The Art Of Listening Tip 2: Don’t Fix

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Imagine you are in conversation with a friend. She’s been telling you about how she’s had cold symptoms for a month, and can’t seem to shift them. Perhaps you tell her she should go to the doctor, and get some antibiotics. Or you mention a really amazing natural remedy of fresh ginger, turmeric and black pepper that will shift it within hours (I have tried it and it’s pretty good ;).

That is fixing. And we all do it. We want to help our friends and share what’s worked for us. And that’s fine. There’s a time and a place for sharing advice and good information in our regular everyday conversations.

But when we do listening time as part of our Hand in Hand Parenting practise, we refrain from trying to fix our partner’s situation. We keep our good advice to ourselves.

Here’s why. We don’t just try to fix because of good intentions. We also try to fix because of our unconscious urge to try and stop people from expressing emotions. We’ve all grown up in a culture where expression of emotion is not completely acceptable. When we were children our parents often tried to stop our tears by ‘fixing’ our problems, not understanding that listening to our tears was often part of the solution.

When we leap in with a solution to somebody’s problems it’s often because we are unconsciously repeating the way we were treated in our childhood. We want to stop the expression of feeling by offering our solutions, because we are uncomfortable with their emotions.

The trouble with fixing, is that often what makes a problem hard is a person’s emotional reaction to it. Say a parent can’t figure out how to get their son to sleep at night. It’s not just a matter of telling that parent what kind of routine worked for you. There may be deep-seated reasons why this particular parent is struggling with bedtime. Perhaps they were left frequently left alone to cry it out as a baby or toddler, and this emotional hurt is clouding their vision when it comes to helping their own child.

That parent needs much more than a practical solution. They need someone to listen to help them heal the hurt that is clouding their thinking . The science behind it is that when our own childhood feelings get triggered our limbic system  gets flooded and we experience an ’emotional emergency.’ When this happens our pre-frontal cortex can’t function well which makes logical thought, and decision making hard. If someone steps in and offers advice it can be hard to take it when we can’t think straight. And since everyone’s life is different. What works for one person may not work for another.

A far more effective approach is to simply listen to that person. To allow them to follow the natural flow of their own words and feelings, so that they can release their upset, and think clearly again. After that they’ll often be able to figure out what to do and fix the situation themselves. Or they’ll go searching for some useful information that might help. We are the best experts on our own lives.

So that’s why we don’t fix in listening time.  We can also employ the technique of simply listening in conversations too. Next time someone is chatting to you and mentions a problem, notice how quickly possible solutions jump into your head. How easy is it refrain from saying them? Like everyone else I do find myself with the strong urge to ‘fix’ my friend’s problems, but I also try to listen too. I had the idea the other day that it might be good to employ a 80/20 principle to our everyday conversations, listening for 80% of the time, and sharing good information 20% of the time. It’s not easy, but it has many benefits. Our friendships will deepen when we can stay present to people’s emotions.

Discover more about the art of listening in Hand in Hand parenting’s Building A Listening Partnership course. 


 

The Art Of Listening : Tip 1 – ‘oops!’

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This is the first of a new series of posts I’ll be sharing of tips on the art of listening. And this time it’s not about listening to our children, but listening to each other.

There’s one thing that makes Hand in Hand Parenting different to almost every other parenting approach out there, and it’s that we have a tool that is specifically designed to support parents, and it’s called listening time.

We use listening time because one of the reasons parenting is so hard is because of our own emotions. Listening time offers us a safe space to release our emotions so they don’t get in the way of us being the parent we want to be.

Before utilising these tips you’ll need to learn the basics of how listening time works, if you don’t know already. You can read my intro here, and if the idea appeals to you can learn more by reading Listen: By Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore, or my book Tears Heal. Hand in Hand Parenting also has a online self study course Building A Listening Partnership so you can really dive deep into all the skills you need to listen. You can also join the Hand in Hand Parent support group on facebook to find a listening partner.

Once you’ve got a regular listening partnership going you’ll be ready for some tips to hone your skills.

Here’s my first tip. I call it ‘oops!’ 

Say your partner is talking about something they feel embarrassed or ashamed about. Perhaps they shouted at their child, or said something to a friend that was misconstrued as being rude or insensitive. You’ll notice as they talk that they feel stuck in those uncomfortable feelings, and as the listener you can shine a light on their inner goodness and offer them a way out.  You know that they are doing their best as a friend/parent, and that they didn’t mean to hurt or offend anyone.

One way to do this, is to give them the direction to make light of their mistake. You can model for them a light, playful tone as you say ”oops! I just shouted at my child again,” and encourage them to repeat the sentence. Often even just the thought of saying those words may have them laughing away their shame and embarrassment.

Often that sense of shame and guilt that they have done something wrong comes from early childhood experiences. When we made mistakes as children parents would often punish us, and lecture us, and make us feel ashamed or guilty. There was little understanding that we made mistakes, when we were disconnected or were experiencing upset feelings. We carry this parental voice inside our minds so when we make mistakes as adults we end up beating ourselves up about them, instead of compassionately forgiving ourselves.

As a listener you can offer the compassion your partner needs to remember that they are good and release any feelings they have to the contrary. You can use the ‘oops’ direction as long as the laughter flows. You might also want to ask your partner if they’d like to talk about earlier experiences when they felt a similar kind of shame or embarrassment.

As you try out this direction, and the others I’ll be sharing in future posts, it’s important to remember not to use them automatically like a reflex, but to try to use your intuition, about what works and doesn’t work for your listening partner. You might find that for one person saying ‘oops’ will help them laugh away their troubles in fits of hysterics, but another person may be more on the edge of tears and not in the mood for laughter. Try it and if it doesn’t help your partner release their feelings, just keep listening, and allowing them to let their own natural healing process unfold.

I hope this post helps you develop your listening skills. And if you’d like to read more in this series just sign up to follow my blog at the top right hand corner of my blog. You might also like to check out my article, 10 Tips For Being A Good Listener. And if you’ve got any questions or comments about listening feel free to leave them below!

Giggle Parenting To Help Your Child Fall Asleep In Their Own Bed

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I think that as parents we should find the sleeping arrangement that works best for our family. There’s no right or wrong, and whether you co-sleep or have your child in their own room, (or make any other parenting choice for that matter!) you can do Hand in Hand parenting in the way that works for your family.

We have been a co-sleeping family and also had phases when my daughter slept in her own room because she chose to. Now she sleeps in a bed next to ours in our room. It just seemed to work out that way. She’s been sleeping in her own bed since she was 18 months old. She actually embraced having her own bed and was happy falling asleep in there until February this year.

One night before she had to go to the doctor for a blood test she got really clingy and wanted to fall asleep in my bed. Ever since then she’s fallen asleep in my bed. I’d be totally happy with her falling asleep cuddled up next to me, except for the fact that I know it’s because she’s still got some feelings (perhaps about the blood test, perhaps about earlier hurts from being a baby that got triggered when she went to the doctor etc.)

So a few weeks ago I wrote this blog post about how I staylistened to my daughter’s feelings to help her through the fears, and get comfortable falling asleep alone. But, she was still falling asleep in my bed! I still hadn’t got her comfortable to fall asleep in her own bed.

The funny thing is my daughter will fall asleep in her own bed, but only if my husband puts her to bed. This kind of inconsistency, is a sure sign that she is trying to ‘tell’ me about these feelings, because I am the parent that uses the Hand in Hand parenting tools the most to build emotional safety (as I talked about in this post here.)

One of my issues is that my daughter is a night owl, and likes to go to bed around 9.30 ish. This has been her natural rhythm for her entire life so far, and my attempts to shift her sleep pattern never worked. I also like to go to bed at this time, and I’m often pretty exhausted by then, so it’s been a struggle to work on this emotional project consistently.

A few nights ago I got some listening time, and I ended up actually asking my listening partner for advice! This is not really what we usually do in listening time, but as my listening partner is also a Hand in Hand parenting instructor I was looking for a fresh perspective. Even though I’m a Hand in Hand instructor, it’s often my own parenting issues that are the most challenging, because my own emotions exhaustion, tiredness etc, often get in the way.

My listening partner suggested that I get into bed with my daughter, and then slowly leave her there, or that I could set a limit, and gentle move her into her own bed while staylistening if necessary. Well it kind of turned out that way!

When I finished my listening time my daughter was in her own bed, just about to fall asleep, but when she was me she immediately wanted to come into her own bed. I was feeling energised from my listening time, and it had also helped to talk with my partner and get new ideas.

So I immediately moved towards the gap between our beds and said, ‘’I’m the door of the bed, and I’m staying shut!’’ Then she started trying to get by either side of me, and wrestled to climb over me.

I let her jump into my bed, and then acted all playfully exasperated that she had climbed over. Then I told her ‘’I’m the door, and I’m coming to put you back.’’ Being playful meant it didn’t seem so ‘forceful’ to physically move her into her own bed. I playfully picked her up and put her in her bed, and then I ‘shut’ the door again. We repeated this a few times as she wrestled and laughed. At one point she ran around the beds instead to avoid the door, which really made her laugh.

Then she said she was tired, and I asked if she could get into her own bed, and I’d cuddle her for a bit. She agreed straight away and fell asleep quickly and easily. The next day she woke up in a great mood even though she’d fallen asleep later than usual.

Now, for some parents, myself included, we can often feel a little strange, about enforcing a separation from our child. We can worry that this may give our child the wrong message, that we are not available for closeness.

But it’s actually the opposite. By noticing those moments when our child is clingy, we can actually become closer together by playing with the idea of distance. I felt a lot more closely connected to my daughter, when we wrestling and laughing together, than I do when she’s clinging to me, taking ages to fall asleep because she’s still tense because there are feelings she hasn’t released that get in the way of her being able to let go and fall asleep.

So if your child is taking a long time to fall asleep at night, or is showing signs of being tense or disconnected, then try having some fun getting them to sleep in their own bed.

 Are you struggling with parenting and looking for a fresh perspective? I have a Parenting By Connection Starter Class beginning next Wednesday at 8pm Central European TIme, (7pm UK Time, 11am Pacific time).

When You Just Don’t Feel Like Playing – The Listening Cure

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This post is all about listening time. If you’re new to the concept you might want to check out my introductory article here first. 

How do you feel when your children say, ”play with me!” Are you filled with excitement and joy, and rush over, saying, ”yes of course!” If this is the case every time, then you don’t need to read this post 😉

For the rest of us, the words ”play with me!” can sometimes fill us with dread. It can be really hard to get down to our child’s level when we have chores to do, and adult things to take care of.

This post was inspired by an amazing Ted Talk I watched yesterday. You may have seen it already. It’s where TV producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, talks about how she decided to say yes when her children asked to play with her, every, single time. This video had me in tears. I so resonated with how she loved to work and write. I totally related to how hard she found it to play, and how she kept trying to come back to love, and simply being in the moment with her children.

I’m really glad I found Hand in Hand parenting, and the support they have given me to rediscover my natural inner joy to play, and have fun. But in a work-dominated to society it’s easy to lose touch with our ability to play.

Luckily there is a listening cure that we can use over and over again to recover our joy in playing.

So, when you’re doing listening time talk about how much you dislike playing. Have a vent and moan about how much you hate it. Say all those thoughts uncensored that you wish you didn’t have. Talk about how boring you find the play. Tell your listening partner how you feel when your child says, ”play with me!” Express it all.

Then go back to the past, ask yourself (or your listening partner can ask you?) What was it like when you were young? Who played with you? Did you ever have adult one-one attention? Who did you want to play with you more? – This is a really important step because our feelings about play don’t just relate to the present. They aren’t just about our busy lives. And they probably aren’t really to do with how ‘boring’ our child’s choice of play are.  Often that’s more to do with the fact that our own past hurts are being triggered – all the times we wished the adults around us could be more playful and full of joy.

You might laugh, you might cry. You might just talk and vent and moan. Just follow where you mind leads and you will shed those feelings of reluctance to play.

Try this for ten minutes and then go and find your child. How does it feel to play with them now after being able to express your feelings?

Repeat this every time the feelings start building up about disliking playing. When we can release all our feelings we will discover our true inner nature, and our natural love of playing.

Imagine how amazing it would be if we had enough time to get all those feelings out! Then we really could be that parent leaping for joy at the opportunity to play with our child.

Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes.

Need more help? Read 5 Tips For Having Fun Playing With Your Kids

Would you like to develop your listening skills and learn more about how listening time can be applied to all our family challenges. Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s self study course, Building A Listening Partnership

Would you like the Listening Cure for your family challenge? Leave me a comment or contact me here