School Success Through Listening Time

At the end of a school year, my husband came home ecstatic. “My sons are geniuses!  Did you see their report cards?”  Our sons just finished third grade and Kindergarten, and we had just received their report cards by e-mail.

Our sons did well in all areas. My third-grader scored in the 99th percentile nationally in reading, having scored in average range last year. Our Kindergartener leapt from knowing almost no Kindergarten facts to showing advanced skills.  This was not because I pushed them on academics–I didn’t push at all.  I think it was because my primary focus was on increasing the time I spend listening to them and encouraging play. That’s why my children advanced by leaps and bounds. It showed up on their report cards.
I did work hard listening to them.  When my Kindergartener was afraid to take the pre-Kindergarten test, and when he didn’t want to go to school the first two weeks of school, I listened to him cry for hours, reassuring him all the while that he would be safe as he did those things.  My listening led to him being able to go to school confidently, and also to his loving to learn so much that I couldn’t stop him from reciting and writing the alphabet and practicing his numbers at home.
When my third-grader came home from a day of school with nasty behaviors and harsh remarks, and wouldn’t do his homework, I listened to him cry and rage for hours.  Many nights, he didn’t do homework, and I worked with his teacher and even his principal on this issue, as I agreed with him that he had too much. He also had difficult social experiences at school, and I listened to his feelings about those.  I listened to relieve his mind, and took action when I thought it made sense, advocating for him and changing my expectations of him, according to what I learned through listening.
I listened to both my children when they fought.  They fought not because they didn’t like each other, or because that is just what siblings would do, but because things were hard in their lives.  Nowadays, they amaze me with their increasing ability to roughhouse with each other like lion cubs,  laughing and creatively coming up with new play when their upsets are cleared through listening.
My husband and I offered them each a short Special Time daily, and whenever I found opportunities for more one-on-one time. We did Special Time before getting out of bed and before their homework or music practice.  We even did Special Time sleepovers for one parent to take one child on a special outing overnight.  My children and I spent time pillowfighing and roughhousing in the evening, and we spent time chasing after each other or playing hide-and-seek when going through a morning or bedtime routine.
I listened to their crying every day from three minutes to an hour at a time.  Even with frequent short Special Time and Staylistening sessions, by the end of the school week, my sons would become very tight, sizzling with upsets.  So over weekends, my husband and I did longer Special Time sessions, and we ended up Staylistening with them when their big feelings would finally surface. Then they would go off to school again on Monday. This is what I did in my family to try to turn their troubles at school around.  And when the emotional obstacles were removed, my children went ahead and learned a lot on their own. My Hand in Hand mentor’s comment was, “Your husband should say, ‘My wife is a genius!'”
I kept listening to my children because I saw their positive transformation and because we felt closer even though it wasn’t easy to do.  I kept listening because I gradually remembered and worked on my childhood and came to think I would have liked it if I had been listened to back then.  I was able to keep listening because I had other parents listening to me.  So thank you to all my listening partners in my community of parents, for your support.
Parenting by Connection Instructor in California

Mommy Is A Silly Creature

The other day my oldest daughter (10) came home from school very tense. She was hot, tired and hungry, but there was also something else that was bothering her, and she wouldn’t say what. After I fed her and let her cool down a little, it was time for her to start doing her homework.

She is usually pretty good about getting her work done in an efficient manner. This time it was almost out of the question. She was growling at me and her younger sister, and looking for reasons to shout, quarrel and fight with the both of us. I could see that there was no easy way out of this one.

Somehow, and I can’t even recall why, I started to make very weird sounds and faces, and even weirder laughing noises. Those made her laugh really, really hard, which kept me going like this for another 15 minutes (which is highly unusual amount of silliness on my behalf!). I didn’t say a single word other than those weird sounds and faces. I could tell that this laugh of hers was not only out of amusement, but also her need to take some of the heavy load off, and at some stage I felt like she wanted her mommy back, and had enough of that strange looking and sounding ‘creature’.

After this session was over, my little daughter who was partly witnessing this asked for us to do it again, but my older one said: “No, I can’t, I have homework to do.” She went straight from there to her desk without any prompt from me, and managed to get all her work done.

In the evening right before bedtime, she was telling me a little bit more about her day, she still didn’t want to tell what was that one other thing that was bothering her, but she seemed to be much more calm about it, and I would probably hear about it in a later stage, as often happens with her. I must admit that this Play Listening was not the easiest thing for me to do. I am not usually a silly type of person. But I was amazed to see the affect it had on my daughter, and like always this is what kept me going.

Ravid Aisenman AbramsohnJoin Certified Instructor Ravid Aisenman Abrahmsohn in one of her classes and start making silly faces! Building Emotional Understanding Online starts May 7. She has limited spaces available. Reserve yours now.

Listening Tools Help Kids with School!

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.

Bad Report CardI 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.

A Nasty Math Surprise

colorcalA father in one of our groups tried Staylistening when his 3rd grade daughter ran into a tough patch with math homework. She had left her math homework for last, it was late in the evening, and she was in for a nasty surprise. Her math homework was a whole page of 30 math questions!

“I can’t do this! This is impossible! It’s too late already. It isn’t fair that I’ve been given all this Math homework on top of my other homework!” she said.

Our father said that before he took our class he would have just told her to tough it out. Instead, he moved close to her and said, “You’re right. It’s not really fair that you’ve been surprised with this homework.” He then gave her 5 minutes or so to vent.

Then he had a suggestion, “Why don’t you start with the first problem and I’ll look at the second problem and offer some suggestions if you get stuck on it?”

She breezed through all 30 questions in under 20 minutes and her father only had to offer one or two short suggestions about the problems along the way. He said it was a vast improvement even over how well she did her homework when she wasn’t tired and at the end of a hard day!

A little Staylistening can go a long way.