Tag: active listening

How Do You Say I LOVE YOU?

I’ve been married to the same man for 48 years. We celebrated this milestone in May of 2019. This has caused me to pause and contemplate the last fifty-one years. That’s how long I’ve known my husband, Don. I fell in love with him because he was handsome and romantic. One day he showed up at my door with a car full of roses. He had cleaned out a street vendor! But that isn’t why I’ve stayed with him.

We grow old and our beauty fades a bit. Our middles fill out and things begin to sag. We aren’t as beautiful as we were. Romance begins to fade too. Our energy and imagination aren’t as strong. So, his face and romance haven’t kept me by his side. It has been a choice.

Love isn’t just a feeling. When we’re young we think that’s what it is, but it isn’t. It’s a choice that we make repeatedly as we surmount the obstacles of living with another person.

Don has long since stopped bringing carloads of roses. However, I know he loves me because he serves me. He often goes out of his way to do something he knows I need to have done. He looks at me when I am talking to him. He takes the time to listen. He doesn’t always get what I am saying but he listens and tries. : ) He often puts his needs ahead of mine.

One of my favorite definitions of love came by way of my friend and mentor, Audrey Rindlesbacher http://audreyrindlisbacher.com/ – “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” M. Scott Peck

Love is not just a feeling; it’s also a doing. It’s what we decide to do to nurture another soul.

When we’re parenting children, we must decide to demonstrate our love to our kids despite their growing pains and messes.

It isn’t enough to just say the words ‘I love you’. Our children need to feel our love through our actions every day.

Five simple ways that you can say I LOVE YOU daily

•STOP doing whatever it is when your child needs to talk to you. You may not have time to do whatever it is they need right then but you can hear what they say and respond. When you stop and listen it sends the very clear message that they matter more than the phone, the computer, the laundry, or any other thing.
•LOOK your child in the eye. We all want to know that we are seen and heard. Even children know when they don’t have your attention. When you look someone in the eye it helps you stay focused on them. It increases your ability to hear. It helps you stay present in the moment.
•LISTEN for understanding. You can’t hear what’s being said if your mind is busy looking for a solution to their problem or figuring out how to teach. Active listening seeks to hear for understanding. Teaching and problem solving can come later.

Most of us have had the unnerving experience of being in a conversation and knowing the other person’s mind is in another place. You’re sure they don’t hear you even as they nod their heads as if they do. It’s interesting how often moms and dads think they’re sending positive, connected messages to their children, when in fact, their children are experiencing this kind of disconnect.
•TOUCH them in an appropriate way, a pat on the back, a touch on the shoulder. Making a physical connection when another person is trying to share is powerful in building confidence and trust.
•REMAIN CALM. Our response to whatever is happening is in our control. If we explode, we choose to. I know this is hard to hear. As a recovered rager I know that it’s a choice and you can learn to remain calm.

There is a space between stimulus and response. Sometimes it’s so narrow that you would swear it isn’t even there. But it is and you can learn to recognize the moment of choice. You will still respond poorly for a time, but eventually, that space between stimulus and response will get wider and you will have time to choose a better response. I promise this is true!

When you’re busy, angry, or overwhelmed these simple things may feel hard. But they are a choice. You choose to work on them daily until they become habits. You choose to do this work in order to send better messages to your children.

When you make that effort and then consistently do them it will increase your child’s confidence in your relationship and in themselves. They will know that they are of value to you, that they matter. They will know deep down that they are seen and heard. They will know that you really do love them.

I love your comments. It makes my day!

Are you satisfied with your family relationships?

I have a photo of my daughter Jenny who is in her forties. It was taken when she was around six. Recently, I was looking at it and experienced a very tender moment. In those early parenting days, I loved my children. However, this photo reminded me that at that busy time of life I did not realize how sweet and precious they were; that the opportunity I had been given to be their mother was not just a responsibility or a job, but a gift, one of the greatest.

As my family grew, I began to sense that our relationships could be better. I wanted to understand this longing. I talked to other moms and dads who managed their families differently than I did mine. I read books. I prayed and thought deeply. I was guided, inspired and taught.

Then, when I was in my early forties, I had a remarkable experience that led to significant changes in how I parented. I was driving across our small town and was miraculously alone. Off to my right, as I glanced down the street, I saw a small girl skipping along towards me. I saw her sweet little face and feet as she firmly planted each step. Then without warning, I saw that child as I had never seen another human being. It was as if she was clothed in a light that had previously been hidden from me. It was overpowering and I cannot express the feelings that filled my heart. I began weeping. I had seen the beauty of another human being. She was far more beautiful and precious than I had ever imagined any person could be. It was a gift to help me on my way.

I didn’t become a different parent overnight. Building more connected and healthy family relationships took time. But what sustained me was the vision of the beauty of a soul.

Whenever I feel sad about the years that I didn’t recognize the opportunity to love and mentor my children as a gift, as opposed to a responsibility or job, I am in the same moment gladdened that I now know the difference.

No matter where you are in your parenting strengths or weakness, you can get better at it. Your family relationships can be more joyous. Keep trying, never quit. Give it all the time you need because you have a lifetime for learning to become a great parent—a Present parent!

Tips For Better Family Relationships 

• Know what you want. If your family doesn’t function or feel the way you want it to, take some time to think about what it is you do want it to look and feel like. Write it down and then begin taking steps to get what you want.
Do the simple things. There is no silver bullet to good relationships. Watch your words. Be kind more often. Compliment more. Control your own emotions. Simple things make all the difference.
Change your story. Take control of how you talk about yourself and your family. Use more positive words no matter how you’re feeling. Your words and the stories you tell yourself about your children influence how you respond and the outcomes you get.
Turn away from your technology more often. Look your children in the eye. Listen to understand rather than to solve problems. It only takes minutes to let your child know that you see them, hear them and that they matter.
Nurture yourself right where you are. You must learn to take care of you so that you have something to give to your family relationships.

There is no magic to good family relationships. If I can learn these skills, you can learn them too. They will revolutionize your family.

Try Active Listening for a More PRESENT Summer

As you know I have been writing a new book – Becoming a Present Parent: Maximizing Presence in Five Minutes or Less. I started in August 2015 and finished in January 2016. Since then I have been learning the dance of being an independent author. Whew, it has required a lot of dance lessons!!

However, the book is in the formatting and cover design stage and it is going to actually make it to press this summer. Woohoo. I will breathe a sigh of relief for sure.

While we wait for the books release I thought I would share a bit of the content with you.

ACTIVE LISTENING

When we’re Present, we listen to connect with the speaker and to understand how they feel about what they’re saying. It’s active and engaged and seeks to hear the words and, more importantly, to hear the heart.

Because this type of listening doesn’t come naturally, I’ve had to develop steps to make it happen more often. They may be helpful to you also.

A. STOP what you’re doing. Turn away from any technology, book or project. If you truly can’t stop, tell your child you can see this is important to them and you want to hear what they have to say. Set a specific time when you’ll be free and keep it. Saying “we’ll talk about it later” is not specific and sends the message you’re not available to them, that whatever else you’re doing is more interesting or more important. If at all possible STOP and listen now!

B. Make eye contact with your child. I remember reading that an infant can tell the difference between a face which is in order and one with the features jumbled.

From my experience, I know babies are interested their parent’s faces. They look at their parent’s faces constantly and reach out to touch them. Infants want us to look back at them. As we grow older, desire for eye contact with the people in our lives that matter to us remains.

Eye contact is looking directly into your child’s eyes and not looking away at other things or looking down. When we look at our children as we listen to them, it sends a powerful message that we care, that we hear them, that they matter.

C. Respond to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying. When you’re Present you’ll respond to feelings more quickly and more accurately. This helps your child feel heard. You can say things like, “Boy – how maddening!” or “You didn’t like that did you?” or “How did you feel?” This helps your child know that you view their feelings as valid and important.

D. Listen with patience and interest. Whatever you’re feeling, your child will know! They’re like energy magnets. If your energy is inwardly impatient, they’ll know. If you’re dying to get back to your stuff, they’ll feel it. If you’re bored out of your mind, it’s coming across loud and clear. It may all be on a subconscious level, but they know. Hold thoughts in your mind which will help you maintain interest and patience.

For example, you can think, “I sure love this kid. They’re so interesting, funny, kind, thoughtful,” whatever. Hold thoughts which allow you to embrace fully the moment you’re sharing with your child.

Avoid interrupting. Ask only those questions which help clarify. Your job at this moment is not to teach, reprimand or to fix. It’s to listen.

Being present with your child is an end in itself. It isn’t about resolution, teaching, making progress, none of that. It’s about connection, pure and simple. You can always teach later. Right now, be Present!

During a day, there are dozens of opportunities to stop and listen. We can’t actively listen in all of them. But if we can increase those times we do, it will have a big impact on our relationships.

Remember, being Present is a gift we give another person without thought of return. It means giving full attention, our whole self, nothing left on the table.

I do have something special in the works to add a bit of zing to your summer and to help you get a head start on Becoming a Present Parent. Watch for it. : )

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann