My daughter started at a new school this year in fourth grade and overall the transition has gone very smoothly. The first day she announced, “Mom, I made 8 new friends.”
Yesterday she was humming on her way into the house, toting along her backpack and lunch box without me reminding her, eager to start her homework. “I want to do the math first because it’s fun!” she announced as she zipped through the packet that will be due at the end of the week. For the writing assignment she was slightly less eager, asking me, “What should I say about our cat? He’s so boring!” We talked about it for a few minutes, and she realized she had plenty to say. “There, how’s that!” she said after reading it to me with a pleased look on her face.
I could see from her satisfied air that she felt good about what she had done. Later I was reflecting on my daughter’s entry into kindergarten, around the time I started using the Parenting by Connection listening tools regularly, and how all the listening then has set the stage for things to be going well now. There was a time at age 5, at the beginning of the kindergarten year, when she was in bed at night crying hard about not wanting me to leave the room and said, “But then I would be alone and I don’t want to be alone! I might not see anyone to play with.”
Having learned about Staylistening, I gently listened as the storm continued. She cried for a while longer, and then when it subsided she looked peacefully at me (I was astonished) as I said goodnight and left the room. Earlier in the day she had mentioned that sometimes at kindergarten recess she would look around and not see anyone she knew that she could play with. I saw how I didn’t need to try to “fix it” in the moment, but that the power of my warm listening attention could allow her to heal the hurt places.
I also remembered a particular Special Time, when I play whatever she wants to play. She was gleefully giving me homework problems to do. Whether I followed her instruction exactly or fumbled with a mistake, I was always WRONG. I happily played my part in this game, exclaiming with distress how I just couldn’t seem to figure it out or do it right.
Then as I was working on the next “assignment,” she all the sudden said, “DING! It’s time to move to the next station. No, no, stop what you’re doing! It’s time to move on. No, you can’t finish it!”
Again I played along, saying, “But I really want to finish!”. Wow, did I get a clear picture of some of the stresses coming up from being in kindergarten and having something new called homework. Special time allowed her the chance to take on the more powerful role and release some of the emotional tension. As time went on, she was able to laugh and giggle at my mistakes during these scenarios, and then eventually to offer me generous help, coaching me along patiently.
Now, we still have our afternoons when things don’t flow as easily as they did yesterday. Upsets have happened, whining creeps in, patience is tried, and we’re both at our wits end. I am so grateful to have the listening tools I’ve learned at Hand in Hand to help her find her way back to her self-confidence and her sunny disposition and to help me regain my buoyant perspective and clear thinking. Even in the thick of it when I don’t know what to do, I can usually remember that there’s a way through and that things will get better.
-Certified Instructor, Emily Cernusak
You can also read more about StayListening in the Listening to Children Series by Patty Wipfler.