Can You Hear Me Now?
by Tatiana Guerreiro Ramos
“Why won’t you listen to me when I tell you to do your homework?”
“Why didn’t you listen to me when I told you to put a jacket on?”
“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LISTEN TO ME?”
When we talk about trying to get our kids to listen, what we usually really mean is, why don’t our kids follow our directions more often? What we often fail to see is that our kids also want to be listened to.
Peeling back another layer, what they mean is that they want to feel heard. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want.
A 12-year-old recently told me (referencing his parent) “I want him to listen more to me, and less to himself.”
I started to think about my communication with my own children, and whether I was listening to respond, or listening to hear. And I realized, much to my horror, that I was probably doing a lot of the former.
In other words, I wasn’t modeling what I wanted my own children to do. I was busy composing my iron-clad arguments as to why they should do as I say; I wasn’t taking time to hear the underlying messages:
I’m tired. I stayed up too late last night on my phone.
I need help. I don’t know how to start my homework. I don’t even know what my homework is.
I’m hungry. I haven’t mastered nutritional hygiene.
I’m frustrated. I had a fight with my best friend today and we haven’t worked it out.
I’m struggling. School is hard for me.
I’ve been at school all day and the idea of doing homework right now makes me want to stab my eyes out.
No wonder we are at cross-purposes so much of the time. Duh. If they don’t see what it looks like to actually hear and understand what someone is saying, the expectation that they would be able to figure that out on their own is pretty unreasonable. And, more to the point, I wasn’t dialed in to what was really going on with them.
So I started listening. And not responding. Just listening. And saying, “Tell me more.” And asking for clarification. And not responding some more. And saying, “Go on.”
And some amazing things have started happening.
Less frustration (for all of us).
More compassion (from all of us).
And with just some ripples of eye-rolling, instead of waves of resentment, my kids and I have found our way to actually hearing each other more often.
Now when I tell them I can’t hear them, they know it’s because of #oldladyears and not because I’m not listening.