Two simple steps: listening and asking questions. Sounds easy but in reality, how easy is it? When your child comes to you with a problem or something that is upsetting them. How easy is it just to listen and not butt in or find the answer or ‘there there’ it better? Being one of life’s fixers, until I became a Life Coach, I honestly found it quite difficult.
It sucks when nobody is listening 🙁
Let’s translate this into adult world. Your husband gets home from work and you want to tell him about your bad day and how frustrated you feel. To be fair, he probably wants to unwind after his busy day too and he may not be in a space to listen. Readers of the famous ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ will know that men like to fix problems. So, instead of listening, he may be more likely to give you an answer, want you to stop talking and eat his tea! The cheek of it. Mmmm that feels rubbish. Later on you’ll probably have a glass of vino and get on the phone to one of your girl friends who is much better at listening! Sound familiar?
Back to your child, if you do what your husband did, where is he going to go with all his big emotions if there is nobody there to listen? He is going to hold them in and then they will find a way to come out of him. Usually in the form of ‘bad’ behaviour or tantrums or anger.
That’s one of my Smiley Thought Cards isn’t it? Well somebody who is giving you their undivided attention. This means, not chopping up veggies for supper, or looking at Facebook on your phone or checking the cat’s water bowl. Yes I do it too sometimes because I’m a woman and I can multi-task like a boss.
Really and truly listening means switching off your mind, stopping what you are doing, looking that person in the eye, maybe sitting down together and giving them the spotlight. If your child is small, you probably hug them or sit them on your knee a lot but if they are too big for this, then find other ways to show you are with them. I mean mentally and emotionally with them and not just physically present in the room.
This is so important to children, who rely on you to be their mirror. So if you are not making time for them or your routine is such that neither of you can make time for each other, then the message will be ‘I’m not important enough, you don’t listen, nobody cares about me!’ Yes this is how children think and sometimes when our inner child comes out to play, we may find ourselves in situations when this is true for us too 🙂 Is it?
Let your child amaze you with their resourcefulness
If we want our children to grow up being able to problem solve, cope with their big emotions and make decisions for themselves, then it would help to put on a coaching hat. Coaches do 2 very important things: they listen and they ask questions. Just like a detective. Take Miss Marple for instance, she is a great observer. Nothing gets past her. She watches body languages, facial expressions and people’s reactions. This is what we learn at my Creative Child Coaching Workshops helping children use body language to become more confident in social situations. Anyway, back to Miss Marple. She notices what people don’t say or what they say too much of (the lady doth protest too much) and she asks questions. The right type of questions.
So here are some common and easy-to-use coaching questions that you might like to try next time your child comes to you with a problem. You will be surprised how resourceful children can be given the opportunity to do so. You might want to print these off and keep them to hand.
Encourage your child to draw upon similar situations in the past when he has been successful. This will remind him that he is well equipped to cope and shows you have faith in him too. This matters to your child a great deal to know that you believe in him and you know he can do it.
- Nod your head and smile while he talks
- Make eye contact and smile
- Encourage him to keep talking
- Ask for more information so all the facts come out and he is able to weight them up before making a decision or a plan of action
‘What’ questions are a coaches favourite type of questions.Gathering all the facts like a detective.
- What happened?
- What do you think started it?
- What made Mrs Brown shout at you like that?
- What did you feel?
- What do think would be best for you?
2. What would you say to a friend who was in your situation?
Taking the focus away from your child and getting to talk about themselves in the 3rd person. If you have a smaller child, ask them what their teddy bear thinks. Show you understand they are upset and validate their feelings ‘I can see that Josh makes you really angry and whenever you talk about him now, you seem so mad. What would you say to a friend who was in that situation?’
3. What would you do if you could wave a magic wand?
Fantasising about the possibilities (wish fulfilment) can sometimes be funny and change your child’s mood. Let them be silly with it and say naughty stuff. Don’t correct them, just keep showing them that you understand how they are feeling and validate their feelings. There’s nothing worse than when you are crying if somebody says ‘Now don’t be silly, there’s nothing to cry about.’ It will matter to that person, that is why they are crying. If they want to punch their teach Mrs Brown in the head because she told them off, don’t correct the punching (they will know that is wrong really but they are trying to express their emotion). Say something like ‘Gosh you are really cross aren’t you if you want to start punching. I would be cross if I was you too.’ This shows empathy and helps them get it all out. I don’t mean to sound staged when I give these examples – find your own words.
4. Will it matter to you in 5 years time?
Maybe one for when they are calming down a bit or aren’t so emotional. You don’t want to seem dismissive of their situation. Maybe draw on your own experiences and share about when something similar happened to you and now that you are older, it doesn’t matter so much. If you don’t have a story, make one up or use a story from a film or from a book you have read with your child. Show them empathy, show that you understand how it feels to feel the way they are feeling. If it’s not an experience you are familiar with or a struggle you’ve been through, think of the thing you struggle with the most and how you feel when it’s baffling you.
5. What do you need right now to make you feel better?
When you have listened and come up with an answer or when you can’t quite come up with an answer, this is a good question to ask. They may just want a hug or for you to fix them a drink or a snack. They may want to watch some TV or have quiet time.
Help them help themselves = independence
Teaching children to talk it all out, express themselves, work out if it’s really that important and then what they need to feel better is a great way to increase their confidence. They will know that they can handle any situation they are put in simply by being able to do these things. They will find new situations less daunting because they know they can do it.
Perhaps you could have a go at doing this with a friend or your spouse or talk it through to yourself when you are having that bad day. It really does work. When you are self reliant to problem solve, you don’t become dependent on others and aren’t so easily disappointed or let down when others aren’t available to you.
The good news? Nobody is expecting you to come up with all the answers! So come on! Get to it and watch your child shine.
What else can you do to help your child?
If you like reading, try this one. It’s a good one to dip in and out of. It has pictures in it to highlight the important bits so you can pick it up when you need it and can grab moments to read it. Click on the picture to go to Amazon and order.
You may also like Smiley’s Secret Ingredients of Self Confidence Creative Child Coaching Workshop which happens every few months. Check out the events page to see when the next one is.
If you enjoyed this blog post, then please like and share with your friends.