Dear Caring Parent,
I’ve noticed that sometimes I am a stormy creature when it comes to homework problems. When I would notice it wasn’t being attended to, I would react by storming through homework time.
Are you storming over homework problems right now? I’m not, whew!
But when I am storming, I usually start with just reacting from whatever I am wanting. “Just get it done, already”, “come on, honey, show your stuff”, “hurry up, I’ve only so much energy”.
I might just want the homework done so that I don’t have to monitor it later in the evening. Or I might be worried about my child’s ability to get something from the course, let alone pass it (I’m big on starting courses with the question, what do you want to get out of this?). Or I might be feeling impatient because I’m annoyed that I’m taking care of so many things.
In my storm I am not even really paying attention to the cause of my reaction, the underlying feeling -being busy, feeling worried, or feeling underappreciated. I’m just reacting. And it typically doesn’t go so well! At which point I realize I better find out more about what’s going on with the kiddos. I recognize that I better listen beyond their behavior.
When Listening Happens
Most times I hear that they are feeling overwhelmed, or not connecting to the assignment, or wanting to do something else other than the homework, or feeling sick or hungry, or “the teacher will be critical no matter what I do”. Whatever I am hearing, it becomes rapidly evident that my initial reaction wasn’t helpful one little bit.
When our inclination is to listen more deeply to our child’s experience, we are naturally led to more meaningful and workable problem solving. And that’s great, because different causes of not wanting to do homework, for example, need different solutions.
The overwhelmed brain needs to be able to move around (meaning get that body moving) and to break the task into small steps. The focused-elsewhere brain needs permission to focus elsewhere either now or later. The feeling sick or tired brain needs more questions to find out what is needed! And the brain experiencing a critical teacher needs a chance to tell the story, pick up its self-esteem, and plan how to deal.
Sometimes it’s HARD to Listen
Listening takes time. And energy.
And sometimes we don’t feel like we have the time. Or energy.
Part of what makes parenting so demanding is the listening we must do. We are charged with guiding and tending to our child’s lives. We therefore tend to instruct a lot. When we listen, it feels like it takes more time and energy, but really, arguing takes time and energy!
The thing about parental listening is that it is ‘other’ oriented – focused on them. We forget that it is equally important to ALSO listen to ourselves.
Not feeling like you have time or energy to listen to your child is a for-sure sign that you, Mom/Dad, need to take time later on to listen to yourself, to your own storm. What’s under that initial reactive storm? What’s the next layer, and the layer after that? Taking time to do that kind of listening will nurture you so you can nurture your children.
The Focus of Your Listening
Listen to how you feel about how much you are doing.
Listen to your worries.
Listen to your need for non-parenting time.
Listen to your need for appreciation for what you do.
Listen to your uncertainty about how to help.
Listening is new to some parents. For others, there’s that something-about-parenting that requires reminders to listen, in particular to BOTH our children and ourselves! It’s easy to get stuck in argumentative or go-nowhere communication cycles. They’re time consuming, exhausting, and create stress at home!
The cool thing is, there’s a book out there – The Dance of Parenting – that will prompt you, give you ideas on how to become a masterful parenting listener (and more), and let you know that your parenting ears are not the only ones having to pay attention to listening. The practices sure stopped my intense, unproductive, negative reaction to homework struggles.
And guess what, the book is written by me!
Take care now, Natasha
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