Monday, January 10, 2011

Effective Listening

My daughter, MonkeyGirl, has been coming home from school with a 'sore tummy'. The school will call me at lunch time and I go pick her up. We drive home and she jumps out of the car, runs inside and asks 'Can I watch a movie?' Well. . .this does not seem like a girl with a 'sore tummy' but I play along for a day, two days, three days. During our days home we have been discussing her tummy aches. She says she doesn't have enough time to finish her lunch at school so she gets hungry and then her tummy hurts. This makes sense to me so I try to help her by cutting and peeling all fruit, offering lots of snacks as well as a sandwich. I talk to her teacher about allowing Emalee a bit more time if needed to finish her lunch. Day 4 - another 'sore tummy' and another phone call home at lunch.
MonkeyGirl and I, posing in the sun!
I have just started reading Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon. The ideas in this book are helping with my listening skills. I ask Emalee about her 'sore tummy' again. She tells me that she goes outside to play but no one wants to play with her then they come inside to eat and her tummy hurts and she doesn't feel like eating. Ah ha! We have identified a different problem. The AquaMom I was before reading Dr. Gordon's book would offer a list of suggestions. 'Why don't you ask someone else? How about you ask a friend from your class before you go outside? Try joining in without asking.' After reading his book (at least the first half) I try listening to her instead. This is Emalee's own problem, this doesn't effect me personally or so this book says. It does make me incredibly sad that no one wants to play with my sweet, loving Monkey but for the sake of listening and helping her to solve her own problem I try to listen without advising or suggesting. I validate her feelings by saying that it looks like it makes you very sad when no one will play with you. She tells me more about her efforts to find a playmate. I continue to validate her feelings and listen as she tells me about what has been happening on the playground. When our conversation has come to an end we play and read a story.
This morning I ask her if she is feeling worried about outside playtime. She said nope, I'm not worried. This makes me feel great. I hope she has solved her own problem. This type of listening is very hard for me. I want to help my MonkeyGirl and I now realize that I can't solve all her problems. I enjoy listening to her feelings and she seems to relax when I validate them for her. This has helped us both when she is hurt or sad and crying. If I validate her feelings by saying 'You are feeling sad because you banged your knee and it really hurt you.' or 'Are you feeling frustrated because Mr.Man messed up your game, again?'
I plan to continue using listening and validation of feelings with all the relationships in my life.

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