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Did You Hear Me?

Contributed by Melanie Miller, M.Ed. (Based on work by Daniel Siegel)

How often do we say to our kids, “Did you hear me?” You’ve called them for dinner three times and they’re still sitting in front to the TV. You’ve asked them to not leave dirty dishes in the sink… and there they are, overflowing and not even rinsed!

Did you know that our kids often ask us this same question? However, they don’t use those four words, “Did you hear me?” Instead they ask this question by asking for the same thing over and over again, complaining and whining, escalating their behavior or resisting doing a simple everyday task.

Take for example, the child that doesn’t want to go to school. He dawdles, takes forever to get dressed, and complains about how boring school is. You remind him about how important school is and how much fun he will have! You carry on about the wonderful benefits of an education as your child dawdles some more and misses the school bus. Then, when you angrily tell him, “You’ll just have to walk!” He loudly exclaims, “School sucks!!!!” Okay…now, did you hear him?

Next time your child says, I don’t want to ____________________ (fill in the blank, I’m sure you’ll think of many examples). Stop and think of the words, “feeling felt.” Daniel Siegel uses the phrase “feeling felt” as a sense that we get when we feel that someone else cares. A sense we get when we believe that the other person has taken the time to truly listen and hear our perspective. When we feel felt, we get the sense that we count, we are valued and that someone “gets us.” “Feeling felt” is the part that is missing when we coax, remind, list the benefits, and try to change our child’s opinion or perception of a situation.

Next time you’re baffled and frustrated by your child’s behavior simply listen to your child’s struggle and validate his/her feelings. “It sounds like you really don’t want to go to school today, tell me more.” “It sounds like school is boring and there is too much writing, what else is going on?”

By being truly listened to and validated, your child will feel “felt”. Once she feels “felt” (validated) she can move on and usually get past the resistant behavior. Until she feels felt, she will continue to cry, complain, refuse and basically ramp up the behavior to avoid school or any other task at hand. It’s helpful if parents can let their kids have their feelings…and still hold on to the priority of getting them to school or getting the task done.

Turn around the letters of LISTEN…you get SILENT….
Parents can say a lot less and have a greater effect!

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