I listened to my parents because they listened to me. They weren’t distracted. They weren’t perfect. They were present.
I want you to read those three lines again: They weren’t distracted. They weren’t perfect. They were present.
My brother and I had a lot of rules in our household growing up. Our parents knew what was best for us, what kinds of things we were too young to indulge in and what kids of things were age appropriate. Everyone told them we would rebel. How many times as a parent have you heard that if you are too strict your kids will rebel? But I’m here to tell you a secret: we didn’t.
Listening is key
Now that I have my own kids, I often wonder, why didn’t we rebel? We were “not allowed” to do so many things that all the other kids did. Why didn’t we resent our parents and run wild the first chance we got? And then it hit me, as a Mom and an Educator I see a lack of this skill all the time: they listened to us.
They said no, they gave us the reasons as to why they activity or ask in question was not something they felt would be best for us and then: they listened to us.
Their phone was plugged into a phone jack. They weren’t distracted by a myriad of notifications and a desire to check them every few minutes. Their heads were lifted when we looked at them, not facing down. And even when I’m sure it was the last thing on earth they felt like doing at times: they listened to us.
Saying no is important when it comes to parenting, but it shouldn’t be a stand alone tactic with kids. My parents modeled this: they said no without shutting us down or making us feel unheard or unloved.
We should know by now that saying no and then saying “because I said so” doesn’t work. It shuts kids down, it makes them frustrated, but most importantly it makes them feel unheard. When kids feel unheard they also feel unloved. Adults are no different.
Listening and Reasoning
There were steps consistently followed in my parent’s household after the word no was said:
1. They gave us the reason as to why they said no.
2. They let us ask questions about why they said no.
3. They listened to us after they said no.
4. After listening they let us know that they understood how we were feeling.
Often times we are scared to say no to our kids, but saying no can actually build a better relationship with them if we do it in a loving and listening way.
With my three children, I wanted to come up with a way to remember the steps my parents took after saying no, that helped us grow, built our relationship with them and caused us to respect them deeply. Then I realized that my parents may actually have been the rebels!
They weren’t concerned with what other parents were doing. They paved their own path. So I condensed their steps to saying no below and I want to leave them with you. I used the acronym REBEL:
Engage in conversation
Saying no and providing a reason are so important. Sometimes the reason wasn’t enough for us and we needed a full on in-depth explanation. Even if they didn’t have time, when it came to bigger issues as we got older, they made the time. I’m not sure how but one thing I remember is that they were present.
They engaged in a conversation with us (and with me as a teenage daughter some of these conversations took hours of going on a merry ground of emotions and “why not?” simply because I needed to get my frustrations out). I needed to feel heard and more than anything during those trying years I needed to feel like they were really listening. They always did and still do.
The weren’t distracted and they sure as heck weren’t perfect but they were present. And I believe being present with your children trumps trying to be perfect for your children, every single time.
Even now as a mom of three kids, if I call my parents with an issue they will stop what they are doing and listen.
(And to this day I still call my parents for guidance now and again).