By Charlotte Barton, CPCC, Personal Development Coach at The Talking Tree
Actually listen, without judgement, without trying to problem solve. Be with them in their pain and in their joy. Be prepared to listen to some things that you may not be happy about. Be curious. Ask open questions. If you’re curious to find out more and they’re willing to answer – use what, how, where and when questions. Try to steer clear of ‘Why?’ as it can feel confrontational to your child and like they have to explain or defend themselves. Listen to what’s behind the words they’re sharing with you too. Which emotions are present? In listening you may find that they’re struggling for the words, offer up the vocabulary they perhaps don’t have yet – be unattached to whether they use/take your offering. It may help them to find the right combination of words to express themselves. If they’re explicitly communicating one emotion, get curious about what other emotions may be at play here. Listen to the whole child, the tone of their voice, their body language, their eye contact, the pauses, the choice of words and often most importantly what they’re choosing not to say.
2. Accept that you don’t know.
Yes, you’ve been their age, and you may have been through similar. However, you are not them. They have their own combination of experiences that have led them to where they’re at and what’s going on in their life at this very moment. Show compassion for the situation they’re in or the challenges they’re facing. And, accept that you don’t know. Be compassionate for how they are experiencing their life. What you do know about your own life experiences is that things change, nothing remains exactly as it is, emotions shift, friendships change, we grow and we learn, part of which is learning that how we respond is a choice. These are lessons you may have learned and can share with them. It’s then up to them how they apply that to their own situation, now or in the future.
3. Make promises you can keep.
“I will always be here for you.” “I will always make time to listen to you.” This last one is important as I’ve found a complaint that many children have is that when they want to talk, their parents are too busy and then that puts them off asking to speak again. If your child rarely tries to talk and they do, try your utmost to make time to listen right there and then, as they may have been building up the courage to talk to you for hours, perhaps even days. And, if it really isn’t a time where you can stop what you’re doing, explain that, and that perhaps you’re frustrated that you don’t have the time to listen to everything right now. And that you’re pleased they want to talk to you about something that’s important to them which might be difficult to say. So, could they give you a sentence or two to explain what it’s about so that neither of you forget and give them a specific time that you’ll set aside later (hopefully the same day). Don’t underestimate the value of clearly communicating. It can be surprising how a child interprets what we’ve said. Clarity is key.
4. Don’t compare them.
To their siblings, their peers, their cousins, your friend’s child or anyone else for that matter. They are them, they are not that other child. Again, they have their own set of experiences and circumstances that affect who they are and what they’re living through. Whether you’re comparing their school grades or their behaviour, stop. Look at your child and appreciate what’s wonderful about them. See what they may have overcome. Acknowledge how they’ve grown. By all means hold them accountable to achieving what they are capable of. You may even compare them to their previous selves. In doing this, be aware of and look for things in their lives that may have changed, anything that may have impacted a change in behaviour, or a downturn in grades, as well as being aware that something may have occurred that you’re not yet privy to.
5. Remember that they are a child.
Sounds simple on paper. The reality of a 16-year-old towering over you, perhaps arguing, or being angry with you. Or a 10-year-old who’s learned to be rather sarcastic and full of sassy come backs is very different and often very difficult to remember in the moment that they are indeed still a child, not an adult. Whilst yes, you may speak to them on a level and they may well be mature for their age, they are still a child. Don’t engage in an argument with them as if they’re an adult. They’re not. Don’t react to their jibes as if they’re an adult. They’re not. Don’t rise to their sometimes-hurtful words as if they’re an adult. They’re not. You are. Remember that. And, model to them what an appropriate adult response looks like because even though you might not think they’re paying attention to or directly learning from your engagement with them, I assure you they are.
I’m Charlotte, a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC). Essentially, I’m a highly trained life coach who works with people of all ages on their personal growth. Whether that’s in their career, relationships, family lives, relationship with self or otherwise, we work on it all. Ultimately the focus is growth towards a chosen future where individuals learn to embrace their whole being and experience all that life has to offer. Through this I get to witness the most incredible transformations. Having previously worked as a teacher who was far more interested in the student’s personal growth and their experience of the world than the curriculum laid out in front of us, I opted to combine my passions and experience of Coaching to found The Talking Tree so I can work with children to be more confident, curious and resilient.
Through The Talking Tree I work privately with children and Young People between the ages of 7-24 as well as having now opened a not-for-profit side of the organisation where we work in Educational and community settings.
You can find out more about us at www.thetalkingtree.org or email me directly on email@example.com