What would life be like for us if no one really listened to us? What if we got home from work and wanted to tell our story, and those around us just looked at their cell phones and didn’t look at us. What if our interactions were limited to requests for food or some action. “Honey, put your shoes on.” Or “please go buy some milk”. Just like us, a child wants to be heard in a deeper way. In Kathryn Kvols book Redirecting Children’s Behavior, she suggests listening to your child for five minutes five different times a day: when she first wakes up, after school, etc.
Ways for your child to feel heard during those five minutes:
1) Get on your knees and listen at eye level. Practice the following with your spouse. Have one of you stand on a chair and the other kneel on the floor. Try carrying on a conversation in this way. Next try talking with each other at eye level. Which way makes you feel more connected with the other?
2) Validate your child’s story by repeating it. Repeat/paraphrase her words even if it isn’t exactly the most exciting thing you have ever heard. For her, talking about the fact that a cloud looks like a rabbit may be very important.
3) Stay engaged in the conversation. If the phone rings, don’t pick it up. By not answering the phone, you are communicating how important she is to you.
4) Strive for five. Try to make the conversation go back and forth 5 times/exchanges. This forces us to listen more closely.
Your child’s need for attention is like a Dixie cup full of water. It drains out after a period of not talking to you. Each time you listen you refill their little cups of water.
The interactions above take very little time. For deeper quality time, one author suggests playing with your child 20 minutes a week in whatever way they want. If they want to play the board game in a way where they always win. Fine. If they want to jump off the bed with you into pillows. Fine. Those might just be your best memories.
Kvols, K. (1997). Redirecting children’s behavior (3rd ed.). Seattle, WA: Parenting Press.