Stepping In and Listening

(C) Karen Barefoot 2006

My son, who is 4, my husband and I were all busy getting ready to go to a friend’s house on a Saturday morning. Our neighbors next door, who we are close to, have a 9-year-old. Although we are friends, we have had to limit the time our son spends with their child, because the kind of language he often uses isn’t appropriate for our son to hear. They were making preparations for a birthday party for their son and our son saw this. I told him as he was watching them that we were going to another friend’s, and that the neighbors would save some cake for him and he could have it later.

Then, as we were doing our preparations, he picked up a hockey stick and began hitting things–the couch, the floor, scraping it on a rock in the yard, and poking the cat. His father got annoyed, and said harshly, “Come on! You’ve got to get in the car or we’re not going!” Then our son said, “You b____!”

Before I’d read the Listening to Children booklets, I would have gotten into it, too, and scolded him for talking to his Dad that way, and for banging around with the stick. But I’ve been teaching myself to connect with him when things are bad. I actually figured that he was indignant for good reason–his Dad had spoken very harshly, and threatened him.

So I just decided to try to connect with him. I scooped him up in my arms, sat down on the couch with him, and said, “You really seem to be upset.” He looked at me like I was a stranger. I touched him gently and asked him, “Are you upset because you can’t go to the party?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “It looks like you feel pretty bad that you don’t get to go.” His eyes welled up with tears, and he began to cry.

I held him, and his Dad came in close, too. We listened to him for some minutes. When he stopped, I said, “Why don’t we call the neighbor, and make sure she remembers to save you some cake.” His Dad brought me the phone, and we stayed all snuggled together while I made the call. The neighbor said she would save some cake, and would save him a party bag, too. When he heard this, his whole body relaxed. It was clear that he felt heard, and felt connected again. It was a very sweet little time. He got his things together, ran to the car, and was waiting for us, for a change!

Since I’ve been connecting and letting him have his feelings instead of scolding or giving orders, he’s been so much happier. Instead of walking, he skips everywhere he goes. Listening to him is changing all of our lives!

~ A Parenting by Connection Mom

5 thoughts on “Stepping In and Listening

  1. How do you deal with the acting out? Are you explaining to him that he does not have to hit things or animals to get your or anyone’s attention?

  2. Top Parenting Posts of 2011 | Super-protective Factor

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