By Nathalie Bowman
The other day as I was making dinner, my son came to me with a question. He kept going on with details. I knew the situation and what he was asking, so before he was finished, I interrupted and gave my answer. “MOM! You never let me finish!” He exclaimed as he ran down to his bedroom. He was having a difficult day and was upset, but was he really right? Do I never let him finish? hmmmm…..
Take a moment and think about the last time you felt dismissed or that someone didn’t want to listen to you. How did you feel? After the conversation, did you wish you could have expressed what was on your mind? Were you frustrated with the other person?
As you ponder these questions, turn the tables and think about a time when you may have interrupted or dismissed a child. What was their reaction? Could they have been feeling some of the same feelings you felt when you were not being heard?
Sometimes as adults, we talk to kids in a way that feels best for us. We’re busy, we have things to do. We want kids to understand from our perspective, but do we really take the time to understand their perspective? Do we understand that kids are people too, and that it’s important for us to treat them as people with feelings, not as little objects to be directed and controlled according to our needs and desires?
Are you listening?
A few months ago, I watched a very pregnant mother interact with her little girl who was almost two years old. The little girl was distressed about something and was whining and crying. The mother kept telling her “You’re ok. Stop crying. You’re ok,” but the child kept crying. The little one didn’t believe her mom. She wasn’t ok. She got more and more upset. Her frazzled mom didn’t acknowledge that she was upset and didn’t do anything except tell her she was ok. That didn’t help either of them.
I felt sad for both the mother and her little girl. I wished I could have helped both of them feel loved and acknowledged. People-of all ages-need to be acknowledged. When was the last time you felt sad or upset and needed support from a friend? What did they tell you when you told them your story? Did they tell you to “stop it, you’re ok,” or did they listen and acknowledge your feelings? Chances are, you talked to someone who you knew would give you a listening ear and they acknowledged and helped you feel better.
Our children need us to be that listening ear for them. However, in many parenting books, parents are taught to put their child in “time out” when they are upset, or to ignore their child when they are throwing a fit, “they’ll get over it and you don’t want to give them any attention for being naughty because they’ll be naughty more and more to get your attention.”
What children really need is to be heard and understood. When they are crying or whining, there is something wrong. This is the time to give them more love, not less. Squat down to their level, look them in the eye, put your arm around them and tell them you’re sorry they are upset. Tell them you’re sorry that………and explain you know their situation. When children feel validated, loved, and heard, they will be less likely to continually throw fits. They won’t need to throw fits because they feel secure in your love.
Do you know any adults who are whiny and complain? Anyone who argues a lot and insists on being right? It’s possible that these people don’t have the inner security of knowing who they are and that they are loved and valued.
Every day children are learning about life, and the perfect time to teach them they are loved is now. When children know they are loved and understood, they are more able to give love and understanding to others. They will grow up to be sure of themselves, more able to solve problems, and have better relationships.
We have the opportunity to give our children a solid foundation through treating them as we would treat other people-with a listening ear, love and validation. Children are people too. Treat them so.