate about travel and new experiences.
Priyanka Bakhru Â shares her ideas and experiences on the art of listening to kids.
Childhood is a magical time, and children are magical beings. They are not conditioned yet by you or society, they have fewer fears and insecurities, or any grand goals and ambitions. They are already who we want to becomeâ€¦living in the now, open of heart and mind, embracing life with joy and curiosity. Their world is full of rainbows and unicorns, adventure and skills, fairies and super heroes.
As parents, our role is to protect them, love them and help them prepare for adulthood. There are many things we need to teach and guide and counsel them on, but there are also some things we need to let be, to understand and to learn from them. For this most beautiful relationship to be filled with trust and interaction, there is one skill every parent must, must master. And that is the art of listening to your children.
The Experience:Â I had an interesting experience a few months ago that got me probing this line of parenting and Iâ€™d like to share it. My almost 3 year old daughter is just finishing up play school, and had a toddler sports day coming up, for which the kids rehearsed 2-3 times in actual races with finish lines etc. While I started out with just fun on my mind, I was told that my little one won the races at every rehearsal. I was thrilled, and both my husband and I were quite looking forward to seeing our tiny little star run her first race on D day. We watched the bacchas line up, a jaunty little song started playing and off went the whistle. The kids started toddling, running, ambling along. And our daughter didn’t move from the start line. At all!
It was really funny, with her teacher coaxing her, and us watching and wondering what could be up. Many thoughts crossed my mind, like she didn’t hear the whistle or maybe she was feeling too hot etc. Later, at home, when I asker her why she didn’t run, her answer really blew my mind, because as a conditioned adult, it would have never crossed my mind. She said she didn’t know the man waiting near the finish line and didn’t want to run to him!
Itâ€™s a whole new world for small children, and they have no idea what a rehearsal is, how it is different from an actual sports day or concert, what winning means or even that there wonâ€™t be another chance to run. All of these are conditions only in our head. For my daughter, it was simply fun to run towards her familiar and loved teachers with her friends, and not fun when there were so many people around and some strangers waiting to receive her at the other end (the judges )
The logic is beautifully pure, unsullied and made me marvel at this magical child of mine. And all because I asked, and then listened.
So here are the 3 vital steps to the great art of listening to your kids, no matter how old they get:
- Focus on them with all your senses, even if it is for 2 minutes:Â When your child is upset, crying, disappointed or behaving badly or really excited and bubbling with things to tell; the first thing to do is give them all your attention. In that moment, sit at eye level, make eye contact, touch them, have a sympathetic expression on your face and speak in a gentle tone. He needs to feel that you care, that he is more important than that phone call or computer or conversation or the TV or whatever task you are busy with. This is the first step to listening. Complete attention to your precious bundle.
- Ask rather than tell:Â Take the problem at hand, and simply ladder back from there. â€œWhy are you crying?â€_x009d_ or â€œHow come the teacher is saying you did this?â€_x009d_ or â€œHow did you make this painting?â€_x009d_ or â€œWhy didnâ€™t you dance on stage when you had practiced so hard?â€_x009d_. It sounds really obvious, but if you think back, you will find that a lot of times we assume what happened basis our â€˜grown-upâ€™ experiences and tell them what happened. â€œDonâ€™t cry just because you lost the game?â€_x009d_, â€œHow could you hit that girl in school?â€_x009d_ or even â€œitâ€™s ok, you got nervous, it happens!â€_x009d_Â When we simply question the childâ€™s current expression, be it anger, joy or sadness, the first signal we give out is that we care and are paying attention. Remember, most kids are first and foremost bidding for our attention; and by starting this way, you are already making them feel betterâ€¦heard, seen and paid attention to.
- Listening without judgementÂ and interruptions:Â Once you coax your child into talking, it may take a series of leading questions to completely understand the source of their emotion, or the reason for their behaviour. There may be several rounds of â€œthen what happened?â€_x009d_, â€œbut why did you say that?â€_x009d_ or â€œhow come that was so special?â€_x009d_ until you understand their inner world. But keep at it, because I promise you, there will be an â€˜ahaâ€™ moment for you! That moment when you will understand the person your child is becoming!
Always remember that kids are beings of emotion and energy first, and logic much later. If you follow these 3 steps, most of the emotional charge they were feeling will have already dispelled. That moment is a good time to either explain how they made a mistake, or commiserate on the unfairness or whatever it is you actually want to teach them. But first, you must listen to them, truly, with all your senses and your heart and your mind. Listen to your children mindfully!
â€œBeing listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.â€_x009d_ :Â David Augsburger