How to listen to get my child to talk was a mystery I couldn’t solve when my children were young. I mean, how to get your child to REALLY talk so you knew what was going on at times when you knew something wasn’t okay for your child.
I remember my own son becoming so upset about nursery school that eventually I let him stay home. Some months later, when he was settled in primary school, we drove past the previous school and he said,
‘Oh, that’s where I used to go to school. I didn’t want to go because they wanted me to be in the Christmas play.’
Here he was telling me exactly what the problem was – but months earlier, nothing I’d tried helped me to find out what was wrong. I just had a child who was so upset that nothing worked when it came to leaving him at school.
What I wish I’d known then was how to connect so he would tell me his story.
Here’s a coaching tool to unlock communication that I wish I’d known back then.
If you want your child to talk, a key awareness that’s needed is to ‘PARK’.
Whether the issue is bullying, your child unhappy at school, sibling rivalry or whatever, often as parents we rush in with a PLAN (i.e. find solutions), instead of ‘PARKing our own story to hear our child’s. So often we try to imagine the problem. We try to do something helpful. We try to offer a solution. But first your child needs to experience that you’re connecting with his (or her) perspective.
When your child senses you don’t ‘get him’, he’s likely to keep up the non-communication barriers. He needs to sense you’re there for him. that you want to hear hist story,
‘Well, of course I’m there for him,’ I would have replied.
What I didn’t realise then was that to really ‘be there for him’ the first thing I need to do is PARK my own agenda.
And as a parent, my agenda was often ‘Fix it.’
We want instant ‘sort it out.’
But some things need time. Some things need to be processed.
Just as the most successsful doctors are those who listen first to you, who hear what you think, what’s concerning you, what you know is needed – that is what your child needs too.
So PARK your agenda: your desire for a quick fix, your desire to try to reason that he really likes school / that he has lots of friends/ that his sister likes school. None of your information is likely to be helpful for him, at this point.
PARK your frustration, your worries that you have to make this better.
Put yourself in neutral.
Choose to see your child’s situation with compassion, trying to imagine it from his perspective, and yet without emotionally hooking in.
Imagine if the doctor became upset that he couldn’t ‘fix you’ – you would lose all sense of trust and safety with him.
So PARK everything that’s about you – your desires, your emotions, your solutions.
Choose to put that all aside and just be present to your child.
Listen without interrupting; without offering solutions.
Show by your body language, by your listening presence, that you are there to hear your child’s story.
What I’m suggesting isn’t easy. It takes time, skill and practice on your part. Here’s another blog about the Koemba approach on how to effectively communicate with your child because a deeper connection is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your child.