Diffusing Situations through Active Listening

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is No Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph. D, authors of the book The Whole Brain Child. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

It was shortly after the birth of our third child. The kids and I were driving 40+ minutes one way in order to see our chiropractor, who was completely worth the drive. However, driving with a newborn is always a bit stressful for me. None of my children have been thrilled with driving at first, and I always felt a need to rush at the door the second the baby was finished nursing so that we could more easily make it to our destination.

Photo by Ken Wilcox
Photo by Ken Wilcox

On this particular day, we had already been in to see the chiropractor and were back out in the waiting area. I was nursing the baby, and my two older children, then almost three and almost five, were playing with toys. As the baby finished, I was thinking about getting everyone packed up and into the van as quickly as possible for the commute home. I didn’t really register the disagreement between my kids until it had begun to escalate, voices raising and some large arm waving. The already stressed out part of me wanted to tell my children to “come on” because we needed to go. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the receptionists look over as they saw me putting the baby back in the sling and trying to get ready to go. The small part of me that still occasionally wonders if someone is judging my parenting kicked in, but I knew what I needed to do

I took a deep breath, got down to their level, and one by one asked them to tell me what was going on. The television in the play area was on when we had entered. One of my children wanted to turn the television off, and the other wanted to leave it on. Both were adamant in their resolve and together were at an impasse. A little more questioning and I discovered the reasoning for each child. The child who wanted to turn the television off was concerned about wasting electricity and the television potentially being loud and bothering other people. The child who wanted to leave the television on was concerned that someone might want to watch it. I pointed out that they both were coming from a place of thinking about others. When they realized that, we were able to work out a solution which worked for everyone.

In all honesty, the entire situation probably only took a couple of minutes. Had I not taken those minutes to actively listen and help mediate, it probably would have taken us much longer to leave the office that day. Instead, my children cheerily skipped to the door and went out to the van with me with the impending crisis averted.

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