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As parents, we may unintentionally discourage our kids from sharing their experiences and feelings with us because we may want to use that moment to teach them a lesson. However, kids don’t always feel heard or understood, and this can lead to frustration and resentment. As parents, it can be tempting to use moments of frustration with our kids as teaching moments
However, this can send the message that we don’t want to hear their true feelings. Instead, try to take a step back and listen to them, so you can help them learn to solve their own problems. Parents need to be aware of their role as a consultant for their 3rd grader instead of micromanaging
Telling them what to do can have the opposite effect, as they naturally oppose it. Parents should respond to their child’s bad day by empathizing with them and accepting their feelings, instead of telling them to learn to solve their own problems. Parents must be careful not to challenge their child when they express a feeling of having had a bad day, as this can make them shut down and feel unheard
Instead, parents should listen and accept their child’s feelings, creating a space where they can feel heard and respected. This will help children to be more comfortable to come to their parents with problems. Parents should take a moment to listen to their children and understand them without immediately jumping into correction mode
Kids feel just like adults do when given advice and need to be heard. By taking a moment to listen, parents can build stronger relationships with their children. Nullable Parent Podcast is here to help with parenting
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Welcome to the Knowledgeable Parent Podcast, where we share tips, research, and resources to help you to make the best decisions for yourself, your children, and your family, as you learn to live your best life as a parent. I’m your host, a South Dakota License Marriage and Family Therapist, a registered play therapist supervisor, and most importantly, a mom, Emily Learing
Today I’m going to be talking about a topic that I hear from kids quite a bit in my play room, and that is, does your child feel heard or understood? Kids are telling me that they feel like the adults in their life don’t care about their feelings or don’t want to hear what they have to say, so I’m here to talk with you a little bit about how you can help with that.
Now as a parent hearing this question, you might actually chuckle a little bit and wonder how it is possible that your child might not feel unheard because you actually don’t feel heard. You are asking the same question of why is nobody listening to me. You might feel like you’re asking your kids to get their shoes on, to finish their homework, to do their chores, to take a shower, to brush their teeth.
All of those things, it’s like your voice disappears into the oblivion, and they are not aware that you’re speaking to them at all. So you feel that frustration when someone is not listening to you and parenting is all about perspective taking.
So when you feel unheard, you feel frustrated when your child feels unheard, that’s also frustrating. And unfortunately for us, we deal with the pain as parents that when they feel frustrated, when they feel unheard, even though that’s not intentional on our part, that can impact that relationship and those ongoing conversations that we might have. So I want you to think about a scenario for a second.
You ask your child, how was school, and you here fine, good or I don’t know. And these are frustrating statements for you because you just are really interested in knowing what has happened in their day, and you want to connect with them. And maybe that’s because you’re trying to put more effort and interest in understanding what’s going on in your kid’s life than your parents ever did for you.
And you kind of have a little bit of resentment because you want them to be appreciative of the fact that you are showing that interest. But unfortunately they are kids. They don’t feel that way.
They might not want to share much of anything with you or if they do, they want to do it on their terms. As a therapist, one of the things that I appreciate the most about my job is the view that I get into the inside worlds of kids’ lives. They share stories with me about what happened at school and how frustrating teachers are or how frustrating the other kids in the class are.
And sometimes they even share with me the frustrating ways in which adults in their lives don’t have time to listen to them about what’s happened in their life. So they have something really important to say and there’s no one there to listen. And so you’re probably thinking, as you reflect back on what I just said, wait a second, I’m asking them how is their day, what happened, tell me about what’s been going on, and they just don’t want to tell me what they’re thinking or what they’re feeling about their day.
And that’s frustrating for me because I’m here to listen. And they don’t want to tell me, and then they’re going to their therapist and saying nobody wants to listen to what I have to say. That’s hard as a parent.
The issue is that kids don’t feel heard at times because as parents, and I’m guilty of this too, as parents we might accidentally discourage them from telling us the things that have gone on in their day, because we view this exact moment as an essential teaching moment in their life. So I’m going to share an example here that might hit a little bit close to home and help you to understand how you might have accidentally done this as well to your kiddos. So let’s say you roll up to the school pickup line, your third grade
son hops in, and you say to him, how was school today? And his response is stupid. So here’s a moment for you.
As a parent, you may want to tell him not to be so negative. Or maybe this is stupid as a word that you don’t allow in your house. So you say that’s not the type of language that we use.
Or you’re feeling a little frustrated that you sent him to a really awesome school that cost a lot of money. And you see this as an ungrateful response for what he has been given in his life. And so you want to use this as a teaching moment to say, hey, one of them should be a little bit more grateful for the awesome life that we’ve given you.
These are places where our mind, our parent mind goes as we see this as an absolutely essential moment to correct what he’s saying to help make a teaching moment out of the situation to help build skills for him or change his behavior or mold him into the human that we want him to become. The unfortunate part about this is even though it comes from a loving spot, we are wanting to do good for him and to teach him. What we actually did is we sent him the message, hey, don’t tell me about what school is
like today. Tell me the words that I want to hear. Don’t have emotions or feelings or thoughts about how things didn’t go according to your plan today, just tell me what I want.
That one is kind of tough because we never intended to do that. But when we use those moments as teaching moments, we accidentally do that. So when we get caught up in this moment of, I need to correct you or I need to teach you something, we are completely missing the opportunity to actually hear what they had to say.
of course, the next time that our third grade son has a stupid or frustrating or annoying day, is he going to come into the car and say, Hey, mama, I want to tell you all about this. Hey, dad, I want to tell you all about this. No, he’s not going to.
we’re never going to find out what made that day so difficult for him because he’s not going to feel that comfort. If every time he comes with a frustrating moment, we use that as a teaching moment. Okay. So now that our gut instinct as a parent has to go out the window, what do
there are going to be some moments that are lives as parents that we just have to tell ourselves to close our mouths. Basically shut off that logical brain that says, I need to say this thing. I need to address this situation.
instead of seeing everything as a teaching moment, as a molding moment, we need to say to ourselves, I want to hear what he has to say. I want to know how he feels. I want him to feel like I understand and respect him.
then we approach that conversation in that exact way. Now, of course, there are going to be times when you can’t do this. If your child is in a dangerous situation, unsafe situation, you might have to step in and say, I have to say something.
but there are plenty of moments that we can actually step out of our, I’m the expert role or I know exactly what you need to be taught in this moment role. And just be there in an, I’m here to listen to you. And I know that you’re the expert on how you’re feeling right now, role.
it’s hard. It’s hard to admit that those spots are there. Those opportunities are there.
but they are. So your child does not know what they really need to do or to learn from this moment. But being present with them in that moment might just help them to figure that out with your help instead of you being the expert coach is going to do it for them.
because our job as parents is to help to teach them for how they can handle certain frustrating situations and how they can make plans in their life. There’s a million different concepts that we’re trying to teach them. But if we do it all for them, if we use those teaching moments to kind of micromanage them, we’re not really helping them to solve those problems on their own.
while a two-year-old might need us to do a lot of things for them, a third grader doesn’t need us to do that. And so we need to be aware of that and to step back and recognize our role as more of a consultant instead of that micromanaging role.
Ironically our desire to tell them what they’re supposed to do often times has the opposite effect, especially as kids get into upper elementary school, middle school and high school, when they are trying to be more independent and make more decisions on their own. They might have wanted to try the thing that you’ve suggested, but now that you’ve suggested it, there’s no way that they’re going to try it. They’re naturally going to have a little opposition to the suggestion that you have made.
Think back on your own childhood, did that ever happen to you? I know that it definitely did for me. My mom told me that I knew a lot about kids, was really great with them, so she suggested that I start out my career working at a preschool in town. I
want to. I kind of rebelled and I got a job at a restaurant, which I actually really hated, but she was right. My current career is an excellent example of that, but simply because she told me to do it in my mind, she was wrong, and I had to do something completely opposite.
So this desire to help them to solve the problem and to tell them what they need to do might actually backfire for kids, or they don’t feel heard, and they feel like we’re just telling them what to do, and they’re not going to want to follow that suggestion that we’ve given them. So let’s look back at your third grader who had a stupid day at school. How can you respond to him in a way that encourages him to talk to you?
I’m going to give you some examples. First off, we want to just simply try, whenever possible, to stop ourselves as the parent when you want to correct them for saying something, or doing something, and think, is this a time that I actually need to respond, or can I just be here for them? Do I need to correct him for saying, saying stupid?
Maybe not. You could say, I’m sorry that your day felt stupid today, or if you don’t like the use of the word stupid, you could just say, I’m sorry that you had a bad day, or I’m sorry that you felt that way today. Or you could say, oh, something happened today that made you feel like today was a really stupid day, or made you feel like today was a really bad day. Those ways allow your kid to feel heard. You have just said, it’s okay to tell me that you had a stupid day today. And that is what is going to help them to feel like they can go on and make that next statement. For kids, it’s hard. Even for adults, it’s hard for us to talk about our problems, but for kids, especially, it’s hard for them to put into words what has happened. So having a stupid day is as far as they are ready to go and that is okay.
if they want to go further, you accepting that statement allows them the opportunity to do it. But if they don’t, they’re not feeling ready.
But what you’ve done is help your child to feel heard. The statement also helps to encourage your child to go forward knowing that he has been heard and that you care that his day was tough. A lot
of times, parents in a good-hearted fashion are saying, okay, life is tough. People are going to be mean, work is going to be hard someday. I need to tell him that he needs to learn how to solve this problem.
And so kids are feeling like parents don’t care that they had a rough day. Don’t care that it’s really hard to sit all day and meet the expectations of teachers or don’t care that it was a hard day on the playground when the kids on the playground were treating them poorly. And so it’s really, really important for parents to recognize that yes, they do need to learn these skills, but at third grade, they just want to know that you care that it was a really rough day.
Okay, so let’s move forward. Let’s say that this is what he says when you say, oh, I’m sorry that you had a really rough day today or that you felt like your day was really bad. Let’s say you say that to them and he says, oh, my teacher was so annoying today. She got mad at me for no reason
Okay you’re a parent. I’m a parent. We’re all thinking it for absolutely no reason at all. I highly
doubt that. But if we challenge him in that moment, when he has just said, okay, I want to tell you what happened. I felt like my day was stupid.
it’s because my teacher was annoying and got mad at me for no reason. We have to put all our self control into our mouth right there to say, I am not going to challenge him on that. I’m not going to say, really, are you sure it was for no reason at all?
It’s highly unlikely that it was, but again, if we challenge him and we tell him that there probably was something that he did, he’s going to shut down again and not feel heard. So instead of trying to focus on why he doesn’t need to be so hard on the teacher, instead of trying to focus on what he can do differently and forcing him to kind of clam up and feel unheard and disrespected, we want to help him to feel as if the rest of his afternoon and evening doesn’t have to be this way. Like we
are here to care about him and to hear that the day was was rough and to accept that and to allow him to move forward how he wants to. So instead of going with our good instinct to challenge that, we’re just here to listen. Oh, your day was stupid because your teacher got mad at you and you feel like there was no reason at all for her to get mad to you today
that keyword is you felt this way. So we’re not saying that there was no way that she got mad at it or there was no reason that she got mad at him. We’re just saying you feel like there was no reason at all for her to get mad at you today.
It feels weird to talk like this. As a therapist, this is how I have to talk to kids quite a bit. It’s part of the therapy protocol and it’s amazing how much it allows kids to open up.
As a parent, it’s hard for me to do this sometimes because I do want to just jump in and solve the problem. But just being present and hearing what they have to say, even with even if we disagree with them is really, really important for them. It’s a hard transition to go from an expert to I hear you when I care about how you feel.
We’ve always had both roles, but when we are the expert kids can’t grasp the concept that we care about them and care about how they feel. So sometimes we have to not be that expert. They feel hurt, unheard and disrespected and misunderstood when we are the expert.
But when we do show them that we hear them responding in ways like this, they feel hurt, they feel respected. And most importantly for you and your relationship with your child, they feel way more comfortable to tell you what happened at school with their friends or when someone did something scary or dangerous on the playground. Because if they’re afraid that you’re going to go right to the teacher or you’re going to criticize the action that was taken or something like that, they’re afraid that you’re going to get mad about that.
They are not going to tell you that. They’re not going to tell you that in third grade. They’re not going to tell you that in fifth grade and they’re not going to tell you that in tenth grade.
if you are hoping to have the type of relationship with your kids that they come to you when there’s a problem, say they’ve made a mistake and they find themselves at a party and they need someone to give them someone to call to come get them. If your response has always been don’t do this, don’t do that, fix this, fix that, that kind of micromanaging role. They might not feel comfortable to call you in that moment.
In my years of working with parents, I know that this is your biggest fear. It’s exactly why you correct in those moments because you want to help them to become kind and respectful and good humans who grow up and make the world a better place. moments for this to take place throughout your role as a parent.
There’s plenty of those opportunities. But today, I encourage you to take a moment to just be with them. Hear them, get a glimpse into what it’s like to be a child in today’s world.
Because you know what? You might not actually be the expert in this situation. I have been wrong so many times because I’m misinterpreting something as a parent.
And so I’m lucky that I have some of these skills that I oftentimes have two thoughts going on in my head at the same time. This is my therapist’s mind and this is my parent mind. So I’ll tell myself, okay, I’m going to jump into therapist mode, but I might have to jump into parent mode here really quick.
And as I do these, have these conversations, I realize that I’ve misunderstood my son. And so now I am lucky that I didn’t jump into parent role because by being in therapist role, I was able to figure out what was going on for him and he was able to figure out what was going on for himself without me kind of damaging that relationship by jumping in. Have I jumped in plenty of times? Absolutely. we have all made those mistakes, but it’s important for us to be aware that we can step out of that role and try to listen and understand instead of assuming we know everything.
Do you remember what it was like to be a child and to feel like your parents totally did not understand you and what it means to be a kid at that time? That’s a developmental phase that we all have to go through. You probably remember them giving you advice that you also thought was totally way off.
Those are good things for us to remember because when we’re giving advice to our kids, they feel exactly the same way. This is generation to generation. Some things have changed.
The way parents parent has changed, the way people interact with their children has changed, but a lot of the phases of development are exactly the same. Grown ups have to think that teenagers listen to crazy off the wall music. That’s just the way that it goes.
Teenagers need to think that nobody understands them. Even when they have a parent who is right there trying to figure it out, teenagers have to feel like their life is the worst life that exists. It’s part of the developmental process.
Even though you feel like you’re doing way better as a parent than your parents did, your kids are still going to have a lot of those similar phases. These responses are helping to mitigate some of that, but they’re still going to go through those developmental phases. That’s good and that’s healthy and that’s appropriate.
Your kids want to feel heard just like you want to feel heard. They feel like oftentimes that adults just don’t get them, just like you felt that way. They think that your advice is bad, just like you thought your parents advice was bad, so save yourself the energy of not giving too much advice because they’re probably not going to take it anyway.
Here you are in the moment. You still have a chance to show your kids that you do want to listen to them and you do care what they think. You have an opportunity.
Next time your child comes to you and shares something with you, first ask yourself, is this something that I really need to be so focused on correcting? Or can I just show him that I’m here for him no matter what? If you can agree to just show him in this moment that you’re here for him and commit to avoiding the correction or that lesson teaching itch that you have as a parent, you might be surprised to see how much he does want to share with you about his day, not just today but going forward and how much he’s willing to open up way more to you.
So hopefully today you got some tips on how you can help your child to feel heard. I wish I could give you some suggestions today on how you can feel more heard, but maybe that’s for another episode. Try using some of these tips and if you have found them to be effective, please drop a comment in the comment section. Thanks! Have a great day!
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