Diffusing Situations through Active Listening

NPN RTD featureThis 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.

 

Dealing with Whining Compassionately

Welcome to the April 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Peaceful Parenting Applied

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children.  We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.

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Chances are, at some point or another, that tone has come out of your childrens’ mouths. You know the one. It’s the whine that grates on your nerves, making you want to pull your head inside your shirt, cover your ears with your hands, or leave. If you don’t deal with the whine, it just gets longer and louder and more, well, whiney. While you may find yourself wanting to walk outside and scream yourself, there are a few easy tips to keep gentle parents gentle at these times.

Don’t take it personally. This may be easier said than done, especially if the whine continues to include your name. Personally, when I begin to hear the “Moooooooom,” it takes on an entirely new level for me. As much as we may feel disrespected or underappreciated during these times, our children’s behaviors are not about us.

Define the cause. If the whining isn’t about us, what exactly is it about? That is the question of your day. You can’t begin to solve a problem if you don’t know what the problem is. Observe the situation. Think about what may be causing this seemingly annoying behavior, and set about making some changes. I know for my kids, whining signals that they are tired. We need to slow down, cut out some things, go for some quiet, easy going activities.

Connect with your kids. Yes, your child is whining and the last thing you may feel like is being around them, but when your children are exhibiting behaviors such as this, it’s a cry for help. They need you. Take a deep breath. Remember how much you love your children, and be there for them. Perhaps doing something with your child will be enough to break them out of their whining ways.

Actively listen. Everyone has bad days sometimes, and often we just need to have someone listen to us on those days. This is a great time to practice active listening so that your children understand that you ar ethere for them and that you really are listening.

Set personal limits for yourself. It’s okay to say that you are reaching your limit and that you would prefer to be spoken to in a normal voice. If you are having difficulty understanding because of the whining, explain that you can’t understand what your child is saying and that you need to know what they are saying in order to help.

Use play and humor. Try bringing a little levity to the situation by playing or using humor. When our children’s voices begin to take on that whining tinge, my husband has a difficult time understanding them. His go to phrase is “Hmmm. I couldn’t really understand what you said, but it kind of sounded like, ‘Daddy, you are the greatest!'” It hasn’t failed him yet. They will either laugh or take a deep breath to speak clearly.

Take control of your actions and words. As much as the whining may be driving us a little batty, we are still in control of our own actions. We get to choose how we act or react.

Remeber compassion. At the end of the day, think about the relationship you have with your kids. Every parent/child relationship is just taht – a relationship. remember to have compassion, both for your children and for yourself.

photo credit: polywen via photopin cc

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APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, when we discuss self-love!

 

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

 

Do you have blog posts about peaceful parenting or are you looking for some tips? This month, Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children are hosting an Authentic Parenting: Peaceful Parenting Applied link up! Check it out and help build a resource for parents striving to parent more peacefully.

the no-lose method…

The no-lose method of conflict resolution allows everyone to work together in order to find mutually agreed upon solutions which work for everyone.

First, you must set the stage for how the no-lose method will work:

  1. Begin by telling your child clearly and concisely that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  2. Make it understood that you wish to work with your child in order to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.
  3. Agree on a time to work on the problem when there won’t be distractions.

There are six steps to the no-lose method:

  1. Identify and define the problem. During this time, the needs of everyone should be stated. Many times the true problem is different from what we originally perceive it to be. Parents should be conscious not to give solutions instead of defining needs. You should tell your child clearly and as strongly as you feel exactly what feelings you have and what needs of yours are not being met or what is bothering you. I-messages are useful in order to avoid put down messages or blame.  Active listening is a useful tool for distinguishing between needs and possible solutions and to make certain you understand your child’s needs. State the conflict or problem so that everyone agrees what the true issue is.
  2. Generate possible alternative solutions.  This is where brainstorming comes in. Everyone is welcome to offer possible solutions. In fact, parents should encourage their children to offer soultions first. Children are very insightful and may offer solutions that parents had not even considered. Avoid evaluating and showing preference for any solution. At this point in time, you are only brainstorming possibilities.
  3. Evaluate alternative solutions. Figure out what each person is willing to do. Narrow down solutions to one or two best possibilities. Be honest with one another about how you feel regarding each possible solution.
  4. Decide on best acceptable solution. By this point in the process, one solution may clearly stand out from all of the others and be accepted by all involved parties. If not, verbally test out some of the other solutions and see if they would work for everyone. remember that solutions are not final. Life isn’t static. If the tried solution doesn’t work for everyone, reevaluate and change. Multi-part solutions may need to be written down in order to help everyone remember. It should be clear to everyone that they are making a commitment to try the solution.
  5. Work out ways to implement the solution. Discuss the details needed in order to implement the solution and gather any necessary tools.
  6. Follow up to evaluate if the solution worked. Don’t forget to check back with everyone to see if the solution is working. If not, reeveluate and find something that works better for all those involved.

being a successful consultant to our children…

Not only can we model behavior and actions for our children, as parents we can also share our ideas, knowledge, and experiences with them. The method we undergo to achieve this will affect how it is accepted by our children.

Successful consultants:

  • Share rather than preach
  • Offer rather than impose
  • Suggest rather than demand

Effective consultants do not continually harrass. They don’t shame if the other person doesn’t agree with their ideas. They do not keep pushing a point when there is resistance from the other person. A successful consultant leaves the ultimate responsibility for buying or rejecting an idea with the client (or child). S/he also remembers that the most valuable tool as a consultant is active listening. When our children feel respected and listened to, they are more likely to value our opinions.

requirements of active listening…

Everyone has a need to be heard and understood. A great way to achieve this goal and understand the other person’s point of view is through active listening. There are a few requirements in order for active listening to work:

  1. It is important to want to hear what the other person has to say and to take the time to actually listen. This is the first step of active listening. If you aren’t really interested in listening to the other person, active listening won’t work.
  2. You need to want to be helpful. Working together is more important than being right.
  3. It is important to accept the other person’s feelings, whatever they are and however they may differ from your own feelings or ideas of what the other person’s feelings may be. Feelings are valid.
  4. You have to trust in your child’s capacity to handle those feelings, to work through them, and to have the ability to find solutions.
  5. Understand that these feelings are transitory rather than permanent. Feelings change. While certain feelings may make us uncomfortable, it is important to address them and work through the needs behind the feelings.
  6. Ever importantly, it is important to view your child as a separate person from yourself.

active listening…

Active listening is a technique which allows you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, so to speak, in order to fully understand their point of view. It shows trust, acceptance, and interest in the other person and allows you to know what is really going on. With the use of active listening, we can check on the accuracy of our listening skills to see if the message we are receiving is what the sender intended.