They remember how you make them feel
It’s great to be back with you. I've taken a break from podcasts and blogs over the summer. I hope you've found some rest and refreshment.
For those of you just joining, my name is madeleine,
I’m a writer, speaker, parent-coach, mother to five, foster mum and podcaster
Join us every week and we’ll cover everything from tantrums and chat-back, to hormones, sibling issues, anxiety and teen troubles – everything and anything that can cause disconnect in your relationships with your children. – ie. How to keep those connections in good health, even when you disagree with your kids.
A friend of mine says to me from time to time “I wish you could just sit on my shoulder.” . So whilst I can’t be on your shoulder, if you journey with us, you won’t need me to be. That said, I’m not here to claim Perfection – it’s not even a goal of mine. But there are
some tools and ways that have enabled me and many of my listeners to switch into a different mindset when in those 'confronting' zones with family members. Tools that empower me and empower my children and that’s what I love to pass on
Parenting is a big, crazy, rewarding, stretching journey and it takes courage. Because every day we’re making choices – and they’re not always the easy ones.
So welcome to... The courageous Mumma.
I’m going to launch into the new (school) year with a refreshing reminder as this week's tool, though it will be new to some.
It’s a great way to prevent a small frustration becoming a moment of combat. But it’s also a mindset shift in the way we listen and help our children to be heard – actually it works for all relationships, it’s so powerful and so straightforward.
I’m going to show you at the end how it works for all age groups.
Let's take a scenario - Perhaps you’ve got a child – could be any age, who’s frustrated because he’s not been picked for the sports team he was hoping for.
He comes in all upset and telling you how stupid it is and how stupid the teacher is and how rubbish so and so is and why they shouldn’t have been picked and he should have, and how this is going to mess up his term, his friendship groups, his lunchtimes, his life quite frankly.
Just have a quick think about how you’d respond to that.
What was your response?
What did you feel your role was in that scenario?
Perhaps to calm him down?
To reassure him?
To put some optimism back into his life?
Maybe to distance him from the idea that his life has just gone down the tubes?
To big him up a little?
Or maybe you got a bit surprised by his aggression, perhaps you called him out on some of the negative tones towards peers and teachers
Or did you lighten things up a bit? Have a little laugh in the hope he’d see perspective?
Told him a story or two about your early days.
What would your tool of choice have been?
The thing is, these little moments are our big moments – to let them know
"We get it"
They’re clocking our responses, we’re on trial here – are you mum or dad, going to be the voice I want to hear when the stakes get bigger?
Or let me put that another way –
When the stakes get bigger, they will have hundreds of little frames of reference of how they felt in your company through the years when life felt tough. And they’ll be evaluating whether you’re to be trusted with their hurting heart in this big moment.
Notice, I didn’t say, they’ll reference the things you said.
They probably wont remember them all.
But they will remember how you made them feel.
And what do we all want to feel when we share something that feels rubbish?
Do we want to feel
Beefed up a litte?
We want to feel
THE number one complaint of teenagers is
‘My parents don’t understand me’
That’s not because they didn’t get the latest tek when they wanted it.
That’s because for years and years they’ve been ‘managed’ when they felt their world was falling apart.
I had a great chat with a mum the other day. She was lamenting the fact that their child wanted an app on his phone that they felt wasn’t suitable for him.
They sat him down
They told him they loved him
They explained all the reasons why it wasn’t appropriate.
After the mum had shared all this with me, I asked her, "Who got heard and understood? You or your child?"
"OH NO!" she said, "I didn’t see it like that. It was us! We got the floor, the airtime, he just had to sit and listen."
Exactly! Well done that mum.
So let’s go back to the sports disappointment...
Instead of imparting any parenting wisdom. Say nothing. Just Listen.
I know you think you listen, we all think we do, but in reality, it’s something we practise and get better at. And as someone who lives, breathes, teaches, writes, speaks and coaches it, even I have to discipline myself, because it’s not intuitive. In fact it’s counter-intuitive. Good listeners aren’t actually that easy to find. So no matter how good a listener you are, see if there’s just a little something you could polish up on.
Do you know what listening isn’t?
It’s not waiting to speak
It’s not listening with an agenda
It’s just taking-in what that child is saying.
Count to ten if you have to. Take a breath, take a few. But just hear them out.
And add any of the following for extra points:
Face them (especially if you’re in the middle of something else)
Make eye contact
Pull up a chair
None of these will diminish your right to your own opinion. They’re just non-verbal ways of saying, 'You have my full attention.'
And then just reflect back what you’ve heard
The easiest way to do this is to round up what you’ve heard. So you might say, "So you’ve not made the team and you were really hoping you would. "
Then and have a guess at how it’s making them feel.
"Sounds like you feel that’s been handled really unfairly."
You still haven’t agreed or disagreed, shot the coach, secretly agreed with coach, or nailed your colours to the mast in any way.
Because, this isn’t about you or how you feel. This is simply about them. And about you conveying the message:
"I accept that this is impacting you in a really tough way. "
"It feels enormous to you."
That’s going into their hard drive for later – years later.
That’s going into their bank of perception about how good a listener you are.
And it cost you nothing.
They may add something, they may need to say it again, they may settle. But one thing they won’t do is get more lairy...
They’ve been heard
There’s nothing to argue about
They haven’t got to amp up so that you really get it, coz you’ve got it
You’re just nodding and hearing as they continue, because now they trust that you’re on their side. You care about their feelings.
And when they’re done, just round up again
Not word for word, but in essence.
"So the sports teacher didn’t put you in the team this term.
They put Billy in instead and you feel he’s not as strong a player
And it sounds like you feel overlooked."
But why Madeleine?
Why can’t I just do my normal default stuff?
Well you can
But it might be a short-term play.
They’re watching you with interest.
And in the next few weeks there’ll be all sorts of different small and big moments that could easily give way to conflict, fights, or just disconnect.
When they come at you because you haven’t done something they’d hoped for
Or you’re in a conflict about their mess; They’re in turmoil about homework, screen time, free time…
Wouldn’t you love those moments to have no angst?
For the frustration to have nothing to stick to?
I had a classic one yesterday – not with a child, but with my husband. I was tired, we’d had a really long journey, I was on the phone. He stopped the car and started crunching up rubbish from a take-away, the noise was...well 'crunchy' on our end, but probably pretty deafening for the person on the other end. You know how that sound magnifies?! I shot him the irritated look (you know the one), he threw his hands in the air as though I was being a Diva – you know the escalation. I politely hung up and said, "That was so hard to hear." His normal defence would have been something like, "Well, I was just clearing the rubbish out of the car." But he didn’t retort.
He leant in
He said, "Sounds like you were finding it hard to hear whilst I was crunching rubbish."
"Well, yes, I felt for the person on the other end."
"That can feel awkward and frustrating," he added.
My shoulders relaxed. Nothing to defend, nothing to escalate, nothing.
Notice he didn’t apologise or agree, he just totally reflected how it made me feel.
And even though I know it’s a technique, it still does the job!
So how does this work for all age groups?
Well, let’s take a baby for example.
They’re not complaining about the sports team, they’re just crying.
And what is a common parental response?
"Mummy’s here." (or Daddy)_
"You’re going to be fine."
Right from the get-go, we're not listening. We’re telling the baby what we think they need to hear.
Quite frankly it’s not fine at all. They’re tired, hungry, worried.
So what can we say instead?
"Hey, you’re feeling upset."
"I’m going to try to work out what’s upsetting you."
Or if you know they’re hungry you can say,
"You’re hungry, you need to eat; your tummy hurts."
Now it’s about them and their needs.
They’ve been heard and understood.
You’ve calmed their Amygdala – their fight flight or freeze zone.
It builds trust.
Even when they're only months old.
What about the toddler who’s fallen over?
How quick are we to say
"It’ll be fine"
"There’s no blood."
How about leaning in to the frustration...
"That was a bump."
"You must be feeling upset."
"It’s sore is it?"
The tween who’s furious they have to clean their room before they can go out....
"Darling, That’s time consuming."
"You’re worried you’re going to miss out." (or reflect their complaint)
"It feels overwhelming."
You don’t have to go in and do it for them. You don’t have to let them go out before it’s done, but you can let them know you understand how big it feels. You could ask if there’s anything you could do that would feel supportive as they rise to their responsibility, but avoid the temptation to point out the obvious things, like – "Well if you’d done it in the week we wouldn’t be where we are now"
Leaning in doesn’t give them anything to hook into. Just agree, it’s a big job. They might carry on ranting, but they are less likely to escalate
I have had such great feedback from this.
It’s literally a magic tool.
No rolling eyes
Accept (not agree, just accept)
And watch the temperature go down
The trust go up.
The message you’re sending is
It’s ok to feel like that
I accept your feelings
I can love you when you’re calm and when you’re agitated
I’m not going to jump into the pit of despair with you
But I’m not going to run away either
I accept you
Try it on your kids, your friends, your partner.
And let me know how it goes for you.
In fact, whether you’re rejoining after the summer and part of our regular listeners or just popping in, let me know what you’ve found useful – or what you would find useful. It’s lovely to receive feedback, it’s what keeps me going. It’s what helps me to feel I’m part of a group of parents who want to raise emotionally healthy children in this crazy world.
If you’ve got the book, you’ll find chapter three on MESS is a great accompaniment to today’s podcast.
If you haven’t and you’d love a full colour, hard backed book with great parenting tools, that’s written so that you can just pick up one page and change your day or dig into a whole chapter, you’ll love
Parenting For Life
...and you’ll find it on this website . Pop to this page
You’ll also find information there if you’re looking for some one-to-one support in your family life. You can come and share with me and we’ll find some tools that will take the tension out of family life.
here's the link
See you next week.