The concept of just listening is probably one of the most overlooked parenting tools today.
Listening has this sneaky way of becomming talking before the "listener" even realizes it. This can be especially difficult when the person who is coming to you for a pair of non-judgmental ears finds themselves in an unsolicited therapy session thinking that they are not doing enough and that it is with our advice that they might stop the hard feelings and fix their problem.
I am here today to express a sense of acceptance and presense to all feelings and emotions, good or bad, in hopes to instil every person who reads this with a sense of responsibility, giving everyone around them, and even themselves, the space to feel and deal on their own.
Today's mantra is a personal one for me. This has been a life-long journey, and since attending the Zen Parenting Let's Get Real Conference, I have come to find that I am the closest I have ever been to understanding what it means to be a supportive and authentic listener. I have many inspiring people to thank for that, namely Dr. Shefali.
With my deepest passion residing in the work of helping others, I have always been the go-to friend and family member for advice. I value this role with every fiber of my being because I truly believe it is my purpose and duty to help. Much like a painter needs to paint, I am a person who needs to help.
What I have come to understand about this duty is that listening is the only place my support can start if I want it to be effective and useful for the person coming to me in the first place. Before coming to this realization I had been running this predictable cycle of therapy: inspirational quotes, self-awareness/growth homework and a "you can do it!" attitude.
I believe that the people who came to me for advice, not only expected that cycle of therapy from me, but were searching for it. This made the transition of saying less and listening more not exactly well-recieved.
Since embarking on this journey of offering my friends space rather than support, acceptance rather than judgment, I started to hear things like "tell me what to do" and "I don't know what to say, you need to tell me what to say" and it was then that I had realized the damage I had done. I had been under this false impression that I was always helping everyone who came looking for it, when in reality, I was prolonging their personal growth and crutching their spirit.
Fast-forward about three years. I am now a mother and an early years consultant.
How can I be an early years consultant who works under the mantra of just listen? Let me gladly explain.
While I do offer parents a plethora of information surrounding their child's early development, I do not enter a home with the notion that they will talk and I will tell. I offer details into what they want to know about their child developmentally and how they might practise mindfulness in their home with their family. That makes listening the most important work that I do.
Giving parents a platform to speak freely, without judgment, has been the best way that I can climb into an understanding of a families dynamic, values and goals. By listening I gain the power of knowing. I confidently and proudly guide and direct a family to reaching their parenting goals by having a clear description of what the role of parenting means to them. I can then take that information, co-exist alongside my clients, and start to model and inform them on areas of key interest, allowing the entire relationship to flourish. By knowing a parent's strengths, I am able to shape a program that allows them the ease and accessibility of my strategies. This not only empowers the families I have the opportunity to work with, it is the exact reason my services help and support them at all.
While giving families the early years knowledge every parent deserves to know, (without having to attend 4 years of schooling in the early childhood development field) I am able to touch on their personal pursuits of self-awareness, mindfulness and the benefits of conscious parenting.
Dr. Shefali spoke at the conference about clearing the air that concious parenting is not a title we reach. We do not become concious parents one day and then continue to live the life of a concious parent. The human ego and all it's day to day interuptions work on a similar notion that mistakes just happen, they are inevitable. The only human beings who are safe from egoic attacks on concious living are babies whose essence and conciousness have not yet been tampered with. With that being said, concious parenting is forever something to strive for and be aware of. It is a day to day effort. At the cornerstone of concious parenting is listening.
Just listening as a parent takes work. It takes immense self-control in those "oh sh!t" moments we so often experience as parents. Dr. Shefali referred to these moments as our triggers which set off our internal tape, taking us out of the moment. It is here, while our tape is playing and we are reeling with reaction, that we lose consciousness. Once we can come to understand the benefits of listening, we can begin to work on shifting our reactions, responses and behaviours from a judgmental place with intentions to fix, solve or support and move them into a place of hearing, accepting and being present.
What are the benefits of just listening? As a parent they are endless.
By offering our children a safe space to evolve, make mistakes and practise trial and error, we offer them the ability to talk things out; we model acceptance. Showing our children that we can listen to the good and the bad, gives them permission to come to us for anything and any reason. We set ourselves up as people they can turn to, no matter what.
When we try to fix, support or solve our child's problems, we show them that they cannot figure thing's out for themselves. We display an unacceptance to the hard emotions, setting them up to being something to stop and re-direct rather than feel and express. By always offering things to do, we never offer our children the time to initiate a way to solve their own problems, or a way to deduce what they should and should not do for themselves.
Cultivating concious living starts with modelling it. Unfortunately, as children grow and life experiences unfold, our essence becomes tainted and begins to chip away. What we can do as parents is not wrap our children up in bubble paper and hope that by the time they hit 18, they can handle life on their own.
As parents we want to encourage personal thought. As parents we want to empower and show our children that the fixing, solving, and support they need comes from within. As parents we want to show them that they have the power inside themselves to consider mistakes, learn from them and move forward. This all happens by just listening.
So, the next time your child cries over spilt milk or has a hard day at school, try listening. Give them the space to feel the hard emotions and learn the tools to cope with them.
Drama dissipates the moment you choose to not react. Our goals need a shift from success and happiness to consciousness and authenticity if we have a desire to give our children everything they truly need for when 18 hits.
Never forget to offer tender loving care if/when they are ready for it. TLC comes with no words, just physical connection. TLC comes from a place of offering, not force (much like us, children sometimes just need a minute to themselves).
A hug, an ear and a shoulder is the best recipe for a secure and safe attachment with our kids. Let's get to it parents. Let's just listen.
Show love, grow love
Happy Living Parents
*For more teachings on conscious parenting and Dr. Shefali's work click here