Taking the Time to Listen with Kids

Posted on July 10, 2017


Julius Cesar said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” In all my parenting workshops, talks, and consultations, I advocate that parents try the tools that I give them and then “experience” the new experience. The experience will teach you what you need to learn, and you can decide whether or not you want to keep the tool or drop it. It warms my heart when parents commit to this and share what happened when they broke new ground

Here’s one parent’s story:

Every day getting to school was an absolute battle with my five-year-old daughter. I tried being kind and playful, talking about it, playing games, bribing her, rewarding, scolding, punishing, threatening, and yelling. But the battles continued, and I was tired of it. My daughter didn’t like me, and I had run out of patience. Every evening, when I was putting her clothes out for the next morning, she would say, “I don’t like school,” or “I don’t want to go to school,” or “why do I have to go to school?” That was her daily mantra. And every day, I would answer in some smart way, indicating that she had to go; she had no choice. We were both starting to feel the tension and the disconnect.

Then I remembered what you had recently told me about recurring issues: that our approach needs to be updated because the existing one is not working. But I thought I had tried everything. I had checked in with the teachers at school to see how she was doing almost every week. My daughter was thriving socially and academically, but we were still battling about going to school every morning. I just couldn’t put my thumb on why. I even told my husband that I was concerned about the long-term effects of this on my daughter. After all, she had just started school last September. What would happen in five years, I wondered.

Then something magical happened one night. As I was putting her clothes out, and she was chanting her daily, “Why do I have to go to school? I don’t want to go to school. I don’t even like school,” I decided not to answer. Instead, I decided to try Take 5 . I had nothing to lose. I had tried everything else. I remembered the examples from your book about sharing quiet space with kids and doing no-thing for 5 minutes every day and just went for it.

I stopped what I was doing and sat on her bed. I wasn’t upset. If anything, I was simply neutral. I sat there in quiet and took a couple of deep breaths. It seemed like we were quiet for an eternity. My daughter was just quietly observing me. After a minute of silence in this shared space, she said, “Do you know why I don’t like going to school, Mommy? Because I hate getting up in the morning and rushing.”

In an instant, every morning of the past eight or nine months flashed in front of me. I knew that! I’ve always known that my daughter panics when we rush. Why did I not realize this each morning?

All I could think of was, “Duh.” Of course, she’s right! Almost immediately, I came up with a suggestion: “How about I wake you up 30 minutes earlier, so you get to take your time and hang out and get ready without rushing?” She jumped at it. Yes, that meant that I would have to wake up 30 minutes earlier (ugh) but that definitely beat the entering the battlefield every morning.

We are now two weeks in, and the morning chaos is done. My daughter wakes up, hangs out for a bit, sometimes reads or colors, gets ready, and we’re on our way. She even wanted to get to school well before the bell rings, so she doesn’t feel so rushed getting out of the car and running to class. How much simpler could she have made this for me! Or could I have made it for myself! I just needed to take the time to give her quiet space to share her feelings and guide me to a solution. Had I not taken those five minutes to intentionally connect, we would have continued down our battlefield path. We both had to stop to come up with a solution!

I’m a fan of Take 5. I’ve experienced the experience, and I love it.

Kids will tell us how to raise them—if we just take the time to just listen. How easy is that! Need I say more?

This story was related by a TOG follower. Thank you so much for sharing!