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Posts tagged ‘Listening’

This Is Why Your Kid’s Not Listening to You

SOURCE:  Stephanie Loomis Pappas /The Gottman Institute

I’m awake earlier than usual and hiding out in bed for a few precious minutes of reading time when a wail interrupts me mid-paragraph. My three-year-old opens my door and throws himself at the bed.

I reach out for a hug. “What’s the matter?”

He ignores me and screams louder.

“Why are you so sad?”

He screams louder and swipes at me.

“Well, I don’t want to spend time with someone who is screaming at me.” I get up and walk into my bathroom.

He follows, screams echoing off the tiles.

But I should really know better than to ask why my son is sad, because the book he just interrupted – Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s timeless “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” – warned me off asking why when dealing with an upset child.

Kids’ feelings are real feelings

In the foundational chapter of their book, originally published in 1980 and more recently in a 30th Anniversary Edition, Faber and Mazlish demonstrate the many ways in which parents minimize or reject their children’s feelings: A child complains about being hot, and a parent responds by telling the kid to put on a winter jacket. A child whimpers about a paper cut, and the parent dismisses it as no big deal.

For Faber and Mazlish, these brushed-off feelings are an early breach of trust between parents and their children. The bedrock of Faber and Mazlish’s approach to parenting is acknowledging children’s feelings. Not dismissing. Not minimizing. Not jumping to explain, or blame, or problem-solve. Just acknowledging.

Faber and Mazlish offer four ways that parents can acknowledge their children’s feelings. Parents can simply look at their children and listen. They can offer short acknowledgments like “I see” or “Uh-huh.” They can identify feelings. Or they can give their children their “wishes in fantasy,” like “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could wear shorts in the winter?” or “I wish we could build a paper cut healing machine!”

Kids may not understand their feelings

Faber and Mazlish add a special caution against “why.” Although some kids can explain their feelings in the moment, many cannot. For those kids, asking why just makes things worse:
in addition to their original distress, they must now analyze the cause and come up with a reasonable explanation. Very often children don’t know why they feel as they do. At other times, they’re reluctant to tell you because they fear that, in the adult’s eyes, their reason won’t seem good enough. (“For that you’re crying?”)

What kids need, Faber and Mazlish argue, is for their feelings to be understood and respected, not questioned.

Imagine you get a call from someone you’ve known a long time, maybe a sibling or a dear friend. Just their tone of voice leads you to say things like, “You sound tired,” or “Oh no, you must not be feeling well,” or “You sound like you’re having a great day.”

But when talking to your child, who is in the room with you and offering plenty of clues as to how he’s feeling, you ask, “What’s the matter?” or “Why are you crying?” Even though we are trying to communicate empathy, these phrases make it seem as though we’re not really hearing our children.

Did I need to know why my son was sad in order to understand his feelings? I knew he was sad, but I didn’t acknowledge his feeling. Instead, I reflexively swooped in to solve the crying with whatever explanation fit his situation this time.

Maybe my son was crying because he was woken by the neighbors. Maybe he was crying because he’d had that nightmare with the turkey. Maybe he was crying because he was too hot or too cold. Maybe he was crying because that’s what kids do lots of the time. In reaching out for him, I was clearly trying to comfort. But did my “why” add to that? Did it matter why he was crying, or that he was seeking comfort from me?

“Why” sounds like an accusation

Once I started listening to myself, I realized that I often ask some version of “why?” in response to almost all of my child’s emotional outbursts. What’s the matter? Why are you crying? Why do you feel sad? Why are you laughing?

In our worst moments, “why” can become a parent’s accusation. Why didn’t you tell me you needed help with your homework? Why did you break all your pencils? Why didn’t you remember to take the dog out? Why did you do that to your little sister?

These kinds of why questions, Faber and Mazlish argue, put children in an impossible position. They either identify as inadequate or start getting defensive, placing blame on others. Neither position helps children solve their problems.

Turning off “why”

After reading Faber and Mazlish’s suggestion to avoid asking why, I resolve to start acknowledging my son’s feelings. My next chance comes later that morning when he runs into the kitchen and yells, “It’s raining!” before collapsing into sobs.

“Why are you sad it’s –” I catch myself and switch course. “You’re sad it’s raining.”

“Yes.”

“Sometimes the noise of rain can be scary.”

“Yes.”

My son dives in for a hug and asks if we can read a book. I pick Mo Willems’ “Are You Ready to Play Outside”, which seems appropriate given my son’s mood about the weather.

Turning “why” on ourselves

Faber and Mazlish make a compelling case for not asking “why” when our kids are wrestling with negative emotions. Although their focus is on children, their book also suggests even more important “why” questions:

Why are parents so quick to dismiss or minimize their children’s feelings? Why are we made so angry or uncomfortable by our children’s displays of negative emotion?

It’s incredibly difficult to consider the reasoning behind our own parenting decisions. People spend years in therapy answering that question. But it’s likely true that many of us are wound up in our hopes and dreams for our children. We want them to be happy, fulfilled, and successful. Their negative emotions seem like evidence that they are not thriving.

If we don’t want our children to crumple at the slightest provocation, to in fact flourish despite the difficult times, we need to help them identify and address their emotions.

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10 Questions Husbands Should Ask Their Wives Every Year

SOURCE: CharismaMagazine/AllProDad.com

The best remedy for marriage conflict is marriage communication. Disagreements, fights, impasses, separations and divorce can be traced back to poor communication more than any other factor. Likewise, listening amounts to some of the best relationship medicine around.

Listening works best when we ask good questions. Good questions indicate bona fide concern. The man who asks good questions is already well on the way to communication excellence.

The best questions also serve as conversation starters. Remember, you are interested in her. But, once you start talking, she’s going to ask stuff too. The more you know each other on a deep level, the easier it is to fall in love all over again.

Here are 10 good questions you should ask your wife, at least every year:

1. What do you think is going right in our relationship? It’s been a while since you took the marriage vows. But it’s still true that positive affirmation leads to more productive change than negative evaluation. It’s helpful to identify our strengths. Once we know them we can play to them. Building each other up is always a win-win.

2. Where would you like our relationship to be this time next year? It doesn’t matter where we are, there’s always room to be better. She might say, “I’d like to see more spontaneous affection.” Or, “I want us to be moving forward together in our faith.” She could say, “I want our relationship to involve more fun!”

3. Will you please marry me, all over again? Say it with flowers. Say it like you mean it. Make sure your wife knows how much you cherish her.

4. I’d love to hear about your dreams for the future. A wise Hebrew writer once wrote, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Listen to your wife, imagine great things together, and then step into the possibilities.

5. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit this coming year? Indulge a little whimsy. Listen, laugh together, fantasize about fabulous vacations, and then tuck the information away somewhere, so you can possibly plan a trip. A good husband listens to his wife’s dreams. A great husband weaves them into their plans for the future.

6. Do you think we’re doing OK financially? This needs to be an ongoing conversation. However, like any small business (and a family is like a business in many ways), the directors need to have a comprehensive annual meeting to evaluate the finances and the plan for the coming year.

7. How are you doing health-wise? Encouraging one another involves accountability. Partners should never remain ignorant when it comes to health concerns. And it shouldn’t be only physical health. It’s also important to take inventory of each other’s emotional wellbeing.

8. If you could change one thing about our priorities as a family, what would it be? Notice this isn’t an invitation to criticize, but more an opportunity to grow together.

Possible answers might include:

  • I’d like to see less TV time and more family time with one another at home.
  • We’re not eating together enough. I’d like to see dinnertime valued a little more.
  • We say can’t afford a family vacation, but then we eat out 2-3 times a week. Maybe we should shift that one around!

9. Is there anything I devote regular time to that you see as a possible threat to our family or our relationship? Patterns take time to emerge. When we look back—or from another person’s point of view—sometimes we can see more clearly. Ask your wife if there are any adjustments you can make (Consistently late for dinner? Too much golf? Too many evenings with “the boys”?) That would help her to feel more secure.

10. Are you happy? It’s a good question even if she says she’s happy already. “What can I do to make you more happy?” is a great discussion. Again, this is where good, active listening is very important. And your wife’s greatest happiness will always be found in God, so encourage her to grow in her faith.

ANGER: Take a Deep Breath

SOURCE:  Living Free

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 NLT

Anger is a God-given emotional energy designed for good. It can lead to sin, but doesn’t have to. We can control our thoughts and actions. We can stop allowing anger to master us. The Bible teaches that we should not be quick-tempered.

We need to slow down and think about things before we respond in anger. We have all blurted out hurtful angry remarks and then wished we could take the words back. Slowing down can help us avoid these situations.

The next time someone does or says something that you don’t like—stop! Take a deep breath. Consider your response. You can avoid a lot of hurt and regret by making the right choices at this point.

Father, help me look beyond what people say and see their heart. Forgive me for the times I have responded to quickly—and foolishly—in anger. Teach me to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Anger: Our Master or Our Servant
 by Larry Heath.

Listen AND Learn (Like A Little Child)

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books,                     2003) p. 165

Listen and Learn
.

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of
God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17

Good listening is particularly important for a peacemaker.

It improves your ability to understand others, it shows that you realize you do not have all the answers, and it tells the other person that you value his or her thoughts and opinions. Even if you cannot agree with everything others say or do, your willingness to listen demonstrates respect and shows that you are trying to understand their perspective.

Kids hear everything–things under their beds at night, an animal in distress blocks away, whispered conversations between Mom and Dad. There is something about childhood that invites listening. Maybe it’s a feeling that we might miss something if we don’t listen, and we surely don’t want to miss anything. But often as we grow up, we put away childish and childlike things in the same trip to the curb. And we’re not as concerned about missing something anymore; we’ve pretty much seen it all. At least we think we have.

We’ve pretty much got it all figured out, and so we make judgment calls on everything from political policy to personal motives. We never pause to consider the limits on our perspective; we just go right on in, where angels fear to tread.

But to walk humbly with our God means realizing that we don’t know everything and we don’t even want to; figuring everything out means the story is over. It also means approaching each living, breathing soul in our lives with wonder, for they have been fashioned by the hands of God himself. It means stopping and looking and listening, but maybe listening even more than looking.

A little more listening might open the door to peace between feuding spouses or church members. It could even begin the sowing of seeds of peace in the body of Christ.

Open the ears of our hearts, Lord; we surely don’t want to miss your voice!

Practice Being Slow (to be angry)

SOURCE:  Living Free

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20 NIV

The Bible clearly states that we are to practice being slow to anger. This simple admonition means we can work with angry feelings, not just bury them or release them in bursts of temper. 

The first step involves acknowledging feelings of anger and accepting them. Describe your feelings (to yourself). I am irritated. I am angry. I am furious. Determine the level and intensity of these feelings: a little upset, moderately upset, or very upset. Get honest with your anger. Admit you are losing control.

At this point don’t be critical of your feelings as to their being right or wrong but look at your feelings and think of them as you would a temperature gauge on the dash of your automobile. The gauge light comes on, and it is red indicating that the engine is overheated. Don’t try to determine the cause of the malfunction or try to fix it at this point. Just observe the warning light. It’s overheated! Just acknowledge the fact.

Consider this … 
This is the principle of the first step in controlling your anger. Just acknowledge and accept the fact of feeling angry – don’t bury your feelings or blurt out a hasty response you will regret. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Prayer
Father, help me to be slow to anger. When feelings of anger begin to build, help me to acknowledge them. And help me to refrain from instantly blurting out an angry response that I will probably regret. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from: …

Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

Parenting: Communication

SOURCE:  Living Free

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”

Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Thoughts for Today
How consistent is your communication with your children?

No matter what their ages, keeping the doors of communication open is vital. Two-way communication. The Bible cautions us to listen before we answer.

Communication with your child needs to be age specific. Try to avoid detailed explanations to simple questions. Be at eye level with your children as you communicate, especially as they grow older. Use a consistent, even tone of voice. Avoid communication when you are angry or frustrated.

Consider this … 
Communication takes time—something most of us lack. But communicating with our children should have a high priority in our lives. Healthy families talk to each other a great deal—and they listen.

You can begin developing more family communication by planning at least three evening meals per week with all family members present. Schedule regular quality time with each child individually. Talk to your children—share your heart with them—and listen, really listen.

Prayer
Father, I know that sometimes my priorities get out of line. I get so busy that communication with my children suffers. Help me develop consistent communication habits with them. And teach me to listen—not thinking ahead to my to-do list or planning my response, but really listening to the words—and the heart. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from :…

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

How Is Your Love Life?

SOURCE:  Mark and Grace Driscoll

The couple were devout Christians and virgins when they first met. Forty years later, the pain of their marriage showed on their faces. As they spoke to me of their troubles, they each hung their head in loneliness and grief.

There had been no adultery. There had been no divorce. But there had also been no friendship. Although they did a lot of work together, they hadn’t had much fun. With their children grown and home empty, the glue that once held them together was gone, and they were reduced to life as nearly sexless roommates.

What about you? How is your love life?

Maybe you’re newly married and still filled with wedded bliss, or a married couple so exhausted from the constant demands of work and parenting that your marriage is slipping. You may be reeling from a devastating sin in your marriage. Or the two of you are still in love and doing pretty well, but you want to avoid ending up like other couples you know who are not getting along and possibly even getting divorced.

All the talk about spending time and doing life together, making memories, being a good listener, being honest, having the long view of things, repenting and forgiving can be summed up in one word: friendship. Friendship is an integral part of a truly Christian marriage.

Three kinds of marriage

In our teaching and counseling, we have seen people respond well to a simple explanation of three kinds of marriages: back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder, and face-to-face.

back-to-back marriage is one in which the couple has turned their backs on each other. As a result, they live separately and do not work together (shoulder-to-shoulder) or draw each other out in friendship (face-to-face). In such marriages the partners range from strangers to enemies, but are not friends.

shoulder-to-shoulder marriage is one in which the couple works together on tasks and projects, such as keeping the home, raising the kids, growing the business, and serving the church.

face-to-face marriage is one in which, in addition to the shoulder-to-shoulder work, the couple gets a lot of face-to-face time for conversation, friendship, and intimacy.

As a general rule, women have more friendships than men. And their friendships tend to be more face-to-face. This is because men commonly have shoulder-to-shoulder friendships around shared activity. If they take the time to reflect on whom they have considered friends in different seasons of their life, most men recall boys they played with on a sports team and guys they worked with on a job. But they often know very little about these guys they called friends, because their tasks consumed their time and conversation, as they talked about the task in front of them rather than the emotion between them.

Conversely, women’s friendships tend to be face-to-face and built around intimate conversation. This explains why women do the sorts of things with other women that men do not do with other men, such as going out to lunch or coffee just to talk, sharing deep intimate feelings while looking each other in the face without a task bringing them together.

A word to husbands and wives

Wives, to be a good friend, learn to spend some time with your husband in shared activity. If he’s watching a sporting event, sit down and share it with him. If he’s working on a project, hang out nearby to help or at least ask questions and be a companion if nothing else. If he’s going fishing, ask if you can come sit in the boat with him just to be in his world. For a wife to build a friendship with her husband requires shoulder-to-shoulder time alongside him.

Husbands, to be a good friend to your wife, learn to have deeper and more intimate conversations. Open up, telling your wife how you’re doing and ask­ing her how she is doing. Listen without being distracted by technology or a task (put your cell phone away), but instead focus on her, looking her in the eye for extended periods of time. Draw her out emotionally, and allow her to draw you out emotionally. Keep your advice to a minimum and learn to listen, empathize, comfort, encourage, and in so doing resist the constant male urge to find a problem and try and fix it. No wife likes feeling like a problem to be fixed rather than a person who wants to be intimate. For her, intimacy means “into-me-see,” which means she wants to know her husband and be known by him. For a husband to build a friendship with his wife requires him growing in face-to-face skills.

Intimacy is ultimately about conversing. As an old proverb says, “The road to the heart is the ear.”

————————————————————————–

Mark and Grace Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, in 1996, and it has now grown to more than 6,000 members. This article is taken  from their new book, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together©2012 by On Mission, LLC. Thomas Nelson Publishers.


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