Sunday, April 19, 2009

Listening: How Our Children are Our Teachers

I have been putting my attention on listening lately.

I was thinking about a conflict the other day that involved my son and myself. I realized that 'conflict resolution,' per se, doesn't truly exist when the conflict is between the two of us. And that is because I have an agenda. You see, I think I know the better way, the better tactic, the "truth," and even before I let my son explain his thoughts and intentions, I am already formulating my response. I am already figuring out how to convey my views and my Wisdom so that he will 'get it' and then he will magically become a better person. So I go through the motions of listening to why he did such and such, but I am not really taking it in. I am not really considering it. I have hopped onto my mental 'habitrail' again, and disengaged from what is actually happening in the moment.

Which means I am actually NOT LISTENING at all! And when I realized I have been doing this, I was astonished. I thought I was exemplar at listening to my son's needs!

When I saw that I haven't been listening, I had to admit that I have also been assuming quite a bit. Ouch. Assuming can be dangerous. Assumptions can mean we're idling in neutral. Ouch again.

So, I had to admit that when I am in a conflict with my son, instead of really listening to him explain his thoughts and motives for "miss" behaving, I am really waiting for him to finish explaining so I can then lead him to my conclusion. (That I have a need for him to refrain from screaming, because screaming hurts my ears, for example.)

Wow. Really NOT LISTENING... to his needs.

So the good thing is that I realized I am missing a major benefit of conflicts when I do this: the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Every conflict is another opportunity to strengthen our connection with people (our children included.) I would even go so far as to say that conflicts are the whole point of human life. Conflicts are where all of us really get to stretch as people. And if we ignore the part where we get to listen empathically -- where we get to really put ourselves into someone else's shoes -- then we are missing out on the part of life where we create connections with other people. Because it is during conflicts that the profound exchanges happen between people, and that is when we all get to define ourselves, and stretch and grow and come to really know and enjoy each other.

None of this is to say that we don't still convey our feelings about things, or our limits and boundaries. It just means that we get more chances to REfine and DEfine what those feelings are. They don't have to become dusty old rote responses in our mental attics!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I do this all the time too. Thank you so much for pointing it out so I can do conscious listening rather than waiting to making my point.