If you want to know what your child is really thinking, shut up and listen.
If you’re the typical parent, when your kid comes to you with a problem, you know how they should feel and how they shouldn’t feel. You think you’re being helpful when you say things like:
“Oh, honey, it’ll be okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“It’s not that big of a thing.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“I’m sure it’ll get better.”
“Are you sure you’re not imagining it?”
“This too shall pass.”
“It can’t be that bad!”
But all those seemingly helpful statements convey that you didn’t hear what their heart was saying. That kid risked sharing with you something real and intimate that’s authentically bothering them, and you minimized the importance of that drama.
What is your kid really thinking?
Well, I just tried to bring up something very important to these people who say they love me more than anything, and what do they say? “Don’t worry about it! It’s not a big deal.” They’re not the ones getting called “Pizza Face” at school.
So what will your kid do? He’ll back away from you like you’re a hot potato, flee to his room, and slam the door shut. Then he’ll turn to his semi-confused peer group or BFF for advice.
If you really want to know what your child is thinking, you have to get behind his eyes to view his world from his perspective. To do that, you have to be available and ease into the potential conversation by saying something like: “Looks like you had a rough day. I’ll be here, if you want to talk.”
With such an open invitation, that kid will talk – eventually. When he does, become a masterful listener:
Realize feelings aren’t right or wrong.
They’re just feelings. You don’t like others telling you how you should feel, so why would you do that to your child?
Don’t judge or minimize the drama.
Keep your listening hat on and your mouth shut—except for comments like “I can see why that hurt” or “Tell me more…”
Grow a “third ear” in the middle of your forehead.
Set aside any work you’re doing and engage actively. Listen not only to their words but for the emotion that flashes across their face.
Whenever your child is brave enough to share with you, she’s saying, “I trust you with my deepest feelings and thoughts.” So if you have a kid like that already, I applaud you because you must already be a good listener. If your kid tends to clam up, though, it’s not too late to turn your relationship around. You be the adult in the relationship and say, “I just realized I haven’t been very good at listening to you, but I want to get better at it. Would you be kind enough to help me?”
After the initial shock passes, I doubt a kid on the planet would turn that down.
After all, even when it doesn’t seem like it, you are the most important constant in your child’s rapidly evolving universe.