Friday, February 29, 2008

oldie but goodie

Friends, I have discovered an excellent parenting book. I imagine many people have already discovered this book. (Actually, I don't have to imagine; I can figure it out from its publishing history.) This book has sold lots of copies since it was first published in the 70s, and spawned workshops, workbooks, and a whole generation of parenting books about various challenges(sibling rivalry, teenagers, etc.)

This is a great book, with lots of good advice that seems to boil down to one simple piece of guidance: Listen to your kids.

Really listen. Not just listen long enough to get them to listen to your point of view. Not just nod at them, all the while thinking about what you're going to make for dinner. But actually listen. Give them the eye contact they need to know you're really there, and listen. Keep listening. Let them keep talking until they're run out of things to say.

You can reflect back to them what they seem to be saying, if it seems to make sense, but mostly, just listen, and really pay attention. Really consider their point of view. Really consider that the way your kids are seeing things is absolutely vital, valid, and real to them. And know that they need you to hear them.

There's lots of other specific advice in there, going in all sorts of different directions, but it's the listening thing that I want to talk about here. The authors' other books seem to be much the same stuff, but with the specific scenarios geared to slightly different family situations. The basic method, or really, way of thinking about kids, is all here, in their first book.

Big One and I have been struggling some about how to respond to Little's ongoing negativity. Neither of us is happy about it, because we're both trying to see the positive in our life situation. Little doesn't care about our personal growth, of course, and he can really rain on a parade.

This morning, Little said something sort of negative (I don't remember what) and Big said,

"You're a tough customer this morning, aren't you?"


"Dontcha think so, Mama? Isn't he a tough customer this morning?"

And I guess I was feeling rather negative myself, because I said,

"I don't want to participate in talking trash about either of my sons."

Zoiks. How superior can I get. Insufferable. Big was really mad at me, and instead of just listening long enough so I could get my point across, I finally found a way to actually listen to his. We sat at the table and I just listened.

He started saying things like, "I know there's no point in telling you what I think, because I know you're not going to listen."

And that's when I knew I'd been going way off track. My impulse would be to say, "Of course I'm going to listen to you. I want to know what you think." Which is, of course, a tricky way of saying to him that I'm not listening at all, that I can't hear him talk about this difficult feeling he's just shared, that I don't listen, and I'm not going to listen.

So I sat there, and I listened, for a while, to all his feelings about me and Little and about how things are going, and we got to a better place. We got to a place where we understood each other again. He actually talked himself around to my point of view without me saying a word.

Much better. It's a good book, I'm telling you.

We're feeling peaceful again:

Here is the view from my office:
The ice is on the outer storm window, not the inside window but still, it's cold enough today that I may just have to break down and use this:
to cream together some butter and sugar for some of these:
That photo is from Cast Sugar, a gorgeous baking blog I just discovered. She takes great pictures.


cathryn said...

Just randomly looking at blogs on a dreary Friday morning and stumbled across yours so I wanted to leave a hello and say I enjoyed reading your post.

Though I don't have any kids of my own, I think it's important for all adults to be able to listen to kids, otherwise we're just woefully underestimating them.

Have a good Friday! :)

Lindsay said...

I love the first picture with your two boys reading together.
And that is a good reminder for dealing with all people. I often find myself starting to say, "But I do listen!". But if I feel that I need to say that, then I've already proven that I haven't. The challenging part then is to let go of my own issues surrounding my listening ability and really listen and reflect. I always learn something new if I can. That is a great reminder. Thanks.

Mrs. G. said...

This book is, in my opinion, one of the best books ever written. The skills I learned from it work in all relationships-especially marriage!

Happy homeschooling!

shaun said...

I am with you -- that is the best parenting/communication book ever. I am on some lists about gifted parenting, and when questions come up about books for that particular issue, many experienced parents say that you can never go wrong with "How to Talk." In fact, I am inspired to put it on my reading list again -- no doubt I am in need of review.