Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to listen so kids will talk

A month or two ago, my mom sent me this book.  I still haven't made it past the first chapter, mostly because I keep rereading that same chapter over and over again trying to memorize it all!  So while I can't speak for the entire book, just the first chapter has been so incredible when I've put it into action.

The basic premise is that when your children tell you something, rather than responding as you think you "should," you listen, articulate their feelings, and let them keep talking.

Case in point:  Abigail was practicing the piano and she kept counting the beats incorrectly.  I tried the following:

a) told her she needed to count it out loud
b) counted it out loud for her
c) played it and counted it
d) had her play it again and count it

We went through this several times until both of us were really frustrated.  She kept telling me I didn't know what I was talking about, that she was playing it just fine, etc.  I responded (trying SO hard to keep my cool!) that I had been playing the piano for several decades and that I did indeed know what I was talking about, and that she needed to listen to me so she could learn it correctly.  She was so mad that she was literally shaking with rage and finally I sent her to cool down.  I told her to go sit in another room and come back when she was ready to listen to me.  I thought this was a fairly reasonable solution--I wasn't yelling at her, and I was allowing her to cool off and decide when she was ready to come back.

Except she didn't come back--I sat down at the piano and played through a couple of songs waiting for her and she still didn't return.  So I asked her to come sit next to me and I tried the Faber method.

I said, "You're frustrated because you feel like you're counting it correctly and I told you that you weren't."

She glared at me and said nothing, so I tried again.

"That must be really frustrating when I tell you that you're making a mistake."

She glared at me some more and I just sat there and waited for her to say something.  Slowly her glare melted away.  I sat there a little longer.

Finally she uncrossed her arms, leaned forward, and said, "I'm upset because when I came home from school I didn't have any reading time.  I ate my snack and then you helped me with my vocabulary and then you said to practice piano, and I really want to just read for a few minutes and have some quiet time to do what I want to do."

Totally not what I expected at all!

So I said, "I understand that you want some time to do what you feel like doing."

And she said, "Yes.  I want to read for a little while."

And I said,"Okay.  Can we compromise?  Can you come play this song through once while I count it for you, and then you may have 15 minutes to read and then you can come back and finish your piano?"

And she said,"Yes!"  and hopped up and ran over to the piano and played the song perfectly.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that I was really surprised by what she was actually frustrated by, and incredibly pleased to see how drastically her mood changed once I gave her the chance to articulate her feelings and just sat there waiting for her to be ready to talk to me rather than trying to label how she should be feeling and responding.

This is not an isolated incident--I've been trying this for about a month and it is GENIUS, I tell you, and it works with ALL of my kids (who can talk).  Seriously.  Buy this book.

5 comments:

Melanie said...

I LOVE that book! As dumb as I feel stating the obvious (especially to those children who can't necessarily articulate their own feelings yet) it works! It really works! Good luck with it- I'd love to hear more about your successes!

Jolena said...

Sold. Seriously, I'm totally going to buy it. :)

Elise said...

Wow, that's cool! I miss you guys so much.

Dani said...

I'm going to have to get that one. It's always nice to get recommendations from parents that you respect and admire. I just finished The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. Amazing!

Rosalind said...

so cool!! sounds like you are building strong, emotionally open relationships. :) Your kids are so lucky to have such a good mom that cares so much about them.

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