Sunday, January 19, 2014

Listening Tool Card

From the Positive Discipline Parenting Tool Cards available at and as an App for iPhone and Android.

Many parents complain that their children don’t listen, yet few parents really listen to their children. Parents tend to do the following:
  • React and Correct: Don’t talk to me that way. Why can’t you be more positive, grateful, or respectful? You shouldn’t feel that way. Why can’t you be different—more like your sister or brother?
  • Fix or Rescue: Maybe if you would do this ____, then____.  (Maybe if you would be friendlier, then you would have more friends.) I’ll talk to your teacher (or your friend’s mother). Don’t feel bad.

Tools for Better Listening
  1. Validate feelings: I can see this is very upsetting for you. Sounds like you are really sad, mad, feeling hurt.
  2. Ask Curiosity Questions:  What happened? Want to talk about it?
  3. Invite Deeper Sharing: Anything else? Is there more? Anything else? Anything else?
  4. Listen with your Lips Closed:  Hmmmm. 
  5. Have Faith in Your Child: Know that, in most cases, your child simply needs a supportive, listening ear as part of the process of venting before coming up with his or her solution. Through this process your child learns resiliency (“I can deal with the ups and downs of life.") and capability ("I can survive getting upset and figure out solutions.").
More Sophisticated Listening

There are many levels of listening. When parents complain that toddlers don’t listen, that isn’t exactly true. First of all, parents really mean, “This child doesn’t obey,” or, “This child knows better.” They are right about the former (toddlers and preschoolers seldom obey) but wrong about the latter (children under the age of six do not “know better” at the level parents expect.) They may “know” the family rules at a primitive level, but not at a sophisticated level that requires the kind of morality and judgment and responsibility that does not develop until closer to the age of eight. Thus, too many children are being scolded, and even punished, for not having a level of development for which they are not yet capable.

Learning is a Developmental Process

How long does it take for a child to learn to talk, and how do they learn? This question is very easy for parents to answer. They know that their children will not learn to talk for at least a year, and that the way they learn is hearing their parents talk to them—the more the better. Then, on that happy day when their child finally says her first word, they don’t start punishing her for not speaking in sentences—at a college level. Yet these same parents punish their preschoolers for “not listening,” for “not sharing,” for “writing on walls” with crayons parents left around where their exploring, experimenting children can find them.

Listening Deeper

At an even deeper level, many parents don’t listen between the lines to the belief behind the behavior. (Perhaps a child is feeling “dethroned” by the birth of a new baby). They don’t listen to hear if their children are feeling powerless or discouraged. They don’t listen from an understanding of developmentally age-appropriateness or brain development (see above).

Example is the best teacher. Learn to be a better listener and someday, when all their developmental growing catches up, so will your children.


Felicity said...

Jane Nelson's Positive Discipline is that absolute best parenting approach out there, and I speak from 40 years of experience in the field. I love how she teaches mutual respect - with begins with parents respecting their children AS they are, for WHO they are, and what STAGE they are at. Bless you, Jane!

Lisa said...

Thank you for offering this tool and guidance to the group - to me! I have followed PD and PD for Montessorians, both with my own children and with my preschoolers, and I'm very excited to participate in this project!

Adina Soclof said...

I was always taught to be very careful when questioning kids and that parents should just reflect feelings until their child feels like talking (or just let them to be until they are ready to talk later on. Saying things like, "You seem sad." "Looks like you had a rough time." "It seems like you can use a cup of cocoa and a listening ear."
I was told that "what happened?" can be misconstrued as an accusation. I am interested to know your feelings on that.

Casey said...

I had a wonderful opportunity present itself this week as I paid special attention to this tool... My daughter has recently been interrupt me quite a bit when I am trying to talk to her and her brother, and I tend to get real hot when she does this... So this week I found the time to share with her that I am working on noticing when I interrupt her, and instead allowing her to speak. I asked if she would do the same for me. As we continued to talk, she let me know that yes, she knew that it bugged me when she did that. I asked her if it made her feel powerful to know she could "bug" me like that and she gave a little smile before responding "yes." We shared a big hug with a promise of working on not interrupting each other and taking time to listen instead. :)

Elizabeth said...

As an MFT intern, I have enjoyed the articles and books as great resources for my clients! Thank you!