Originally posted on June 24, 2011
A little phrase I have been using lately, when my kids seem to escalate (whether it is some sort of trauma trigger or just normal kid/sibling stuff) is to simply ask them to “teach me.”
It’s one way to be curious with their behavior, instead of escalating it or joining a battle.
Just this morning, in a very small way, we experienced this over breakfast. One kid got pretty tootie with another. As I tried to gently and playfully de-escalate the situation, I was met with defensiveness and anger. That, of course, caused ME to feel defensive and get that internal “Oh, no you didn’t!” momma’ feeling. This particular feeling can be a WONDERFUL red flag for us a parents and caregivers. It is an ideal way to train ourselves to recognize the feeling and STOP.
I stopped. I just said, “I thought I knew what was going on. It has come to my attention that, perhaps, I don’t have a clue. Teach me.”
Then, I sit and listen. At this point in healing, I can now be more funny and sarcastic than I have been able to be in the past. Yet, when they are getting to the heart of things or talking about something that is stressing them out … I stay very gentle. I am an invited guest into that place in their heart and I need to respect it. I listen. I might say, “I’m still not totally clear on that part. Can you help me understand better?”
When they are done talking, you can simply say, “Hey, thanks. I didn’t know all of that. I appreciate you telling me. Is there anything I can do for you?” End of conversation.
Sure, part of what they say I will want to correct. I’m human, but I have a choice. I do everything in my power not to. My voice, and my countenance and my open, loving questions can bring them safety. I am the invited guest to this intimate place. If I come in with a frat party, I will not be invited back.
Today was a tiny three-minute interaction. Just listening and allowing my children to teach me. Hearing their words and their heart. Giving them permission to help me understand them, regardless of what I THINK is truly going on. Giving them a voice.
Sure enough, today there had been a misunderstanding and a miscommunication about something very minor. Yet, that something minor was a big deal to my child. Heard. Corrected. Loved. Move on.