Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to talk so kids will listen!

[This post is written by Tharini of Winkie's Way and crossposted there.]

Some months back, I had the good fortune to come across a book that held the promise of revolutionising my life as a mother and a parent. Any book that starts with the words...I knew all about parenting....until I became a bound to be something you can reckon with.

But the way a book works is...when you read it, you are filled with all its goodness, you are inspired beyond words to practice the tactics and become an empowered parent, gracious under pressure and modelling beautifully, and feeling good about yourself. But even this inspiration comes with an expiry date and it lasts for a few days, maybe a few weeks and if you are lucky...a few months post the reading. Thereafter, the dark shadows of old habits take over, good intentions once again die premature deaths, and vicious cycles are reestablished. At least this has been so in our case.

So its essential to get recharges from time to time, and reread the book, cumbersome as it seems, because you have to immerse yourself fully into the climate of the book to benefit from it. So I have placed yet another hold for this book in my library which is a hot moving item, for its never checked in!!! But I do remember the first chapter of this book, which left a huge impact on my mind, and its something that has stayed with me even beyond the immediate aftermath of the book. Let me share that today.

Imagine this scenario...

Winkie comes to me and says....Amma, I don't like Thambi. I just don't like him.

A typical, immediate response which I have been oft too guilty of repeating is...Awwww. But why? You should not say that kanamma...its not nice.

If I had known any better, there would have been warning bells going all around pointing me to my blunder. For I had made the typical mistake of not accepting his feelings. And by responding the way I did, I am conveying that he was wrong to have the feelings he did. Which in turn creates poor self esteem that he was wrong to have those feelings. For face it...feelings are feelings. They do not follow logic and justifications. They are simple and complex and just there. And if I kept up this sort of religious response time after time, I am causing him more frustration in never having his feelings acknowledged and accepted, but instead always judged and corrected. It seems like an obvious thing really for a parent to know....but is it? I know it wasn't to me, and until I read the book, I never really had a chance to hear myself and the way I came across to my son. No wonder he got frustrated many times.

This chapter of the book teaches you to accept those feelings, without any judgements from your side. It teaches you simple techniques to be a simple listener and a passive observer of the situation, so that it gives the child room to express, without fear of being told how he should be feeling. One of the strategies was to simply listen while offering monosyllabic replies. Like...Oh, Uh huh, hmmm, okay etc while setting aside whatever it is that we are doing and listening to the child with full attention. With such neutral responses, the child feels more able to open up on his own and come out with his true feelings. In Winkie's case, I would have been able to glean that Thambi tapped him hard on the head with a train engine, and left his brother furious, and led him to make that statement. I wouldn't like the person too, who rapped on my head, at least not for a little while, until I had a chance to come out of the heat of that moment. Thus being a good listener, helps them to talk, and at times even be forthcoming with their own solutions.

Of course, this doesn't always work with Winkie, as in he doesn't figure out what to do to make things better on his own, but it does give him a fair hearing, which is always a good thing. But there is one other strategy that worked rather well with Winkie. And I shall share that in my next post!


Asha said...

With teenagers, you need a radar to detect whether they heard what I just said few seconds ago. No book is going to teach you that! ;D

But one thing I can tell you is they do listen although they pretend they didn't and when it comes to making a choice they will think of what you say to them.

Main thing is never to belittle children and call them stupid or tell them they are less than others etc. As long as you respect them, they will respect you but sometimes we all make mistakes. It doesn't hurt to apologize even though we are adults and parents! Value their opinions too, we all will be fine! :))

Tharini said...

Asha..I am sure I believe you! ;) But never say might just be pleasantly surprised by what's in the book! Agree with you on the they do listen bit. Happens here too! And respect is the bottomline of parenting, and I am pleased to say that I have never shied away from a genuine apology till date! :) Thanks for your insights.

Sandeepa said...

That was some good thought Tharini, in all that rush I sometimes just do "mmmmmm" and not really listen
You are inspiring me to take a half day, go home and spend some time listening and not talking

Share some more gems from the book that you think might help

Tharini said...

Sandeepa : I surely will. Am waiting to read it again and apply it and share the experience as I go along, because it really speaks to me! Practice your listening skills tonight and tell us if it makes a difference.

Gayathri said...

First i got a chance to stop by this blog, postings are simply superb