You love your child! But the whining and the tantrums – ug! Because time is in short supply, you hurry your child along through tears, tantrums, and forcing them past the whining-for-something stage. This is not what is best for your child – and it might make your child even MORE whiney and create even more tears. Next temper tantrum, try some Reflective Listening! It is a simple, yet powerful.
When your child gets terribly upset, you don’t have to agree. You don’t have to convince. In fact, all you really have to do is to … listen. What does Reflective Listening look like?
- Naming the feeling (even if you are wrong)
- Caring about the child and his feeling
- Your ability to hear more about that feeling
In fact, you may find that listening to a child’s tears, without putting demands on him to pull himself together, actually takes less time and is actually much easier and more rewarding than trying to control, distract, or force polite behaviors upon him. When the tantrum begins, listen, staying near. “Tell me more,” “That sounds scary,” “I’m sorry that happened that way. ” Don’t say too much, however, or you’ll be dominating the interaction vs. listening. Most importantly, resist the temptation to use this as a teachable moment. Don’t correct his feelings. When a child has stormed or cried the feelings through, he will begin to notice you and his surroundings again, and will generally feel deeply relieved and refreshed. Soft smiles or laughter might even follow a stormy cry, indicating that your child might be able to think reasonably. But, now is not the time to tell him what he did wrong. The magic bullet? He will feel deeply loved when you have continued to show that you care through his worst feelings. And later, he might even tell you what he did wrong.
Being able to show true and scary feelings (and having the parent respect those feelings) will improve a child’s perspective and confidence. You may start to notice positive changes in his behavior, almost immediately, once the tantrum is over. This kind of Reflective Listening is, at first, extremely difficult for almost all parents! But, it is worth it. And will teach you how to be a good friend, a great parent, and teach your child that you really love him, prickly thorns and all.