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How parents’ active listening changes kids’ behavior

Sad Mom: not heard…on Mother’s Day 🙁

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in France.  A friend (a mom of teens) shared about her reunion with her parents. “I left utterly discouraged.”  What happened?!

They enjoyed a day full of fun outings:  restaurants, shopping, and culture.  What was discouraging about that?!

Then she spoke her heart. “I shared a video of my work with my dad.  Not even 10 seconds into the video my father began telling me what I did wrong.  Hey, I know the video was not perfect, but critique before listening is not the feedback I need.  I just won’t talk to him about work anymore.”  She’s an entrepreneur; work is her passion.

I doubt this father’s goal was to alienate his daughter…and yet he did.

[bctt tweet=”I doubt this father’s goal was to alienate his daughter…and yet he did.”]

Could you and I do that with our children too?  You bet.

(In)Active listening impacts behavior

And when the children act out of discouragement, we think their behavior is their problem.

  • They are too blasé. “Whatever.”
  • They don’t listen to us
  • They criticize their brother or sister
  • Why can’t they just be motivated?!

Irony.

[bctt tweet=”Children misbehave out of discouragement…and parents get more annoyed at the kids!”

Parent listening styles
“Honey. maybe I should shrink ME!”

My friend is an adult.  “She should know better,” and in a responsible, loving gesture she should go to her father and share her feelings.  But, in her discouragement, she’s opting for “why bother?”

If adults (she’s MY friend.  So, if intelligent, dynamic, and caring adults 😊) decide against reconciliation, then what will our discouraged kids choose to do?

Yep.  Our children keep up with that annoying behavior!  And they seek counsel elsewhere.  Aagh!

What does active listening sound like?

I shared with my friend tips I learned from Positive Discipline about listening styles.

In our classes, we have an activity like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  We get to replay a scene, beginning again as if we were given a fresh start every time.  It’s a roleplay of a child (an adult playing the role of a child) who comes to tell Mom or Dad about his BFB (Best Friend Breakup).

  • Scene 1 – parent is on the phone, distracted
  • Scene 2 – parent criticizes
  • Scene 3 – parent tells child how he should act next time
  • Scene 4 – silence
  • Scene 5 – active listening. “What happened?  What had you hoped would happen?…”

We ask the person playing the role of the child how they feel, what they think, and what they decide to do after each of these scenes.

The first four scenarios generate disengagement in various degrees of intensity.   “I’ll go to my room…I just won’t tell them next time…I’m not good enough so why bother try.”

The Curiosity Questions*, however, built trust between parent and child, helped the kid discover his responsibility in the friendship dilemma, and inspired the child to handle the relationship differently.

(*Curiosity Questions are a tool from Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.)

SoSooper “Aha”:  when bloopers help parents become super

These role plays are an Aha! moment.  Oooops.  You mean my kids act the way they do in part because I (the parent) acts the way I do!

John Newton’s Third Law of Motion also applies to e-motions:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 

It’s stories like that of my friend that motivate me to keep on developing SoSooper, the mobile app that helps parents equip their children to thrive.

Guess how many tips you’ll find to reconnect with kids WHEN you feel like a recording machine because they’re not listening? 

Sign-up to get the app when it launches…and you’ll see for yourself 😊

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Our favorite activity about family for a SoSooper New Year!

The Family Feedback

One of our most precious family moments comes after Christmas.  That’s when we share what each person does well and how we can be even stronger as an individual and as a family.

We” means the kids start with the feedback and Mom & Dad L.I.S.T.E.N.

[bctt tweet=”The Family Feedback:  kids share and parents LISTEN.”]

The structured process keeps discussion positive.  Each child gets to share:
ONE THING that Mom or Dad do that they love (and want them to keep doing)
– ONE THING that would hugely improve family life for them.  Parents listen.  

You might be surprised by the suggestions!  It might be a no-brainer “YES.”  (My son asked, “No more lemon cake.”)  Other requests could merit deeper discussion.  (“More screen time.”  “No veggies.”)  Talk it over while everyone is calm and together. 

We tried The Family Feedback

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with teens

Boys grow up

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with kids

parents listening to child

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with tots

listen-mom-son

Click here

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Download Free Tools

SoSooper prepared some worksheets for you:

  • to prepare
  • to succeed
  • to remember

Click here to get your free downloads.

Ask questions & Tell us how it went

We’d love to hear from you.  Give us YOUR feedback too!

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Family Harmony – oh-so-doable with Purpose, Time, & Teachability

Sneak peek into this post:

  • Insights from 25 years of marriage
  • Our “perfect” anniversary day: basking in family harmony
  • Our ongoing road to family harmony

Continue reading “Family Harmony – oh-so-doable with Purpose, Time, & Teachability”

Encourage Appropriate Behavior in Kids: Parenting Tips inspired by Snow!

It has been snowing all week.  Every day.  All day.  Every night.

We go to the mountains to have snow, but deeeeep down, here is my real wish:  I awake every morning to optimal ski conditions.  Abracadabra.

Snow fall, ski slope grooming, and snow plowing would have all happened during my sleep 🙂

Do parents have a similar wish for their children’s good behavior?

Mom or Dad ask for a clean room.  Like magic children’s toys are put away, the floor in spotless, the books are neatly stacked on the bookshelves, the bed is made, and the desk is cleared and ready-for-work.  “Aussitôt dit.  Aussitôt fait.”  Say the word, and it’s done.  Just to our liking, no less!

No need for any teaching, training, or follow through!

We moms and dads must have received our parenting tips straight Mary Poppins and Nanny MacFee.  Or maybe our children were born with an innate understanding of what parents consider appropriate behavior…

Ski cabin "Shelter" in snow
“Abri” means shelter

Children skiing and falling in snow

Cars covered in snow

Appropriate Behavior – Down to Earth Parenting Reality

Just as we adults benefit from training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to be able to behave well.

[bctt tweet=”Like adults who get training in our jobs, children benefit from training in order to  perform well. “]

Think about it.  Did our sons and daughters clean their room in the womb?  Did our babes learn proper table manners at the breast?

We parents often teach through discipline.  We tell our kids what is wrong.  “Your room is messy.”  “Elbows off the table, please.”    

How do they find out what is desirable behavior?  Is there a more appropriate and encouraging way than through trial and error?

Would you like your boss to keep on telling you, “NO,” until you get it right?  How motivating is that?!

Snow Inspired Parenting Tips for Teaching Kids

1. Enjoy the magic of NOW

Earth stills when snow falls. 

Sounds are muted.  Senses are chilled.  Worries from the office seem faaaaaarrrrrr away.

These extraordinary apprenticeship years of our kids are precious and last such a short while.   Sooner than later our kids graduate and move out.

What life skills and talents do our children take with them as they go out on their own?  THIS is our parenting vocation.

My mother is celebrating a BIG birthday and we are writing her letters of thanks.  I realized that I have many more memories with her AFTER having left home than while I was a child.

The birthday parties I recall through photos.

Here is what I remember through experience and which lives in my soul:  the ambiance of love, the assurance that she had time for me, and her belief in my potential (especially when I acted out of line).

These qualities are communicated by savoring the present.  The magic of small successes.  Noticing appropriate behavior.  Appreciating hard work.  Encouraging me to persevere.

Aren’t those life skills you wish to pass onto your darlings?

Happy grandma cuddling children

Loving grandmother keeps grandkids coming home

 

Admiring grandmother taking photos

2. Slow down before crashing

I love skiing FAST.

Except when there is no visibility and I wonder if I am about to speedily crash and plant my face into fresh powder.

When it snows, it is time to slow down.  Just a tad.

When your child misbehaves, might it be an invitation to shift into a lower gear? 

  • What is the cause of the inappropriate behavior?
  • Do the children even know exactly what is expected of them?
  • Do they have the capability of carrying out those tasks?
  • What could help them succeed even better?

In manufacturing circles, we refer to a bottleneck: THE operation that slows the entire process down.

No matter how much we improve other aspects of the manufacturing cycle, the process will only improve when we address THAT critical juncture.

Where is the weak point in your child’s ability to carry out your request?  Slowing down helps you observe your sweethearts and identify their appropriate behavior “bottleneck.”

Are they not listening to instructions?

That’s a sure guarantee of misbehavior!  So, the parenting issue to address is getting their attention before giving instructions.

Bend down to their level, make eye contact, smile, and THEN stipulate, “Honey, it is time to clean your room.”

Do the toys not have a home?

Playthings are tumbled into a box.  To reach that one desired game, your child rummages through the entire stack (a.k.a. dumps them all over the floor).  The issue is too many toys or finding a better way to store games.

“Sweetheart, you like a comfy home.  Your toys want to be more comfortable too.  Here are two boxes: toys-at-home and toys-on-vacation.  Do you want to choose which toys go on vacation this week or should I?  YOU can change every weekend!”

Slowing down helps identify your child’s unique bottleneck.

3. Break down the big job into smaller steps.

When it snows, visibility is reduced which renders many skiers less comfortable on the slopes.  That’s when we CONSCIOUSLY rely on ski technique:  bending down further to propel us through the turns in heavy snow, maintaining supple knees to  absorb obstacles we no longer see, keeping our body weight correctly balanced over the skis…

Many of these gestures we do without thinking…until it snows and we once again recall and apply our technique.

In a similar way, when training the kids, why not break down a large task into its many smaller bits.

If our initial instructions (ex. clean your room) seems foggy to the kids, let us help them return to their comfort zone by reviewing the individual steps required for success of the total “project” (and securing appropriate behavior can seem like a PROJECT).

A clean room means

  • Nothing on the floor
  • The bed is made…and nothing is hiding under it
  • Clothes are put in the appropriate drawers
  • Toys and books are placed their assigned home
  • The desk has space to be able to work correctly

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: make bed

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: stack books

Appropriate room cleaning behavior: clear desk

Think of our children’s tasks like a gourmet dish.  There is a recipe to follow.  Step by step.

If it’s good enough for the best chefs in the world, I’ll give it a go in our home too 🙂

4. Specify the criteria for “acceptable behavior” and “very well done.”

After snowfall, some slopes get plowed and others are left virgin.  Different strokes for different folks.

A good skier can master the smooth surfaces even with minimal visibility.  An excellent skier dances through the powder.

“Sweetheart, a cleanish room is when the bed is made and the clothes are off the floor.  A super-dooper-totally-awesomely-amazingly-clean room is when you also put your socks in the sock drawer, your shirts in the shirt drawer….”

5. Celebrate performance

A steaming hot chocolate and warm (greasy) fries taste especially delicious when coming in from difficult ski conditions.

“Darling.  Well done.”

Teen boys and kids warming up from skiing

Upon leaving our mountain chalet, we clean up.  Kids help with the chores.  During one vacation with my sister and her family, our Make-A-Loud-Fuss son resisted doing his job:  to clean the bathroom sink & mirror.

She taught him the secret to super-shiny-bathroom-cleaning (Spray the chrome with window cleaner.  It sparkles!) and off he went.

He made the chrome sparkle.

My sister rounded up the crew of siblings and cousins and they ALL marched to the bathroom to recognize a job well done.

Since that day, Mr.Fuss REQUESTS bathroom cleaning.  He is the recognized family expert on appropriate bathroom cleanliness.  We have delegated to him the responsibility of coaching his brothers on quality control.

That’s a win-win situation!

Children parade to congratulate appropriate behavior
Ready? Set. Go! checking out the spotless bathroom.

Children parade to check out clean bathroom

Proud teen and admiring brother
Our cool dude still takes pride in “clean.”

Helping our Kids Learn Appropriate Behavior

How would you and your family’s life be different if you took a fresh look at a “bad news” situation?

  • What one special thing can you appreciate about this time of life right NOW?
  • What is REALLY happening? Slowing down enables fresh observation.
  • What behavior do you, the parent, desire? What are intermediate steps?
  • How can you help your children differentiate between good and great?
  • How will you encourage REPEATED excellent behavior?

Watch what your thoughts. They can bring parents and kids up…or WAY DOWN

Positive beliefs can propel us forward.  And looking at the world and ourselves through a negative framework hinders.  Weighs us down.  Immobilizes.

I saw this with one of my teen sons.

The challenge for a parent is that our children don’t wear their beliefs on a sleeve or present them to us on a silver platter.   Our thoughts about our value and our confidence in our abilities are revealed in our actions.

Yep, beliefs impact behavior.

So, what attitudes and actions revealed my son’s negative beliefs?

They relate to school, his efforts, and results.

  • Giving up quickly when he encounters a difficulty
  • Mocking effort
  • Avoiding work and seeking play

 

Handwrestling with mom

Fishing into the night

Dangerous sea

Dangerous sea

Boys bury brother in sand

Out of order

One HUGE hike up

Crooked_building

Watching TV. No talking

 

Of course, my husband and I these behaviors and tried to encourage him.

  • “Honey, you can do it. Your math exercises last week were similar to these.  Review them and you’ll find some hints.  If you need more help, we’re here.”
  • “I reread them and it did not help.”
  • “It’s math, darling. Did you try re-doing the exercises?”
  • “That’s worthless….”

or

  • “How long did you spend trying to work out this problem? What have you tried? 
  • “I sat down at my desk and worked. L
  • “What else can you try?”
  • “Dunno…”
  • “What specific questions do you have? Who can you turn to for help?” 
  • “I asked last week and it did not help…”

And yet, when we explore fun subjects, he brims with creativity, energy, and charisma.  Is this the same person?!

So, last night at dinner we spiced up our regular conversation with what-would-you-do-if questions from a “question book” and enjoyed lively and engaged discussion from all, including from Mr. Dejected-About-Schoolwork.

It was a relief to witness his relaxation and enjoyment and even feeling of value and belonging.  And that’s when it became clear to me that his negative beliefs about work are making him miserable.

So, after the meal, I sneaked into his room for a Rendez-Vous, a one-on-one discussion.

“Hi darling, do you have a moment?”

“Hu…”

“May I share an observation?”

“Errr…”

“Sweetheart, I wonder if you have some beliefs that are making you unhappy.  What we believe impacts what we think about ourselves, about the world, and about our place in this amazing cosmos.  And I wonder if you recognize yourself in these two beliefs:

  • Hard work is no fun
  • If you can’t do it perfectly, it is not worth doing.”

“Yeah…”

“I invite you to challenge those beliefs.  Look around you.  Are these REALLY true?  I have asked myself those same questions and came up with an opposite conclusion.  You want to hear my stories?”

“Go ahead…”

And I shared about the time in college when Miss-Good-Student (that was me) got a “D” in Material Sciences.  It was a required course in my engineering studies where we discover the qualities of varying materials and the implication in construction and utilization.  In our final project, most students reported on some bridge and how it was designed for resistance and sturdiness.  I wanted to explore the thickness of the cast bronze in a Charles Remington statue of a bucking horse.  All the weight of the bronze is on one horse hoof.  What’s the torque?  How does the thickness of the bronze impact the width of the horse hoof?… We did not have access to the Internet in those days, and after fruitless searches in encyclopedias and scientific journals, I gave up and retreated to a report on yet another bridge.

Mom and son Rendez-vous

Remington Bronze statue

frustrated mother

My performance snafus in Material Sciences got me questioning my value.  Am I a loser?

And I described how I went out to a lonely place and debated with God.  “God, if I believe in You and believe that You are perfect, then You did not make a mistake with me.”  (Note the engineering logic patter:  if…and…then!)

Then, I invited him to look at people we know.  Some are under-employed.  How satisfied are they?  If his believe that “Hard work is no fun,” these folk who are not working hard should be having the time of their lives.  And yet, they are filled with worry, question their value, and lack hope for the next steps.

And what about him?  What are some of his most significant lasting memories?  Was it playing a video game, once again?  Or does he thrill over having mastered powerful waves, climbing cliffs, or getting a 20/20 on his group project?

Jumping on sand dunes

Boy riding horse backwards

 

I caught a fish

Boys showing off

Riding_backwards

Handwrestling with mom

Fun and work

Well done at school

Congratulations. Getting diploma

“Yeah…”

“Sweetheart, I love you.  You become what you think.  When you are down, it just might be that you have some negative AND MISLEADING assumptions about you and life.  Remember,

  • ‘You’re worth it’… and l’Oréal asserts it (that tweaked a smile from him)
  • And, as Nike says, ‘Just do it!’” (By now he’s downright smirking and rolling his eyes with humor.)

“Thanks, Mom.”

Loving Kids is a Daily Choice

When children love you, it’s easy for us parents to love them.
Then they’re the days when Mom and Dad struggle to speak to them civilly…and the kids don’t even try.
Loving one’s progeny on those days takes creativity, perseverance, and strategy. Read on for encouraging tips.

Continue reading “Loving Kids is a Daily Choice”