Tag Archive for listen

Let the Children Bump!!

Loving parents establish loving limits for their children. It’s true. We need to do it. We set limits for their safety and the safety of others. We develop limits to teach them polite behaviors and mature attitudes that will allow them to find success outside the home. We put limits in place to guide our children toward becoming the best versions of themselves. But, you know what our children do with those limits. They bump up against them. They push the limits. They try to sneak around the limits and undermine the limits. Sometimes they bump so hard against the limits we get angry and frustrated. Don’t get too frustrated though because children bumping up against limits is a great thing, especially when we respond in love. Children bumping up against limits provides great opportunities and benefits. Let me explain.

  • When children bump up against limits they learn how to manage their frustrations. Life will not give them everything they want. They will encounter roadblocks and limits outside the family. Best to learn how to manage the frustration around limits in the loving womb of family rather than the harsh desert of the world. Let them bump…and help them learn how to manage the frustration of bumping a limit in a healthy, mature manner.
  • When children bump up against limits they learn about our true values. They learn long-term character is more important than immediate gratification or temporary wishes. They learn which values we truly find important and will “stick to our guns” for and which we will “give in” on. They learn which values we truly hold dear and which values we are willing to forfeit to avoid the hassle. They learn which values they really need to internalize and which they leave behind as they leave home.
  • When children bump up against our limits we have an opportunity to show our them love by explaining the reasons for the limit. They learn we believe in their ability to understand the reason behind the limit. They learn we respect them enough to explain those reasons to them in a calm manner. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we argue with them about the reasons. We simply inform them of the reasons. Then we show our love by standing firm and not budging while they bump up against a good limit.
  • When children bump up against a limit we have an opportunity to show them our love by listening to their outpouring of emotion. We can hear their explanation and simply be with them in their frustration. They will learn we love them enough to understand their frustrations and remain present in their anger. They learn we love them enough to hear them and understand their concerns…which brings me to the next bullet…
  • When children bump up against a limit we learn about our children. As they explain their frustration and “everything wrong with the limit,” we gain insight into our children. We may even find their complaint makes sense. We may even discover a need to modify the limit to better support their safety and growth. We will encounter times when our children’s insight and wisdom will influence us to change the limit…and that shows the depth of our love as well.

When children bump up against limits we have established for their safety and healthy development we can become frustrated. But remember, children bumping up against the limits presents wonderful opportunities to teach and love. Let them bump and find a loving, gracious limit that holds them secure. Let them bump and learn. Let them bump and hold them close.

A Gift You’ll Love to Give

We all love to receive a gift. Even more, we love to give gifts to those we love. Who doesn’t like to see our child’s face glow when they receive a gift from us? Or watch our spouse’s eyes glitter when they receive a special gift? Here is a gift you will love to give. Not only will you spouse and children love to receive this gift but you will experience all kinds of benefits…like more conversations, greater joy, and growing intimacy. What is this gift? The gift of attention!

You can give the gift of attention by listening intently. Listen to their words and listen to their tone of voice. Observe carefully. Observe their body language and their facial expressions.  Observe what excites them and what brings them down. Listen intently and observe carefully so you can understand them deeply.

Then, and only then, begin to speak. But don’t move to fast. Use your first words to confirm your understanding. State what you’ve observation. Repeat what you’ve heard. Listen again as they either confirm your understanding or clarify your understanding.

Now, once you understand and your partner knows you understand, you can respond. This sounds like it will take a long time and sometimes it does…but not always. Take this example:

“It’s a beautiful sunny day,” your wife says looking out the window at the flowers in the back yard.

 

“Yes. It is a sunny day. I like how it shines on the flowers in our backyard,” you reply.

This simple interaction includes the observation that your wife is looking out the window when you talk about the flowers she is looking toward. She knows you listened as you repeat her words back to her–“sunny day.” A simple interaction that gives the gift of attention. With a gift this simple, you can give it away to your spouse and children multiple times a day. It’s almost like Christmas. Merry Attention. Happy Listening.

Married to Burger King?

Remember the old Burger King commercials?  I used to sing their moto, “Have It Your Way…,” such a catchy tune.

Unfortunately, some people think they’re married to Burger King. They want to always “have it their way” in marriage, treating their spouse like Burger King. They want their “Burger King spouse” to accept their way and agree with it, or at least act as though they do. They always believe their way “is right” and will argue their point in an effort to make their “Burger King spouse” toes the line and complies with their way. They do this by insisting on “their way” with vigor and passion, often overwhelming their spouse with their energy. They persist in this persuasion until their “Burger King spouse” accepts their conclusion as the right conclusion. What they don’t admit to themselves is “their Burger King spouse” often does this just to end the conflict and not have to talk about it anymore. As soon as the “Burger King spouse” gives in, a wedge (not a pickle wedge or a lettuce wedge but a solid, distancing wedge) is forced between them. That wedge will grow and fester, hindering intimacy and even leading to more conflict in the future.

“Having it your way” doesn’t work in marriage because none of us are married to Burger King. (Well, accept maybe Mrs. Burger King.)  Our spouse has their own opinions, perspectives, and ideas. Maybe you “hold the lettuce” and she piles it on…or you “hold the pickles” while he asks for extra pickles. More significantly, maybe she wants a minivan and you want an SUV…or you want to spend some money on a few weekend vacations each year, but he wants to skip the weekend getaways and save all the money for retirement. I won’t list possible differences you and your spouse may hold. I’m sure you can think of a few on your own. The point is, when we insist on always being right, when we demand to “have it our way,” we push our spouse away. In the words of a more marriage friendly moto, “You can be right…or you can be in relationship.” “Being in relationship” requires that we accept our spouse’s point of view as valid, just like our point of view. It means we don’t demand to “have it our way,” but honor our differences by listening and compromising instead.  It means having the grace to “have it their way” now and again instead of “our way.” In short, you’re not married to Burger King so don’t expect to “have it your way” all the time.  Learn to listen, compromise, and turn toward one another in discovering a third alternative that can satisfy each of you. After all, isn’t it more important to have a satisfying marriage than to “have it your way.”

Parents: Do Your Actions Reveal Your True Feelings?

How do you think of your children? I mean, really, underneath all the hubbub and philosophical questions and answers, how do you feel about your children? Sure, we can talk about whether they are born with a propensity for good or evil; or, we could discuss how much they know and whether they manipulate or simply try to get their needs met in the best way they know how. We could even go so far as to make determinations about their ability to know right from wrong, the age of accountability, their moral character…and on and on.  Researchers have explored these areas. But, really, I don’t want to know any of that. I want to know how YOU feel about your children; how YOU think about your children. Most parents cherish their children. They look at their children with great pride when they do well. When their children hurt, they feel that pain just as acutely. They want the absolute best for their children. At times they look at their children with awe realizing “that little person is my responsibility.” They are so smart, so talented, so…beautiful. Regardless of all the philosophical debates and disagreements, parents love their children! Since we love our children, shouldn’t we show them respect as well?

  • We show our children respect by giving them our full attention and listening intently rather than “multi-tasking” with our work, our TV show, our book, or our household chores. I’m not saying we can never talk while doing something else, but to give our children our full attention when they want to tell us something shows great respect. We expect them to give us full attention…and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. (Learn more in The Gracious Art of Listening)
  • We show our children respect by speaking to them respectfully. Calling our children names or speaking impolitely does not show respect…or love. Making comments that hurt their feelings or degrade their efforts does not show respect. Speaking politely, saying “please” and “thank you,” shows respect. Apologizing when we are wrong shows respect. Speaking words that encourage and gently correct show respect.
  • We respect our children when we value their interests. When we nurture and support their interests we respect our children and their interests. In fact, Grow Your Children’s Dream with these tips.
  • We respect our children when we accept and listen to our children’s feelings. Remember, our children feel differently than we do. They may get upset about things that seem trivial to us but respecting our children means we accept those feelings and respond to them with love. When we respect our children’s feelings, they will learn to respect other people’s feelings as well.
  • We show our children respect by respecting their space and their time. Of course, we still remain responsible and so monitor their phones, assure they keep their space clean, and help them learn to manage their time. We also knock before entering. We do not sneak around behind their back but keep them informed as to expectations. We respect their age-appropriate privacy. (Read Raising Respectful Children: A Self-Examination for more.)
  • We respect our children by respecting their opinion, even when it differs from our opinion. We encourage them to think and explore.
  • We respect our children when we discipline with grace. (Discover more in Parental Assumptions & the Cycle of Discipline.)

We love our children. One way to show that love is to respect our children. The question is: Do your actions reveal your love for your children? Do your actions of respect reveal your love?

Are Gentlemen an Endangered Species?

I work with several young, single women who are convinced that good men are an endangered species. As we discuss their belief I realize they are speaking of “gentlemen.”  I offer them an old definition (1869) of “gentlemen:”

“always truthful and sincere; will not agree for the sake of complaisance or out of weakness; will not pass over that of which he disapproves. He has a clear soul, and a fearless, straight forward tongue. On the other hand, he is not blunt and rude. His truth is courteous, his courtesy, truthful; never a humbug, yet, where he truthfully can, he prefers to say pleasant things.”

Yep, that’s the guy. They believe he is an endangered species if not already extinct.  They support their argument with the fact that I offered a definition from 1869! So, we discuss a more modern definition, one from the Urban Dictionary:

“the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.”

I like that definition better than the old one but, alas…they still insist this man is possibly extinct.  I will not accept such pessimism. I am sure “gentlemen” exist today. The news may highlight those who are not “gentlemen” and sitcoms laugh at men who are not “gentlemen” but I believe “gentlemen” still exist…and in rather large numbers. I’ve seen them and met them on multiple occasions, more numerous than I can count. With that in mind, I think it is time for all true “gentlemen” to make themselves known to the people around them. Of course, this can only be done in the true manner of a “gentlemen” so let me suggest a few methods for making your status as a “gentleman” known.

  • Build a reputation of integrity. Speak the truth but do so politely with kindness. Let your word be your word. Be on time. Keep your promises. Communicate your commitments and your intents clearly. Then let your actions prove your words. Never lead anyone on.
  • Practice chivalry. Hold the door open for others. Offer to get the car rather than assuming the women and others in your life will run through the rain. Be courteous to all. Stand boldly for what is right. Advocate for the vulnerable and underprivileged. Seek justice for all. Never criticize or insult; compliment and encourage instead.
  • Be courteous. Stand when a woman enters a crowded room and offer her your seat if none is available. Never criticize a homemade meal or a gift but show gratitude instead. Walk beside your spouse rather than ahead of her. Offer her the support of your arm on precarious terrain…and the strength of your character in difficult times of life.
  • Listen intently because you know the value of the person speaking and want to know them more intimately. Etiquette tells us that “to be a good listener is indispensable” to be a “gentleman.”
  • Promote other people’s dreams and goals, especially those of your spouse and children. Gentlemen serves others graciously, not only in daily life but in their pursuit of dreams.

I do believe “gentlemen” still exist. In fact, I know they do! I know you are out there. Join me in making the presence of “gentlemen” known in our families and our world today. And let us teach our sons to do the same.

Customer Service in a Marital Dispute

I’ve seen it happen several times. I’ve heard friends talk about it even more. I’ve even experienced it myself. You probably have too.  You order you’re food at a restaurant and when it finally comes to the table it is cold or maybe even the wrong order. So, you call on the wait staff to correct the problem.  Now one of two things can happen.

Option One: The wait staff becomes defensive. They try to make you understand what happened and explain it was not their fault. They sound like they’re arguing with you. They may even blame you for the mishap. You just get more and more frustrated. Even if they fix your food you leave the restaurant angry, determined to never do business with them again. That’s one option.

Option Two: The wait staff listens. They calmly hear your concern. They may even ask a few questions to clarify. They seem to show genuine concern, apologize, and do their best to remedy the problem. This time you leave feeling good even if the food wasn’t the best you’ve had. At least they listened. They understood my concern. They empathized with my frustration. They are good people and I enjoy doing business with them.

These same two options exist in our marriages. When disagreements and conflicts arise we can follow option one or option two. The option we choose will impact our relationship satisfaction. In fact, a group of researchers explored this very idea in a series of seven studies published in 2016 (See 3 Steps to Calm Your Romantic Partner When You Are Arguing for more). The results of all seven studies demonstrated that couples had greater relationship satisfaction when both partners felt understood. Even more, participants reported greater relationship satisfaction in spite of disagreement when they felt understood by their partner. They felt more like a team. They believed their partner was invested in the relationship and that the problem could be resolved more easily. They even felt closer after the disagreement than before the disagreement! Sounds like a great result.  So, how can you assure your spouse feels understood?

  1. Listen. Listen to their words to understand what they say. Look at them so they know you are listening. Listen to their body language to see if there might be more to what they are saying. Listen to their emotions to discover the deeper meaning behind what they’re saying. Listen wholeheartedly. Listen intently. Listen.
  2. Ask questions to better understand and clarify what they are saying. No matter how intently you listen you might misunderstand something. So, ask some questions. Repeat what you believe they are saying and ask if that is correct. If not, listen some more.
  3. Look for areas in which you can change and compromise based on your partner’s concerns. In other words, let their words influence you. Let your partner’s needs and wishes influence your actions. Compromise.
  4. And, did I say…LISTEN.

Responding to disagreements in this manner will determine whether you and your partner walk away from the disagreement satisfied or frustrated, feeling good or feeling bad, happy or upset, determined to enjoy more time together or questioning your relationship. I know which one I want, do you?

Defeat the One-Word Answer

Have you noticed your children’s superpower? It’s the superpower of giving one-word answers.

  • How was your day? “Alright.”
  • What did you do today? “Nothing.”
  • Where you been? “Nowhere.”
  • Where you going? “I don’t know.” (I know, this one is actually three words but is still fits into his superpower of giving an answer with no real information.)
  • Who are you going with? “Friends.”

I’m sure you’ve experienced this superpower. I want to offer you the kryptonite recipe that will defeat this “one-word superpower.” It consists of two ingredients. First, ask open-ended questions like:

  • What made you laugh today?
  • What was the nicest thing someone did for you today?
  • What nice things did you do for other people today?
  • What’s your favorite class? What makes it so good?
  • What’s your least favorite class? What makes it your least favorite?
  • What’s the difference between this year at school and last year at school? How are they different?
  • What was the most interesting/funniest thing a teacher said today?
  • Which of your classmates would make the best teacher? Why?
  • What was the most unusual outfit in school today?
  • Who did you help today? What did you do?
  • How did you see God today?

You get the idea. Ask open-ended questions. Second, ask those questions wisely and judiciously. To ask questions wisely and judiciously takes a little effort. Specifically,…

  1. Do not bombard your children with questions. Some parents fire questions like bullets from a machine gun. Slow it down. Limit the question. Ask one question and then…
  2. Shut up and listen. The number one way to encourage your children to talk to you is for you to listen to them. Allow what they say to guide the conversation and influence you rather than you trying to guide the conversation to influence them. Follow the conversation where they lead it. You will learn a lot about them when you do.
  3. Don’t force the conversation. If your children need some down time, let them have it. Let them come to you and initiate the conversation. When they do, stop what you’re doing and listen. Give them your time and attention. Doing so communicates your desire to talk with them and your willingness to do so on their terms, not just your terms. That respect will come back to you when you initiate conversation with them.

Mix these ingredients together and you get the kryptonite for your children’s superpower of the one-word answer. Use it often. Use it wisely. Use it in love.

The Wings on Which Your Children Soar

Did you know intelligence (IQ) only predicts about 20% of a person’s success? It’s true. Brains alone do not equal success. On the other hand, 80% of what predicts a person’s success involves social and emotional intelligence (More in Why Emotional Intelligence is More Important than IQ). To prepare our children for success in relationships and life, we need to strengthen their emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes five components (Daniel Goleman’s 5 Components of Emotional Intelligence).

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognize and label the emotions we experience in our lives.
  2. Self-regulation: the ability to cope with feelings in a manner consistent with and relevant to the situation.
  3. Internal motivation: the ability to utilize the energy of an emotion to achieve a positive end like communicating a priority or solving a problem.
  4. Empathy: the ability to recognize emotions in others by remaining aware of their verbal and nonverbal cues.
  5. Social skills: the ability to adjust our behavior in response to another person’s emotions. This allows us to more effectively connect with others, resolve conflicts that arise within our relationships, and negotiate compromises and agreements.

Reviewing the five aspects of emotional intelligence, you can understand how important emotional intelligence is for success in life. Emotional intelligence not only contributes to success in life, it also promotes health. Studies suggest that 80% of health problems are stress related. Emotional intelligence helps us manage stress and so reduce stress related illnesses. Emotional intelligence reduces bullying as well (Why Emotional Intelligence is More Important than IQ). With all these benefit, we surely want to teach our children emotional intelligence. Here are five simple exercises to get you started.

  • Develop a vocabulary for emotions. Dan Siegel (co-author of Parenting from the Inside) refers to this as “name it to name it.” Labeling an emotion helps “quell” its effect. The emotion becomes more manageable when we can label it. As a result, we can exercise more thoughtful control over it and our behavioral response to it (Why Labeling Emotions Matters ). In fact, the broader and more articulate a person’s emotional vocabulary, the less reactive and more responsive they can become (When Labeling an Emotion Quiets It) .
  • Listen and accept emotions. All emotions are acceptable, a gift from our Creator to help us communicate priorities and protect those important to us. Of course, not all behavioral responses are acceptable. So let a person express their emotion. Help them label the emotion. Encourage them to define their feelings. Coach them in expressing even difficult emotions. Listen. Accept. Understand. (For more read Teaching Your Child to Handle Emotions)
  • Identify the priorities underlying the emotions. Emotions clarify our priorities and reveal them to others. Take time to identify the priorities that have led to your child’s strong emotions. Knowing the priority behind an emotion allows you to address the true need. Teaching your child to identify and address underlying emotion leads to a more successful and self-controlled child.
  • Problem-solve. After you have listened closely and understand the emotion, work with your child to problem-solve. Let the problem-solving focus on how to address the priority underlying the emotion. (For more on these two steps read When Your Children Get Angry.)
  • Teach perspective taking. A great way to teach your children how to take another person’s perspective is by reading fiction together. Fiction lets us see into the minds of characters, feel their emotions, and understand their motivations. Doing so teaches perspective taking. So, read to your children. Read with your children. Talk about what your children read. It will improve their ability to take another person’s perspective and increase their emotional intelligence. (Read Teaching Your Child Perspective Taking for more ideas.)

These five simple activities can set your child on the path to emotional intelligence…and all its related benefits!

6-Step Resiliency Strengthening Program for Your Children

Resilience: the muscle that gives our children the strength to bounce back from adversity, persist through obstacles, and stretch through the pain toward maturity. It is an essential muscle for all of us, especially our children. Our children need resilience to experience greater happiness and more success. If you are wondering how you can coach your children to strengthen resilience, let me share this 6-step resiliency strengthening program with you. Try it out and watch your children’s muscles of resiliency grow strong.

  1. Show your children they matter. Let them know you care about them and rely on them. You can do this by giving them your time. Engage them in activities. Learn about activities that interest them. Make time to listen, really listen, to your children as well. Doing so will show them they matter to you. Invite them to participate in household chores with you so they know they matter to your family and home. Become involved in a volunteer activity together, something that makes a difference beyond the home. These activities teach your children they matter to you, your family, and your community. They also discover that their actions influence the world around them and they can wield that influence for positive ends.
  2. Become your children’s dream catcher. Learn about your children’s interests and passions. Research opportunities for them to gain new experiences in their areas of interest. For instance, buy a book or movie related to their interest. Enroll them in a camp focused on their interest. Introduce them to other adults and children with similar interests. This will cost you some time and maybe even some money. But, it will teach your children they matter (see bullet #1) and it teaches them how to seek out opportunities for themselves. Catch your children’s dream and help make it a reality. (Read Grow Your Children’s Dream for more info.)
  3. Eat at least one meal together each day. No TV, no phones, no texting…just sitting down as a family to eat and talk. A shared meal is a great way to give your children undivided attention. It’s a wonderful time to talk about the accomplishments and struggles of the day. During that interaction, you can focus on gratitude as well as the inevitable obstacles of the day, both of which promote resiliency. You can also share the family story…. (Check out The Lost Art of Family Meals and Project Mealtime.)
  4. Share family stories. Your children will love to hear the stories of your life as a child: adventures you enjoyed, how you met your spouse, lessons you learned, etc. Tell stories about family members who overcame struggles and obstacles as well. Family stories build identity. Let your family stories build an identity of growth, perseverance, and resilience for your children.(Try telling The Story That Will Change Your Family Life! for a great start.)
  5. Acknowledge effort. Rather than simply praise your children for the trophy or ribbon they bring home, talk about the hard work and effort they invested to make it possible. Recall the obstacles they overcame and the times they persisted in the face of hardship. Relish in the story and teamwork of the effort undergirding the accomplishment, not just the end result. (Build Your Child’s Success Mindset give more on acknowledging effort.)
  6. Problem-solve as opportunities arise…and opportunities will arise. Problem-solving begins with listening intently and earnestly. After the problem is completely disclosed and understood, simply ask, “What are you going to do?” Let your children respond and listen as they begin problem-solving. Gently give input to refine their ideas, suggest possibilities, and guide toward positive solutions. Listen, ask, and expand rather than lecture, direct, and solve…that will teach your children problem-solving.(Read Do You Rob Your Teen of Victory to learn the benefit of letting your children experience the difficulties of life rather than solving the difficulty for them.)

There it is: a 6-step resiliency strengthening program. Implement it today and you will love watching your children grow more resilient as they mature.

Encouraging Your Teen to Talk with You

Teens are notoriously secretive. But, your actions will encourage or minimize their secretiveness. It’s true. You can take certain actions that will encourage your teen to talk with you. In fact, put these five actions into practice to increase your teen desire to talk with you.

  1. Listen. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your teen (or anyone for that matter) is the gift of truly listening. Listen with your ears to hear the words. Listen with your eyes to hear the body language. Listen with your heart to hear the emotions that lay beneath the surface. Listen intently to understand. Listen with the goal of understanding to the point of emotional connection. Don’t worry about an answer. Just LISTEN.
  2. Ask more than tell. Part of listening well is asking questions. Ask questions to assure you understand what your teen means to say. Then, ask questions that can prompt your teen to think about situations and circumstances in new ways. Ask questions to determine what they already know; and, ask questions to help them delve more deeply into areas in which they are gaining knowledge and experience. They will learn more if given the opportunity to think and process than from a lecture or explanation.
  3. Give them space to grow. Your teen is becoming an individual with his own personality, desires, goals, and values. He needs space to go through this stage successfully. He needs opportunity for self-reflection and exploration. He needs the freedom to talk with other people—peers and other trusted adults. Give him the space and freedom to do so. And create an environment where your teen has the opportunity to talk with you, where talking to you comes naturally. For instance, create a calm and enjoyable family dinner time, create opportunities for family activities, and create times in which you are together in nonthreatening situations such as driving to and from practices. In these nonthreatening environments, your teen has the opportunity to talk. When he does, refer to bullets number one and two.
  4. Accept disagreement. Your teen is developing her own mind, her own personality, her own perspective. Allow her to disagree with you on certain topics. In the long run, she can disagree on how to take out the garbage or comb her hair. She can even disagree with you in her political views. She can have different interests and perspectives. After all, you have spent years encouraging her to become “her own person,” encourage her to do so now by leaving room for disagreement.
  5. Stay open and accept moments of silence. Teens naturally go through periods of silence with their parents. Accept it; BUT, stay open for moments when they choose to talk. If they know you are available they will choose to talk with you…and they often want to at what we perceive as the most inopportune moments. They need to know you value them above whatever else may be important to you. So, when they choose to talk with you, enjoy the moment. Put down the paper. Turn down the TV. Pause the game. They are more important. Give them your full attention and listen.

Practicing these five tips will encourage more conversation between your teen and you. You will enjoy the opportunity of a growing relationship with your teen!

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