The Art Of Listening, Tip 3: How To Get Where You Want To Go

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This is a post about the Hand in Hand Parenting tool of listening time. If you’re new to the concept check out my introductory post here

Something very common I’ve used in my listening time is to voice my lack of enthusiasm for playing with my daughter. Often, all those grown-up responsibilities can make me feel the complete opposite of playful and carefree. One time my listening partner gave me the direction to say in a very excited, enthusiastic voice, ”Come on R, lets play!”

Just the thought of saying these words led to all sorts of feelings coming up, and lots of uncomfortable laughter. As I kept complaining and moaning to her about making me say those words I released lots of emotion. Immediately after the listening time, I went to play with my daughter, and as if by magic, I was that playful, joyful parent!

This is what I call the ‘get where you’re going’ direction. Perhaps you want to be full of joy as you play Lego , or you want to be calm while your kids make a mess while baking. Often just saying the words as if you really were that calm, relaxed parent in a happy, light voice, can bring up any feelings to the contrary.

It’s like when we pretend we are where we want to be in the present moment our mind quickly dredges up all the feelings that don’t correspond to our imagine state. Cue a super fast away to clear up our minds of the old feelings that stand in our way.

I have also had great success using this direction with fatigue. I’ve become aware that as well as the general parental exhaustion that is so common I also use tiredness as a coping mechanism. So if I simply state where I want to go, ”I’m so full of energy!” standing up with my arms wide, and in a loud confident voice, I get a lot of feelings about wanting to curl up and hide away.

We may have patterns of being that relate to our own childhood. Ways in which we coped with the feelings we carried when we did not have a listener. Now we are adults we don’t need those old coping mechanisms anymore. We can use listening time to shed those feelings and become the very best version of ourselves.

This direction won’t just help you in your parenting. It can also help you transform your life. Do you want to go to a party, talk to everyone, and be full of confidence? Do you want to launch your own business, or give a successful job interview? Simple stating your goal as if you’ve already arrived can help you get there.

So where do you want to go in your parenting or your life? Just imagine being there in your listening time and you will discover the feelings that stand in your way. Share this post with your listening partner, and you can help each other on your journey.

Would you like regular tips to help you develop your listening skills? Sign up to follow my blog at the top right hand corner of this page. And if you missed them here’s Tip 1 and Tip 2

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

Giggle Parenting Inspiration N.o 8 – Tidying up Mistakes

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Yesterday my daughter and I did special time, and then I need to tidy up the kitchen a bit before going out. As soon as I started my daughter was complaining of being bored, and having nothing to do. I could of gently set a limit with her, and told her in a more serious way that I needed to tidy up, but my intuition was telling me that she needed to laugh.  I thought of another idea. I saw the oven gloves, hanging by the oven, and flung them into the dishwasher, and then said, ”oh no! What are they doing in there?”

She started laughing so I began repeating it with different objects, tea towels, food, tea bags, toys and even my mobile phone and a broom with the handle sticking out. The more outlandish the object, the more my daughter laughed.

Pretty soon, she’d forgotten all about that moment of boredom. I was able to tidy up in between the laughs as the game expanded and developed. As I put away stuff from the dishwasher I accidentally put mugs in the blender, or forks in the fridge, then I’d get a confused look on my face, and say, ”hang on, that’s not right! Let me try again.” In the end we did get everything tidied up, and the bonus was that after the laughter she felt much more connected, and getting out of the house was much easier.

I’ve been talking to my daughter about the ‘giggle games,’ that I write down to remember for later and as we were playing this one she told me ”you should write this giggle game down, this will make me happy.” It’s interesting as she gets older that she’s beginning to gain an awareness of the purpose of playlistening, simply to make our children happy! And when they are happy, life also becomes a little easier for the parents too 😉

Wondering what playlistening is?  Check out this intro here. And if you’re looking for fun ways to involve your children in the tidying up check out these 25 tips for having fun tidying up with kids 


 

5 Tips For Having Fun Playing With Your Kids

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A few weeks ago, some friends came over who have a ten-year old daughter who my daughter loves playing with. Watching the two of them play together made me reflect on just how much stamina children have for playing with each other. They could carry on for hours. For me on the other hand, after a while I get drained and ‘bored’ by play. I desperately want to do something other than play, like tidy up the house, clean the kitchen, or zone out on my computer.

But I also know that deep down my feelings are not really because I find my daughter’s play ‘boring’ or because I can’t play or don’t like to play. Actually I love spending her time in her imaginary world, sharing her joy and creativity. But I do get drained after a while.

Why is play so hard for us? Is it because we know we’ve got a million and one jobs to do in our busy lives? For sure. but there’s more to it than that.We all have moments in our days when we get triggered by our children. Play can often be one of those times. We start to feel exhausted, we start to feel stressed, we find it hard to muster the enthusiasm.

Play is hard because when we were children our parents may not have spent hours playing with us. They may have been busy just getting on with things, and may not have understand how important it was simply to be there with us. There may have been times when we wished they could give us more quality attention. We may have given up even expecting it.

When we spend time with our children, it’s as if we have an invisible river of our own childhood memories running through us. We not be conscious of these memories, but they are there, beneath the surface, often getting triggered when we are stressed or overwhelmed. So when our child says ”play with me,” we can often feel reluctant to leap up and join them because we have our own hurt child inside of us who didn’t get all the play and connection we needed.

But there’s nothing innately non-playful about any of us. We can recover our natural joy and have fun playing with our kids.

Here are a few things that you can try.

  1. Have some grown up fun! Recovering our own sense of fun, can be really helpful. Go to a live music or comedy gig. Have drinks with friends. Dance to the songs you loved when you were younger. Life gets pretty serious sometimes for adults. But it doesn’t have to be.
  2. Have some listening time – Exchanging time talking and listening with another parent about how parenting is going Tell your listening partner how much you ‘hate’ playing with your kids. Talk, moan, even scream into a pillow about how hard it is. Have a laugh or cry if you need to. After expressing your feelings with a partner you may find that these feelings are not your thoughts, and that you actually don’t hate playing. Yo may just need to release some of your own emotional baggage to find the joy in it.
  3. Play in short bursts. Don’t give yourself a hard time, or pretend to enjoy playing when you aren’t actually in the mood. Your child will pick up on your feelings, and it’s likely neither of you will have much fun. Instead try shorts bursts of special time, (1-1 time with a child doing something of their choice) that feel manageable to you. Even 5 minutes can deepen the connection with your child, and make you both feel better. You can gradually extend your capacity for play, as you get listened to, and work through your feelings about play.
  4. Let your agenda slide. If possible try to have some lazy days where you aren’t running around, and can just hang out and enjoy the company of your children. Is there anything non-essential you can leave off your to-do list? Get some ready meals in and leave the washing up till tomorrow. I always find I’m at my most playful when we’re at home with little to do. After I’ve nurtured myself with adult company, and my cup is full I’ll try to have a mellow day at home where we just chill out, connect and play.
  5. Have some adult-to-adult special time – The first time I tried special time with another adult I was amazed how much fun it was, and how novel it felt to have someone shine their attention on me while I got do whatever I wanted. You can try this with a friend or your partner, so that you can nourish yourself with the deep sense of connection that you want to give your children.

I hope these tips help you to enjoy playing with your kids. I love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment about how you get on.

For more tips on play and connection with your kids, check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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Remembering the language of children

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Yesterday morning we were due to leave the house and go to visit some friends. My daughter didn’t want to go and was quite adamant about it. I was surprised, as she normally loves visiting her friends, and enjoys going out. She’d had plenty of downtime at home this week, and I felt like we both needed to get out and be sociable. I was concerned that there were some upset feelings, making her feel like she didn’t want to leave the house. Should I listen to her, and just stay home like she appeared to want? I wasn’t sure I could face a long day at home without adult company!

I started explaining to her, explaining that we’d already said we would go, explaining that I didn’t want to let my friend down as she was cooking lunch for us, and explaining that needed to get out of the house. I started trying to persuade her to do the things she need to leave the house, like go to the toilet as she hadn’t gone all morning. No response.

Then I snapped out of lecture mode.  I held her hand and found myself leading her into the bedroom, saying in a mock serious voice, ‘we need to go to the toilet,” and then ”oh no that’s not the toilet!!’ She laughed. Then I would lead her to the sofa, and say the same thing, then to the balcony, a cupboard or outside. She laughed and laughed at my inability to find the toilet, and then when we went into the bathroom. she was happy to go. Five minutes later we were out of the house! She had a great time with her friends, with much laughter and giggling, as they all jumped on the beds together. By the end of the visit she was asking if she could stay there for a sleepover!

We adults can get serious sometimes. We have a lot of responsibility and weight on our shoulders. It can be hard to meet everyone’s needs at the same time. But when we can find the laughter, play, and connection, we can often find co-operation and a solution that works for everyone.

So if you find yourself slipping into lecture mode, just remember the language of children, and put on your clown hat instead!

Stop I need connection!

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My daughter has discovered the power of yelling ”stop!” whenever the grown-ups are talking. It started a few days ago, before we travelled back to the UK to spend time with family. Now there is a lot of grown-up conversation and sometimes it doesn’t involve her as much as she’d like.

This kind of behaviour can be really triggering for us, particularly when we’re in company. Our lovely, charming children, are suddenly being irritating, and we can begin to wonder what people will think of us, our children and our parenting!! It doesn’t help to use rational or reasoning, saying ”mummy will finish talking in a minute,” or ”I just need to finish explaining to Daddy this important thing blah blah blah”. When a child starts behaving in an off-track way, they are really signalling that they can’t think. That their pre-frontal cortex has gone off line, and they need us to engage with their ‘feeling’ limbic brain. They need to feel our love, and our warmth again.

We could try just telling them to stop themselves, that their behaviour is ”not acceptable” but this doesn’t work to deal with the feelings that cause the behaviour in the first place. Over time if we do this our children wind up feeling more disconnected, and behaving in a variety of more off-track ways, or their behaviour goes underground, they stop showing us or telling us how they feel, and they grow up distanced from us. If we can offer connection even when our child’s behaviour is challenging, then we maintain closeness with them.

Because of the way we were parented, we get irritated when our children ask for connection in these kinds of ways. After all, what would our parents have done if we started yelling ”stop!” in a public place like a restaurant? It takes a big leap to be able to give our children connection at all times, even when their behaviour really pushes our buttons.

Listening partnerships really help the most, or having a trusted friend that we can chat to about how embarrassed we were when our child started acting out in public. Having someone who can help us release tension so we don’t feel so irritated. It can also help to say some of the things we feel like saying at the moment to our child, but try not to! And to reflect back and tell the story of our childhood. What would have had happened to us, when we acted out in public? Telling our story to someone we trust allows us no longer be ‘living’ our story in the present, reducing our compulsion to act it out and repeat what happened to us with our own children.

Anyway, back to the dinner table. As my daughter was yelling stop. I had the idea to get under the table, and then to pop up either side of her and surprise her by making her laugh. It worked, she started giggling, and we got to have our conversation again. But I was a little more mindful now to include her, reminding myself that when our children behave in off-track ways, they’re not being ‘bad’ or ‘unreasonable.’ They are only asking for the connection they need to grow and thrive. And if we offer that connection as much as we can, even when it feels challenging, if we can let go of the voices in our head that might be telling us that our child just shouldn’t be behaving in this way, then they don’t need to challenge us with their behaviour.

Since this ”stop!!’ game has been happening a lot these past few days. I know I need to take make some effort, have a mini holiday ”connection plan”. As we visit relatives who give her attention, I’m also using the time to go and catch up on some work. But it’s a reminder that my daughter still needs connection with me. So starting today, I’ve decided to start the day with 5 minutes of special time. This is a great thing to do when we are travelling, because it can happen before we get busy doing activities and outings with the family. I love this anecdote written by a working mum about how just a short dose of special time can make a big difference. I’ll also try to do a longer special time later in the day, and have lots of playlistening as well. And most importantly I’ll make some time for some listening for myself! When I can clear our my old feelings of tiredness and irritation, I discover the spark of creativity that I need to enjoy play.