Watch What We Say
Kids are observing. Contantly. It doesn’t matter if we’re on the cell or on line in a store. If they hear us talking negatively about others, they will obviously think that’s ok because to our young children, we’re the smartest people on the planet. And they are the best mimics in the world.
When we raise people up with kind words, they hear it. Then they copy us.
When we take them down a notch, they hear it. Then they copy us.
Over 64% of kids don’t tell an adult when they’ve been bullied which is why it’s so critical that kids trust that when they say something, they will be heard.
Listening. Sounds SO easy. It’s not. I catch myself zoning out when others are talking all the time. It’s a universal problem but also a very damaging one when kids are trying to tell us something important. And sometimes they don’t use words, they speak with body language which takes even more of our ability to “be in the moment.”
Here’s a trick. WARNING: it entails putting the cell phone away. Not down. Away.
If you’re a stay at home mom, take a few deep breaths before you see them after school. Sounds crazy but it’s just as important as combing your hair or changing the shirt that your baby just threw up on before you go outside. Deep cleansing breaths. Inhale and fill your lungs, exhale and blow out. At least three times.
When you greet your kids, look them in the eyes. Then ask a specific question. How was lunchtime today? Recess? The quiz? Then focus on their answer enough to ask a follow up question. If you do this consistently, kids will trust that you want to hear what they say.
If you work outside the home, practice this right before you go in the door. It’s tough because you’ve probably been practicing the art of listening to colleagues, clients and others all day. But you’re down the home stretch (literally). Fifteen minutes of your undivided attention will do wonders.
Avoid the word “Just”
I’m picking on the word “just” but it’s any word that minimizes a situation. (“Whatever” is another one.)
When a child expresses that someone is bothering him/her, including a sibling, put your fist in your mouth if your instinct is to say “Just ignore it.” “Just let it roll of your back.” “Just find another friend.”
Quickest way to get them to clam up is to minimize that they feel hurt or scared or embarrassed. It’s a signal that we don’t truly understand and sometimes to a child that’s the biggest hurt. Whether on the surface it’s a big deal or not, to that child and at that moment, it IS a big deal. Everyone wants to feel understood. Understand first. Work on solutions second, even if the solution is to help your child put a situation in perspective.
Now go and give yourself a pat on the back. You’re a Superhero in Mom Jeans (or Dad Sneaders!)