Our kids always seemed to remember their biggest crises as soon as we pulled into the school parking lot in the morning. As other kids were bounding out of cars all around us, inevitably there was something really, really important that one or more of our kids needed to discuss. They had forgotten to tell us about the test today. Or to study for it. They had forgotten their homework at home. Or their lunch. Or that it was “silly hat day.” Or that it wasn’t “paint your face day.” Oops. With the school bell about to ring, or when you’re late for work, or when you’re exhausted after a long day, it is hard to listen. But that’s when you have to try the hardest to lock into your kids’ soliloquies. They may be impossible to deal with right now—after all, the BELL IS RINGING, or YOU ARE LATE FOR WORK! But give your kids your solemn pledge that you will listen, and you will have time, tonight. Promise that you will listen to the whole story, beginning to end, as soon as you can. And if your kids know that you keep your promises to listen to them, and you think that what they say is important, they will give you a pass until later.
NOW GET OUT OF THE CAR AND INTO SCHOOL!!! Please 🙂
Later, when you do sit down with them to listen to the whole story, their worries may at first seem silly and their ideas naive. You may think your kids are immature and repetitive, impulsive and emotional. They exaggerate and fabricate, make mountains out of molehills. But that’s using your ears and your brain. Your kids think they are wise and insightful, mature and brilliant. Kids ask questions, and for advice, because they want answers and because they want your attention. They want to hear you speak to them and teach them. Most important, kids are usually “in the moment” and believe that their issues and concerns, right this minute, are the most important things in the world. Front page news.
Listen to your kids and treat their words with respect. Don’t form your response in your head before you’ve heard their whole saga—it you do, you’re not really listening. Let your kids know by your facial expressions, your patience, and your thoughtful response that you feel their pain and share their concerns. Don’t make your kids feel you think their worries are trivial. Don’t tell them they’ll understand how minor their issue is when they get older. Parent your kids, don’t patronize them. While you know that by tomorrow, and maybe even by later tonight, the crisis du jour will have faded, they don’t know that. Help them get through their crises as you would hope your spouse or close friend would help you get through yours. In this way, you will let your kids know that they can come to you when they’re troubled, no matter the nature of the distress, and that you will be there for them. You’re their closest friend. They won’t have to go elsewhere for comfort, landing in the hands or people who love them a lot less than you do. You’re always there, and your kids’ problems are your problems, and you will solve them together. Then your kids will include you in their lives and in their bigger crises as they get older.