Is your voice heard?
How’s half term going?
Are you having some fun?
Have you managed to get away
Are you getting out and seeing some of the lovely autumn colours?
or at home with Covid?
or juggling the work/holiday balance?
I’ve got a question for you…
Do you feel your voice is being listened to by your kids?
Is your word pure gold?
Is your influence beginning to fade as they get older?
This week, I’m going to share an easy way to help your kids value your words.
I remember a parent saying to me a few years ago, ‘why is my voice white noise in our house?’ On closer inspection I was able to help her understand why her well thought through wonderful supportive and loving words were being roundly ignored.
So, if you feel that sometimes you get a bit side-lined, here are some reasons why that could be happening.
Let’s start with some basic neurology.
Our brains are wired to fight, flight or freeze when they feel in danger. Not just physical danger, but any danger. And the most hazardous form of danger to most children, is emotional danger.
You might be thinking, well that’s unlikely to happen in my house.
But it happens that there are some hidden traps that parents frequently fall into so it may well be your kids are experiencing the need to fight flight or freeze at the very moment you think you could be being the most doting and loving parent on the planet.
It works like this…
If a child, or anyone for that matter senses that they are being advised before they are being heard and understood, they put up their defences. They respond from their amygdala. They hear
I’ll give you a couple of examples and ways that you can change from defence to influence.
1. Your child says they really want to do well in English this term because they’ve been slipping back (instead of English, you can insert, Spanish, geography, Running, Football, dancing – you name it.)
And you as a loving parent say, that’s a great idea. And then you make supportive suggestions. They could be anything at all, even supportive ideas. Any ideas.
But the problem is you’ve come back with advice.
Supportive loving advice,
But their brain is shutting you out. You’re not opening a door and hearing how they feel and whether they have any thoughts on the matter; you’re just loading in with
Remember that analogy of the bridge? Each relationship we have is like a bridge. We tend one side and the child (or partner, friend) tends the other. It's our role to keep our side clean, clear and free from rot, rust and decay.
Your response has just popped a large delivery on the middle of your relational bridge squarely between them and you. They can’t even see you. It’s a jam.
How about drawing them over bridge by -
Taking an interest
Leading from their words
“That sounds like a great idea.”
“Do you have any ideas how to do that?”
“Is there any way I can be supportive?”
That leaves an open door in the middle of the bridge,
A wide invitation.
They may say they’re just thinking about it
They may ask for help
This is your magic moment not to step over to their side - uninvited.
If they learn that every time they share their thinking with you it comes with a bucket load of unsolicited advice, whether it’s about friends, work, play, sport, keeping their room tidy, they will learn not to share their thinking with you.
2. Here’s another example,
They have a bit of a moan about something you don’t agree with.
For example a little one might complain about
tidying up the toys
A primary school child might say - – I hate P.E.
An older child might declare how awful a teacher is.
Or perhaps they just share something they mind about a friend.
And what they’re really saying is, “I’m struggling with this.” But what often comes out of them is a complaint, a whinge a moan or frustration.
Or maybe it is just a passing statement
But if we jump in and tell them the merits of a tidy room/P.E. or let them know that next year they might not get that teacher – their brain goes into defence.
Now I know that you might have heard some previous podcasts of mine on being a better listener. But here’s an extra piece of information that is vital.
If a child finds that their words are not received and accepted
They begin by discounting the voice
It can end with discounting the person.
I’m not suggesting you’re anywhere near that stage, but you don’t need me to tell you that IT IS a stage, and it does happen.
The stage before – discounting the voice – that can look like three things.
Either, they disengage when you’re in mid-flow so you feel cut off – even if it’s only by their body language.
they actively disagree.
They appear to listen, to even agree. But not to really engage, press in, find out more about what you mean by your wonderful suggestions. They’re just ending the conversation in a polite way. And then going off and doing whatever they think is best. So you may find over time you’ve been ignored, even if in the moment they’re playing the game.
They do as you say because it’s the easiest route, but it’s a passive route
And they all have repercussions.
They all trigger a fight, flight or freeze response in your child. You might not see it, it might be indiscernible, but it’s there. The fear of not being heard, understood and accepted is a micro trauma that sets off a trajectory of behaviour. (Pop back to podcast on Micro Traumas!)
And I’ll share with you what those are; which behaviour trajectories will a micro trauma send your child off to?
Well…the fighter learns to do things in secret, even though they may look like they are towing the line – know any young people like that?
The flighter learns to do their own thing but perhaps in a more rebellious way.
The freezer (you get what I mean) doesn’t learn to build muscle and develop critical thinking, they find it harder to develop mentally and emotionally and prefer to sink into the back ground and always be lead.
Either way, if they’re not being listened to, accepted, heard and understood, engaged with, emphasised with, or asked what they think or how they want to go forward, their emotional needs are not being met and that has ramifications. But it is easily resolved.
I say easily, BUT
It takes some self-discipline to hold your tongue and your advice and just lean in and understand and agree with the emotions it is producing in them.
Put it this way. If you’ve had your say – you haven’t really heard them.
No mirror-neurons are firing…they’re learning not to share.
So next time you catch yourself handing out any advice at all, that hasn’t been asked for – to a friend, to a partner, to a child …Hold your tongue and just listen.
When they’ve finished asked interested questions.
Just lean in.
“Is there any way I can help you through this?”
“Is there anything I can do to help you?”
That’s connection. Now you’ve really heard them.
If it’s the only tool you ever take seriously in all of your parenting, it will still be life changing for them and relationship changing for both of you, because they trust you with their heart. Now and for later when the bigger stuff comes along.
Pop here to listen to the podcast on this, it's a great 10 minute listen. See you there.