Often I hear parents say, “She is not listening.” I say, “Of course she is hearing you. Perhaps though she is focused on an idea of her own, maybe she is thinking about something else, or daydreaming, or choosing not to listen.”

We may have adapted patterns, judgments, reactions and attitudes from our parents that are automatic. If we can take a step back and review, rather than react, many interactions and communications with our children can go a lot smoother.

Communication 101 Basic Steps:

STEP 1. Person #1 (parent) wants to initiate an idea. The first thing s/he must do is tune in to the recipient (child) to see if s/he is receptive. Once s/he has person #2’s (child’s)attention, S/he (parent) delivers the message in a clear, calm way, as though one is sending an arrow loaded with words directly to the listening heart of person #2.

STEP 2. Make sure you acknowledge the other’s response    no matter what it is. Example: “Oh, I see you are busy,” “Thank you for receiving that,” “It looks like this is not what you want to hear right now,” etc….

STEP 3. Now we have established a foundation that will give us clues as to how to proceed. The whole world of possibilities is before us. It is important to keep the dialogue going back and forth, always acknowledging the child’s responses and being certain s/he is understanding you. If the child is ‘stuck in an attitude,’ such as really mad, you can match that energy, “Oh, it feels like we need to stamp our feet,” shake it out, etc…Or he is sad, “Where do you feel that?” “Yes, let’s feel it ‘till it passes through, like a cloud.” Do not let yourselves be distracted until there is a resolution. If there isn’t time, say, “Let’s talk more about this.”


Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

                     Excerpt from Kahil Gibran – On Children

I invite parents to write in with a particular parenting example you need help with explaining the age, sex, temperament of the child, the setting, sibs, what was said, etc. I am happy to help. Happy New Year!

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Liz Wertheim has trained with Virginia Satir, has her Early Childhood degree, co-directed two Sudbury Schools and staffed many years at the Hui Jungle Preschool. She also has facilitated a series of Parenting Classes. To chat with Liz call (808) 573-1819.


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