To understand and to be able to connect with a child we have to know how they feel and be more of a listener. As a father myself I learned the importance of reflecting on my experience when I was a child what were the good and bad memories or situations that I encountered. How was I able to express my emotions especially towards my parents in those situations? I realized that as a parent it’s important to accept the feelings of your child. I’m one of the parents that learned this the hard way since parents don’t usually accept their children’s feelings. Here are some common phrases parents use when responding to children who are crying or angry.
“You don’t really feel that way.” “You’re just saying because you’re upset.” There’s no reason to be so upset.” You might ask what’s wrong with these statements? These responses will actually confuse and enrage kids. It also teaches them not to know what their feelings are and not to trust themselves. The best thing to do is to place ourselves in the child’s situation first and listen and respond with empathy but this is difficult because most of us grew up with our feelings denied. Here are some ways to help a child deal with their feelings.
- Listen with full attention. It’s much easier to tell your troubles to a parent who is really listening.
Sometimes a sympathetic silence is all a child needs.
- Acknowledge their feelings with a word—“Oh” . . . “Mmm” . . . “I see.” There’s a lot of help in a simple “Oh . . . mmm . . .” or “I see.” Words like these, coupled with a caring attitude, are invitations to a child to explore her own thoughts and feelings, and possibly come up with her own solutions.
- Give their feelings a name. Parents don’t usually give this kind of response, because they fear that by giving a name to the feeling they’ll make it worse. Just the opposite is true. The child who hears the words for what she is experiencing is deeply comforted. Someone has acknowledged her inner experience. Example: “That sounds frustrating!”
- Give them their wishes in fantasy. Sometimes just having someone understand how much you want something makes reality easier to bear. You can say “I wish I had the magic power to have what you want appear.’’
Children frequently don’t understand why they feel the way they do. At other times they’re reluctant to tell because they fear that in the adult’s eyes their reason isn’t logical. It’s much more helpful for an unhappy youngster to hear, “I see something is making you sad,” rather than to be interrogated with “What happened?” or “Why do you feel that way?” It’s easier to talk to a grown-up who accepts what you’re feeling rather than one who presses you for explanations. Remember that children don’t need to have their feelings agreed with; they need to have them acknowledged.
By: Royd Guyon
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish