Get Inside the Head of Your Kid

2013posterncSHAUNTI FELDHAHN is a wife and mom first, and a popular speaker and best-selling author. Most importantly, though, she’s one of our Hearts at Home workshop speakers for the upcoming North Central Hearts at Home Conference

Her eye-opening books, including For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, and For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women (co-authored with husband Jeff), have sold more than two million copies in 22 languages.

Shaunti and her findings have been featured in media as diverse as The Today Show and Focus on the Family, The New York Times and MomLife Today, Cosmo and Lifeway’s Living With Teenagers magazine. Based out of Atlanta, she and her family are intensely grateful for the crazy but wonderful life God has given them.

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Get Inside the Head of Your Kid

“You don’t listen to me!”

Never have 5 little words been packed with more hidden meanings!

I’ve conducted countless interviews and have done a nationally-representative survey of kids and found that in some cases, they are saying “you aren’t hearing what I feel.”

They want us to show empathy first and foremost. In others, they mean “you seem to make up your mind before hearing what I have to say!”

And most important, we heard so often that our kids fear telling us anything because they know we’ll “freak out!”

The good news is that our kids actually do want to talk to us. And, even more important, they will open up to us once we prove we’re safe, open-minded, and empathetic.  Here are 3 ways to get inside the head of your kid:

1) Don’t Freak Out! That advice seems so simple in theory, but if you have children – especially teens and tweens — it is pretty natural to react in a way that they interpret as ‘freaking out’ which shuts down lines of communication without you ever realizing it.

“If I knew my parents wouldn’t freak out, I would really like to share certain things with them.” Basically, our teens and tweens are like skittish little deer: an emotional reaction on our part can send them scrambling away – and will make them less likely to come to us in the future.

A smile instead of a Starbucks-jacked, “WOW that’s exciting! What did he say next?” An inquisitive eyebrow raised or a calm murmur to indicate “then what happened?” Now here’s the key: I was quite amused to hear kids define “freaking out” as showing any emotion – even positive ones!

2) You Aren’t Listening! In addition to being emotional, I also found that kids tend to stop talking because they perceive their parents as rotten listeners. In fact, 80% of kids said that instead of wanting their parents to fix the problem, they first needed them to hear, acknowledge and tend to the emotions behind the problem. This was true for both girls and boys.

Try listening to feelings instead of jumping in to fix, i.e. ‘I’m so sorry that happened – did you feel like the teacher embarrassed you in front of class? What did other kids say?” instead of ‘give me his number I’m going to call the teacher RIGHT NOW” You are signaling “tell me more” when you listen … calmly … with little visible emotion

3) Hear Me…Please! The most amazing thing we heard from the teens and tweens was that if you can make a concerted effort to really listen ultra-calmly, you’ll ultimately hear so much more. Every parent wants a connection with their child, so learning to suppress or control our instinctive emotional reactions is vital. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, ‘A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.

Try to show them, by way of calm reaction, that you care more about them as people than you do about simply enforcing the rules. We aren’t ignoring the rules…we’ll just simply sit on them for a moment. Then – Calmly and patiently acknowledge their feelings and hear what they have to say before actually addressing them.

Don’t panic if you’re one of the over-reacting parents. We’ve all been there at one time or another. Instead, take heart in knowing… according to the kids THEMSELVES….It’s never too late!

What about you? What strategies do you use to ensure you’re a better listener? 

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