It can be extremely difficult to listen to your children when they are distressed. It’s so tempting to jump in and try to fix it! The following story demonstrates this well.
A mom described picking her daughter, Olivia, up from school. Olivia was clearly upset when she got into the car and started complaining about how hard the math test was. Her mom immediately tried to help her think about solutions – maybe others didn’t do well either, perhaps she can get extra credit or go in early to school for extra help.
Olivia responded to her mom’s suggestions with increased ranting and raving saying she didn’t understand how hard it was! Olivia would have been more likely to feel heard if her mom had listened patiently and repeated back her feelings with care and interest. This approach also would empower Olivia to own the problem and the solution.
If you hear your children turning up the volume on their complaints, you know they probably don’t feel understood. Try taking a step back to listen and reflect their feelings. Once they feel heard, they’ll be in a better position to decide what they want to do about it.