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?!


[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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12 + 1 Gifts to build respect and collaboration at home

‘Tis the season to be jolly.  Home sure is more fun when kids (of all ages) act their best.   

Speaking respectfully.

Seeking solutions (vs. blame).

Giving a helping hand… Continue reading “12 + 1 Gifts to build respect and collaboration at home”

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”

Love, love, and love. Enlightening ways to spell L.O.V.E.

My husband and I celebrate 25 years of marriage this year!

What has enabled our union and our boys to thrive?  The glue is called love, in its many spellings 🙂
love love love and laughLove as L.A.U.G.H.

My husband has an amazing sense of humor.  When tension rises, he brings humor into the situation which enables us to communicate respectfully and productively once again.

Laughter gives us just those nanoseconds needed to let steam diffuse before we explode.  Phew.  It’s nice to be nice.  I hate myself when I act and look like a raven pecking at my kids (or something worse)

Learn to laugh at yourself:

What situation gets you M.A.D.?  Imagine you just landed from Mars and saw someone in that exact situation, what would they see, hear, and smell?  Could there be something funny about that?love love love and listen

Love, love as L.I.S.T.E.N.

Soooo much easier said than done.  Through my parent coaching I have become more aware of my own TOTALLY FLAWED behavior.

My most common blooper is to “listen” with my mouth open.  The children call it “giving lectures.”  Yet as tots become teens, connecting with our kids means giving them space to grow.  When I speak less, they share more.

[bctt tweet=”When I (parent) speak less, the children share more. Love is spelled L.I.S.T.E.N.”]

Learn to listen:

Write down some of the words you tell your partner and children.  Hand the list to them and ask them to read these words out loud to you.  Stand 2 meters (2 yards) away from them.  Step forward if those sayings motivate you to closeness.  Step back if those words aggravate you.  Compare your ending position to where you started out.

Invite your loved ones to add to the list and try this again.

ONCE you have shown your loved ones how you listen, invite them to “hear with their feet” too.
love love love and learn

Love, love, love as L.E.A.R.N.

Together time gets a boost during vacations.  Our family thrives on physical exercise and some kind of discovery.  It’s one of our values to embrace diversity, to move beyond our comfort zone, to choose being wonder-filled.

We ask our children all the time to stretch their knowledge (learn at school), to stretch their effort (one more bite of dinner, please), to stretch their patience (just one minute longer….)

Discovery as a family enables me to model the attitude we hope to grow in our kids.  As I struggle through my own learning, I also gain in empathy with my kids.

Learn to encourage:

It is also encouraging to cheer someone on while at their side.

Haven’t you done or been in the situation where well-meaning people act like this:  they advance faster than you and turn back to encourage.  With the distance between you, they have to scream at the top of their lungs, “KEEP IT UP.”  Their words shouted in the distance sound fumbled.  Their body language looks angry (we shout better with feet apart and a certain facial grimace!)

When we are learning we are vulnerable.  Encouragement through proximity truly passes on the message, “We’re together in this.”

Which L.O.V.E. will you apply today?

love love love many ways

“Good” parents don’t need tips or tools. True or False?

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A friend asked a great question:  “Why should parents need help?  Aren’t we (moms and dads) supposed to know….and if we get help does that mean we messed up along the way?”

Let’s take a step back.

Fresh Parenting Perspective

Have you ever stood VERY CLOSE to a tree, like with your nose touching the bark, and SIMULTANEOUSLY admired the forest?  Probably not.

When we have our nose to the grindstone (le nez dans le guidon) it is like a camera with a high zoooom lens.  We see details of the specifics in front of us and lose sight of the big picture.

Step back from the tree bark…to get a glimpse of the forest and your destination.

And have you noticed how pain acts in a similar fashion?

Time is short.  We want relief NOW.  No waiting. 

I love how the 17th century gambler, Chevalier de Méré, puts it, “Il n’est pas bon d’être malheureux mais il est bon de l’avoir été.” (“It is not good to be sad, but it is good to have been.”)

tree bark close up

Happy sad finger faces

path through forest

In at least one way parenting and gambling are similar:  the HIGHs can be extraordinary and the LOWs can be extraordinarily discouraging.

And in those moments of doubt, a helping hand….helps.

Parents’ Helping Hand

That’s the SOSOOPER goal.  To enable parents to take a step back and to regain hope and courage to persist, even to thrive.

We designed online workshops to give parents and their children opportunities to over challenges together.

Many parenting experts encourage (instruct) moms and dads to take time off.  But how?  When?

An event with an outside person facilitates the process.  SoSooper workshops revisit sensitive issues from a fun and fresh perspective.  The focus is on solutions, not on blame…therefore not on the pain that family members suffer.  The online workshops help turn subjects of tension into opportunities of learning.

Of course parents can do this on their own too.  And yet, realizing the need to step back AND committing to doing so requires a change of posture.  That’s tough.  An outside catalyst, such as a person, an event, an activity, helps change happen more smoothly.

I believe parents are leaders.  It is a common professional practice to organize leadership seminars and team building events.  Consider the SoSooper workshops to be just that:  your family team brainstorming bonanza.

The goal of these guided discussions is to strengthen the relationship within YOUR super family. 

Family meeting. Parents with kids.

Family meeting having fun. Parents with children.

We present a fresh perspective SO THAT YOUR family can benefit by exploring it together.  

We pose questions you might not have thought to ask.

That’s normal; you have been managing the busy daily routine.  The answers to the questions you explored remain for you.  The process of mutual exploration is for you.  The thrill of discovery of each other is for you.  The memory of creating solutions together is for you.  The ease of life that comes from your personalized solutions is for YOU.

Hope this answers your questions.  We love hearing them so keep on asking.


Who is the REAL opponent?

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WHO is the REAL opponent?  The parent, the spouse, the child, or the issue?

“Children who argue have good character qualities like persistence, perseverance, determination, creativity, and an ability to communicate ideas. The problem with arguing is that your child views you as an obstacle.” Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids!, go on to suggest an intriguing perspective:

Make the issue the opponent.  Let parent and child partner together in finding a solution.


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We’re on the Same Team

It’s Rugby World Cup time. I hope my kids see me as a big team mate that tackles our shared obstacle. Let’s take an everyday example. The children come home from school and want a snack (called goûter in France). When I offered fruit, bread and cheese, the kids demanded a “real” goûter, that is, cookies, cakes, AND chocolate spread.

The easiest way to start an argument is to tell the children how wrong they are. “You’re so unhealthy. You don’t care that I want the best for you….”

The second easiest way is to let the kids tell you how wrong you are! “You always make us suffer and you never let us eat anything good….”

Creative Tool Kit

It takes a teeny bit of creativity and exploration to identify the real opponents.  Common ones include parent fatigue, peer pressure, and advertising. With your child (or spouse or even colleague) try some of these healthy relationship tools:

1. Use humor: “You saw those snacks on TV didn’t you? Did they show the trip to the dentist afterwards too?”

2. Take the frustration out on paper Download the boxing girl image.  She can handle your punches!

3. Get more facts: Differences can become emotionally charged. Facts provide objective input which helps to cool down heated exchanges.

4. Share Paradigms: “I understand the issue this way. What’s it mean to you?” Discover tips to Listen with Open Minds

5. Discuss it later, one-on-one: This technique has changed our family rapport. Read My Best Behavioral Habit

According to Miller and Turansky the subjects we argue about are often not THAT important.  We have noticed that is the case in our home.

It is the relationships that matter.

Image by LetMeColor.com

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