Listening To Your Child – Or Anyone Else
Once in a while I find myself in a space of righteous indignation. I believe I am RIGHT and keep trying to explain my view so that I feel heard and my worldview will be justified. Then, I believe, I will be ‘safe’.
When the other party doesn’t accept or understand what I am saying I feel a renewed fervour to MAKE them understand – because of course, I am right. This of course applies strongly to my children. I sure do like to be right. Unfortunately (or maybe I should more accurately say, fortunately) for me, so do they.
A while back I posted something on a facebook group and was strongly called out on it. People did not agree with my posting and they told me so quite clearly. I ‘listened’ to their comments and responded rationally and intelligently and then explained why I was right. This went on and on and at some point they threatened to kick me off the group. I was so distressed. I couldn’t understand why they were getting so upset and hostile. I didn’t mean any harm after all – in fact I thought my post was supportive of their cause. But I wasn’t actually listening, Throughout the conversation I was staying firmly within my own worldview. In that conversation I represented a person in the position of privilege; therefore I was in fact being a bully. I think I might do this rather a lot to my children too.
After that FB experience I had a dawning of consciousness – so that was great for me, but it came at someone’s ‘cost’. I hurt people with my fear.
Why do I say fear? Because to really listen means to have the courage to step into the unknown. It means putting your worldview on hold and saying, “Tell me what it’s like to be you.” And then listening. Listening in a way that allows what you hear to change you somehow.
That scares us. There is a quiet – often hidden – internal dialogue while we are listening to something which makes us uncomfortable which urges, “If I let go of what I know, everything I believe is open to question. Then my world could fall apart. I will be lost. I won’t be able to protect myself. I can’t listen to this. I must hold onto what I know. That way I will be safe.”
That’s not real safety though, that is just being imprisoned by fear.
To embrace diversity is to be open to different points of view. It is actually to welcome more of ourselves because listening requires us to be less afraid of the unknown within us; to allow ourselves to be changed and to grow from what we hear. This applies when we speak to our child as much as when we talk to someone from a different culture, socio-economic circumstance, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or family circumstance than our own.
My child has his own worldview and when I don’t really listen, I become a bully. This is because I hold a great position of power as a parent. Even though we may have more life experience than our child, it doesn’t mean our child’s worldview is less good or less right than ours.If you use your position of privilege or power to invalidate another’s worldview because you are afraid of change, everyone loses out.
Here’s a tip: If your child is not listening to you, there is a likelihood that you are also not listening to him or her.
If you really think about it, we only feel scared of something we think we might not handle. So if we are afraid of hearing something that will change us, we are showing a real lack of trust in our lovely selves. Now that’s not self-loving is it? When you speak to anyone, try to do it with an attitude of, “Tell me what it’s like to be you.”
Know that when you learn from the other, you learn about yourself. If you say no to that…well I think that’s just plain mean to yourself. Have some faith in yourself! Take your own hand and lovingly support yourself in listening, REALLY listening to your child’s worldview (or anyone else’s).
If you get stuck or scared – or you feel an indignant need to be ‘right’ – just ask yourself, “If I loved myself and I trusted myself to handle whatever comes, what would I choose to do now?”