This story was shared with me by a friend who practises Hand in Hand parenting. It really illustrates how being there to set a limit, and listen to the emotional aftermath can be a gift to our children, that can transform their lives and ours.
My 13 year old daughter came home from a camp and dumped all her camping stuff on the hallway floor. I’d been becoming increasingly irritated with her inability to tidy up after herself, and I told her that she couldn’t go to school until she had cleaned it up.
She became enraged and refused to do it. Even worse, she went to my bedroom and began pulling my clothes out of the wardrobe. She then stormed off to school leaving the whole place in chaos.
While she was gone I got some listening time. I got to moan and complain about how frustrated I was with my daughter’s untidiness. I got to vent all those feelings in a safe space without taking them out on my daughter.
This really freed up my mind so that I could think how to respond compassionately to my daughter. I know the Hand in Hand parenting philosophy that co-operation is our child’s natural state. I guessed my daughter must have been feeling disconnected after a week away from me, and that’s why she was struggling to co-operate with me.
I put all my clothes back in my wardrobe but left my daughter’s stuff where it was. When she came in I asked if I could hug her. I hugged her for a long time. It might have been 30 minutes or more. I said nothing, except to tell her from time to time that I loved her. She started crying, and I just stayed there with her.
After the hug she went to pick up her stuff from the hallway. Even better than that, she went and tidied her room without being asked. And it wasn’t just a regular clean. She began sorting through old stuff, and did a complete Konmari (a decluttering technique based on the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up ).By 9 o’clock she was exhausted and I had to persuade her to go to bed.
In the days that followed I set an intention to be there to give her little bits of connection whenever I can. (Hand in Hand parenting calls this unannounced special time.)
That day was a complete transformation. Ever since then my daughter has been tidy. The only downside is that now she often complains that the rest of us are messy!
And it wasn’t just her living space that got cleaned-up but her mind as well. She had been struggling at school, and after that her teacher mentioned that she began to remember everything, and was very present and alert, with her homework always completed.
The power of being there to listen, without advice or lectures, amazes me every time. Through Hand in Hand parenting I’ve learnt that we don’t need consequences or punishment, we simply need to be there, to fill our children’s connection cup when it gets a little low.
For more info on listening partnerships: How Telling Your Life Story Transforms Your Parenting
For more info on special time: How Special Time Works With Teens
For fun solutions for tidying up with younger kids: 25 Tips For Having Fun Tidying Up With Your Kids