Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to listen so kids will talk

After a long streak of little travel, Jon has been gone a couple of days every week the last few weeks. Earlier this week he was in California and on Tuesday night, Nate told me he didn't want me to be his mom anymore and he didn't want to live at our house.

My first gut reaction was - you have NO FREAKING IDEA how good you have it buddy!

Instead I decided to listen... which was really hard. I asked him why he didn't want to live at our house, why was he unhappy, why did he think another house would be better. And that is when the Airing of the Grievances a la Festivus started:

  • We yell at him when he doesn't listen. 
  • He doesn't get to eat whatever he wants. Sometimes I make things he doesn't like. Fresh pineapple came up as an example. He wants to eat mac and cheese every day, even if it makes him unhealthy.
  • He doesn't get to do whatever he wants.
  • He has to do chores.
I tried to point out that this is what life is like at other kids' houses also.  He said he wanted to go live with J's family, a neighbor kid in Alex's class who lives right around the corner. Alex pointed out that yes, J does get yelled at also, and has to do chores.

The conversation went on ALL NIGHT. At pick up, during dinner, before taekwondo, after taekwondo, at bedtime. I had two reasons for continuing to listen. First, I really felt like we were digging down into the heart of the matter - that he gets really upset by yelling. We talked through how we could prevent yelling in our house. The other reason is that I truly believe Nate is the kind of kid who would pack up his stuff and run away (innocently), and this was my chance to listen.

I'd love to say that by the end of the night, we were all happy and Nate said he was sorry he ever said that. Instead, he finally decided to live with us when I explained to him that Jon and my money had bought everything in the house, and if he wanted to take it, he needed to pay us back. He pointed out some birthday presents from family that he would take and I said, "Well they won't be your family if you leave so you can't take that either."

After the kids went to bed, I texted my handy dandy parenting expert Maria to check in that all of this was normal. She reassured me that it was. When Jon got home the next morning, Nate had decided he wanted to stay, and we now have a plan to help prevent yelling. And I learned a SUPER DUPER valuable lesson about listening that I wanted to share with all of you.

Maria and I agreed it will be at least 25 years until Nate really figures out how good he has it at Casa Case.


DCAngel said...

Telling him he couldn't take anything with him? Well played, mama, well played.

Tanika Davis said...

This post was awesome in so many ways. It was funny without meaning to be. It was real (as always). It was instructive and helpful to Moms like me who will be in your shoes soon enough. And it caused me to remember fondly moments when I HATED my parents and my strict upbringing, and how much I truly appreciate all that now. Thank you, LauraC.
P.S. My Dad STILL tells me that everything in his house is his, and everything in my house is his, too, simply because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. LOL! Love that guy!

Lindsay said...

Awesome post! Way to keep your cool. I think this discussion is coming with my little one.

When I was a kid and moaned about something in life not being fair, my dad would say, "Well, when you're queen of the world, you can change it." That was honestly enough for me. I don't know if I really thought I'd be queen of the world, but I realized that eventually I would be in control and make my own decisions.

And, FWIW, I would like to eat mac and cheese every day, too.

hush said...

Well done. Listening is one of the hardest things to do, both in parenting and in life.

I loved the "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk" book by Faber & Mazlish, as well as "Parent Effectiveness Training" by Dr. Thomas Gordon.

Miche said...

Great post! I'm not there yet with my singleton but I hope to remember this post on the day it happens.

Joanna said...

I remember my sister packing up her stuff and running away a few times. From an adults point of view, it's clearly so absurd, but from a child's point of view it's pretty intense. I'm glad to hear that you took the time to listen to him and allow him to voice the things that he doesn't like. And that you also took the time to explain why you do the things that he doesn't like.

I suspect that Nate is going to take longer than most kids to hit the "HOLY COW THIS SUCKS!" point in life, and because of that, it's really going to knock him on his butt.

JenFen said...

I've had to have these talks with Jake and man, it is tough to listen.

Thank you for sharing and keeping it real and honest and funny and poignant all at the same time.

I'd really like to know how your plan for not yelling goes.

Cynthia said...

As usual your post is both timely and really helpful :-)

Listening is something I am having to work on with Alaina as well. She keeps losing it about having brothers and I keep snapping back at her that there is nothing we can do about them (they're obviously going to be around for a while) so please stop crying about it.

Listening in more detail the other night did lead to some deeper revelations and we are trying to work through them.

PS - if it makes you feel better, I realized how good I had had it in my parents' house with I was about 22 so maybe the realization will come in your house earlier than 25 years from now :-)

thellfamily said...

This is awesome -- you must have been exhausted by the time the boys were in bed. I hope there was a large glass of wine waiting for you.

So, FWIW, we had a Saturday where we were all either yelling or whining (or both). It was a bad day. So Sunday morning when we woke up, I made a chart (I generally handle stress by making an excel file, so it was a good extension). There were two sections -- things we all wanted to do less of (yelling, whining...), and things we wanted to do more of (helping, getting ready quick, being polite...). And items were crossed with names. Each family member got an X for do less things, and a check for do more things. And anyone could call anyone else out (Mama, you yelled that! Daddy, that was so polite!). It made all of us more conscious all day of our behaviors and kids and grownups alike make more of an effort to say things nicely and be kind to each other. It was SUCH a better day than the day before. And at the end of the day we saw how many more checks we all had than X's.

Sorry for the long comment!

Maria said...

I'm really glad he came around. Maybe it'll only take 20 years?

Beth said...

I think my favorite eCard is "If you would just listen and do something the first time I asked, Mommy wouldn't have to lose her shit." LOL The other day, I said something like, "I'm feeling very frustrated right now because I'm having to repeat myself over and over and I'm trying very hard not to yell." And Seth says, "Mommy, count to ten and take 3 deep breaths." Aghhhhhhh!!!!! OR YOU COULD PUT ON YOUR EFFING SOCKS!!!! Okay, I feel better. Good for you for digging deeper and for being patient. I definitely want to hear more about the no-yelling solution. :-)

heather v said...

Great post on the no yelling plan. Lots to digest and take away thinking about the V-boys.

Bonus pts for the Festivus reference .

claudia said...

When I was 5 and 6 I planned regularly to run away - and I mean planned. I was packed but never could stay up until midnight, the hour that I thought appropriate to leave. My mom told me that I would have to leave naked with nothing because she and my dad bought everything. I always thought that was a unique response. Glad to hear that someone else used it. We could definitely use the yelling plan in our house. Are you going to share it?

erinlaughs said...

Oh man. I am not far off from this with Delaney. She already moans and groans when I raise my voice (and even when I don't, everything is yelling to her if it isn't what she wants to hear). An excellent reminder to step back and listen!

Crazycurls said...

Would love to know what your plan is for less yelling! My almost 3 yr old had a major meltdown last night, full on tantrum. Tried talking to her gently, tried giving her options, tried leaving her alone...then it gets into no more mr nice guy with yelling and timeouts...arrrg.