Our children talk to us in stories. Sometimes those stories go on and on and on. It can be difficult to stay connected to the story when it flips from one thing to another. As parents, we sometimes expect our children to speak like adults. Even if you’re unaware of this, it’s present when we get short, frustrated and rush our children to hurry them up because simply, we’ve had enough.
However, there is so much gold in our children’s stories that if we aren’t listening intently, we will miss the gold completely. Inside our children’s stories are common threads and themes. If you’re really paying attention you will hear these themes in all of their stories.
These themes are as important as building healthy relationships, confusion around navigating through education and general life challenges, and even issues that they aren’t comfortable discussing openly with anyone about themselves and their friends.
So how do we hear our children’s themes in their stories?
What we are listening for is what our children are trying to say that they may not even understand. This is really the moral of the story. The question we need to ask ourselves is – why are they telling this story? What are they trying to say that they aren’t saying?
This is more than the ending of the story or the outcome. This is the hidden message inside the story.
How do I know what I think is right?
This is a good question. As a parent we must have the courage to be wrong. Go with your gut instinct. The idea is to create discussion around what the story means. So, sometimes it can be a good thing to be wrong as it allows space for our kids to narrow down and become specific into what they are trying to communicate.
Ok, how do I do this?
It’s really simple. We check in with what we are hearing. The best place to start is by saying – So what I’m hearing you say here is……., is that right?
An example of this would be when your child comes in to you and starts talking about a teacher breaking up an argument between them and their friend. Your child discusses how they were punished and look very angry and frustrated. Our response might be – So what I’m hearing you say here is that you feel that its not fair that you were punished, is that right?
Your child will either agree or disagree. If they disagree they will correct you and you run the process again. If they agree with you, this opens up a discussion about how they can manage themselves and you can discuss what they can do differently in the future. This is a learning point for them and you. They get to learn a new way of communicating and you get to learn what is happening for them internally and how they are building relationships.
The main key factor here is to remember that there can be NO consequence or punishment for their actions. What we are doing here is educating our children by creating a safe place for them to discuss their challenges. We as parents want our children to speak to us when they are faced with a situation they do not understand, can’t navigate through on their own or don’t feel safe in. If you punish them for the story they have just told you, you are no longer a safe place for this type of discussion, they can’t trust you with anything that is important to them (remember that what is important to them is different to what is important to you), and your child becomes isolated due to feeling like nobody listens to them. This forces them to make the choice of solving their problems alone. Something no parent wants.
One major key factor to remember when listening to our children’s stories is that we can’t work with or change the story itself. All we can work with, build strategies for and discuss is the next story. The next story is what they do now moving forward. What skills and strengths can they utilise to navigate the next steps. That’s our part because of our experience.
Think of this as looking for the gap in their knowledge and filling it with an action plan. We can’t save our kids from every situation. What we can do is arm them with tools, strengths and action plans that allows them to become or stay independent.
Imagine what this approach would do for your relationship with you child. Imagine if you were to implement this same approach with your partner, how much your communication with each other would improve. Just imagine how much learning your child would get from watching their parents living a healthy communicative relationship.
I would love to hear any of your thoughts, comments and questions you have on this post. Hit me up.