Lucy gave me a really good parenting tip a few weeks ago without even meaning to.
I was sending little Valentine’s packages to all the big kids, and she didn’t get a chance to write her notes to her siblings before she left for school the day I wanted to mail them. She was mortified that I would send those packages without her special thoughts added (she sure loves those big siblings!)
So she texted me the sweetest notes to print off and put in those packages.
They were filled with sweetness, but what stuck out to me was part of what she wrote in Claire’s note:
“You always know what I’m talking about when I say a hard time and you never try to fix it: you just understand.“
And it’s true. Claire is so good at that.
She has been from the start.
Of course it made me think about how I fare with that skill. And it’s not too well!
I am quick to try to fix situations, offer solutions, the “buck up little girl, you’ve got this!” attitude.
And while that is great for some occasions, I was reminded with that one little line from Lucy, that sometimes kids don’t want you to solve their problems at all.
Sometimes kids just want a listening ear.
To be heard.
To be understood.
To know that their feelings are valid.
A week or so later Lucy and I were in my bathroom getting her hair done and she started bemoaning some frustrating things about one of her classes. Some things she wished were different.
Of course, my first instinct was to jump right on in with solutions.
“Why don’t you tell your teacher such-and-such”
And “Well, this may be because of yada-yada.”
Oh I knew how to fix that thing!
But in an instant I stopped myself and remembered that note, Lucy’s words to Claire echoing in my heart: “when I say a hard time and you never try to fix it: you just understand.” and it stopped me in my tracks.
I sat down with Lucy, looked her in the eye and asked if this was a time she wanted help with solutions or for me just to listen.
And with tears brimming over she told me she needed the latter: a listening ear.
She just wanted to feel heard.
So we sat and hugged and her body melted into mine.
“I’m sorry, that’s got to be so hard.” I told her, trying to remember all the tips and tricks from How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk. (one of my favorite parenting books).
Within minutes her countenance changed. She emerged the “girl who was heard,” and was able to carry on with her day with a little more spring in her step.
Sometimes kids are the best teachers.
We just need to listen.
Scratch the wod “parental”. This is so important in all cases!
Agreed! Listening is one of the most important skills we ever learn!
I love this. Thank you!
This is wonderful. I think one reason listening/being heard is so important to us is that in taking time to hear the things that may be challenging or hurtful to us, they are learning who we are and how we relate to others. They are learning US and accepting and supporting who we are as people.
Thank you for sharing the lessons your kids continue to teach!
Such a good thought. It takes so much humility to listen and take in things that may be hurtful and learn how to descipher them in a way that will help us grow.
Thank you for this post, I really needed this right now. I struggle to do this with My 22 year old son. He is going through a really tough situation, and I just want to fix it so bad and I want him to listen to what advise I have. I really need to learn to sit back and just listen.
It takes so much practice, right? Sending you love as you try to sit back and listen!
I have heard people say that you can ask someone if they want you to help or do they want you to listen..
It is hard to do that but I think it can be a good approach.
Yes that is kind of what I was trying to say. I think that helps people know you are really listening. My friend told me the other day she asks, ” Do you want help or do you want a hug?” I thought that was so sweet.
From my humble experience I’ll add this:
The number one reason children and parents have a hard time communicating is that kids are afraid of their parents’ reactions. “I really want to talk about this, but my mom/dad will freak out/get mad,” is thought by every child, teen and even young adult more than once in their life. Don’t think that the way you do things is the only way it can and should ever be done. Have an open mind; listen to your child and consider what they’re discussing. Watch your reactions and curb the instinct to jump and shout.